Pixar's First Same-Sex Kiss, As Featured in 'Lightyear,' Involves a Black Mom—And I'm Proud

The kiss in Lightyear between Black space ranger Alisha Hawthorne and her wife shouldn't be a big deal, but it is—both for Disney Pixar and for Black families and viewers.

Still from Disney/Pixar film Lightyear
Photo: Diseny/Pixar. Photo: Diseny/Pixar

Over the last few months, it seems that Disney as a whole has finally taken a few huge steps in the right direction when it comes to diversity. From their Star Wars account publicly standing up against racist remarks toward Moses Ingram, who plays Reva in their latest Disney Plus original series Obi-Wan Kenobi to Pixar featuring its first-ever same-gender kiss in an animation feature in its newest film, Lightyear. We're finally seeing some progress from The Walt Disney Company! And as a Black mom with a Black tween daughter who loves all things Disney, I'm happy they're slowly getting it together.

Of course, they haven't managed to do so without a few mishaps along the way. This is why the same-sex kiss in Lightyear—which is now available on Blu-ray and DVD—is so important.

Thankfully, Disney decided to restore the same-gender kiss—which was initially removed from the film—after the outrage about the "Don't Say Gay" bill. And while Lightyear may not be Pixar's best work, (Thanks to an invite from Disney, my daughter and I watched the film a few days before its big-screen release.) it's definitely moving Disney in the right direction in terms of representation—and I'm happy about that.

I've already started talking to my 10-year-old daughter about different types of families. And since we're big on movies and tv shows in our household, it makes sense that she was introduced to same-sex couples through Ava Duvernay's Home Sweet Home series. Now that she's seen Lightyear, she's finally gotten to see a same-sex couple firsthand on the big screen, with no interjections or explanations from mom. And, of course, she didn't even mention it—which is exactly how things should be.

Pixar's Kiss Controversy

The kiss in Lightyear occurs between prominent characters Alisha Hawthorne, an incredible Black space ranger, voiced by Uzo Aduba, and her wife. The Hollywood Reporter says the relationship was always a part of the storyline. But the kiss was removed during the creative process after "conversations around intimacy were had." "Following the internal backlash around Disney's previous public silence on Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill, the decision was made to add the kiss back in," they wrote. But if the kiss was originally in the film, why remove it in the first place? Especially if it means so much to the Black LGBTQIA+ community.

Ty Cole, a freelance journalist from New York, New York, says, "I wish we didn't have to have these conversations, and I hope in the future, it's normalized," referencing the kiss. "People be gay—who cares? Representation is important, so let people be themselves unapologetically." And I totally agree!

Even Charlee Disney, a member of the Disney legacy, has spoken out about having "had very few openly gay role models." If you're Black, you already know how hard it is to find accurate representations of ourselves on screen and in the media. So when you're Black and a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, the odds of finding representation on-screen dwindle even more.

The Importance of LGBTQIA+ Representation

Often kids who don't see themselves in the media begin to think that what they see on TV is right and who they are as an individual is wrong. And the last thing we need in this world is more kids doubting themselves because of the media they consume.

Yet, despite on-screen representation being so vital for our kids, Disney is still holding back.

But there are so many families, like Nikkya Hargrove's—a Black queer mom and writer from Fairfield County in Connecticut —and yes, even my own family who would benefit from seeing a big brand like Disney being unapologetically supportive to all kinds of families. You see, it's not just important for LGBTQIA+ families. I'm heterosexual, but I grew up with parents who constantly made homophobic remarks about others out loud, which made me feel uncomfortable as a child. So it's important for heterosexual families too.

Hargrove says the Lightyear kiss reminds people that queer couples show affection just like any other couple. Such progress in Disney's representation, she says, shows that "our kids, our families, our queer-identifying people who love Disney and Pixar films are closer to being seen as equals."

Now while we absolutely loved the bromance featured in Luca, Disney chose to pass on yet another vital chance to show up for the LGBTQIA+ community on screen in a big way. Initially, Luca's storyline included a gay character, but that too was changed.

Daric L. Cottingham from Los Angeles says there hasn't been a film that's fully captured his true queerness. "Honestly, there's a lack of Black queer experiences on the big screen," he says. "I've found more representation through TV series."

But when it comes to movies for kids, Disney always treads a fine line, as if they're scared to really go there—in fear of alienating or angering their "less accepting" audience. That's why the same-sex kiss in Lightyear means so much to me.

But while the film and the same-sex kiss are important, it shouldn't be treated as a "big deal." The only people who are making this a big deal are adults who feel like their kids are "too young" to learn about something that is normal for a lot of their peers," says Sa'iyda Shabazz, a queer writer and mom from Los Angeles. "Queer people shouldn't be controversial, and it's weird that this is an issue that even needs to be discussed in 2022.

Younger Audiences and LGBTQIA+ Moments in Movies

Disney proved her point when they began including more LGBTQIA+ friendly characters in their PG-13 films. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) and Eternals (2021) both have "out and proud" characters, but these films are geared toward older kids and adults while Lightyear is rated PG and geared toward a much younger audience.

Are younger kids not allowed to see LGBTQIA+ characters on screen because of their age? Is there a difference between a kiss between a mom and a dad or two characters of the same sex? Because Disney isn't shy about including kisses between heterosexual characters at all. So it's time we really start asking why brands, especially Disney, continue to exclude certain families while saying they pride themselves on being diverse.

We should give kids a chance to see what the world is really like and let them become familiar with all kinds of families. This way, when they do meet a friend with same-sex parents, they're not ignorant or surprised.

Shabazz says a film like Lightyear normalizes same-sex relationships a bit more for kids who don't have same-sex parents. "Kids are a lot more open-minded than we give them credit for, so I don't think this will have anything other than a positive effect," she says. And in an age where pop culture and the media mean so much to us, it's only right that we use it as a medium for change and accepting others just the way they are.

"I think there's still a lot of work to do, but we are heading in the right direction. The way Lightyear showed the same-sex kiss so nonchalantly means we are being represented the right way. I just hope it continues that way," says Cee, a queer Latina mom of two from Orange County, California, who also runs the lifestyle blog What Cee Says. And like Shabazz says, "I'm not like throwing them a parade for it, but I'm really happy it's happening."

Lightyear is a step in the right direction, so I really do hope Disney continues to include more diverse characters in their stories, especially those from the LGBTQIA+ community. Because, as Ty Cole kindly put it, "people be gay, period." Just like people be straight, it's time we accept that. It's 2022, for crying out loud.

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