Disney Tried to Keep Luca in the Closet, but Its Gayness Is Too Powerful

(CW: Spoilers, allegorical homophobia, the closet.)

So, when Disney made Pixar take all the gay out of Luca, they clearly forgot to take out any of the gay?

I mean, yeah, okay, there is no overt acknowledgement of how blatantly gay Luca and Alberto are for each other, but, I mean… come on. Come on. You pretty much have to want to not see it to not see it.

I’m… not really sure why I didn’t get around to seeing this sooner. It’s a super wholesome story about two gay merboys being gay merboys together. They have big dreams for a future with each other, their motivation is explicitly about running away together and the central conflict literally revolves around tension over that dream.

Alberto and Luca become fixated on the idea of getting a Vespa thanks to a paper advertisement Alberto proudly keeps on his wall that promises freedom and adventure. They quickly learn the harsh reality that they’re going to need money to acquire one, but luckily there’s a kind of ridiculous triathlon going on!

Things get more complicated when Luca discovers that that isn’t the only thing he wants. Their mutual lesbian friend (seriously she was originally supposed to explicitly be a lesbian argh) Giulia introduces him to books, telescopes, and the idea of going to school with her, and he just lights up. One of the most touching moments in a movie that’s like 90% touching moments is Giulia gifting Luca his first book by crossing her name out and writing his. Alberto gets jealous and frustrated, Luca gets frustrated and… well, frustrated, and things briefly explode between them.

When Luca realizes he’s made a huge mistake and runs off to find Alberto, one of the first things we see is that Alberto has torn the drawing he made of him and Luca enjoying their bright future together. Alberto is sitting in the dark, clearly depressed. Luca apologies, Alberto acknowledges his apology and tells him to leave.

So, Luca does the only thing he can. He decides that he’s going to singlehandedly win the triathlon he, Alberto, and Giulia were going to enter together, and in so doing win back his boyfriend’s heart. Giulia warns him against this given that she’s tried and failed to do the same multiple times, but against all odds Luca and Giulia are in first and second place for most of the race through sheer force of will.

A lot happens here that I’ll get back to, but the end result is that Luca wins (though it’s treated as a collective victory for him, Alberto, and Giulia) and uses the prize money to buy the Vespa he and Alberto wanted… but we’re not done with these boys and their breathtaking commitment to each other’s happiness. So, Alberto and Luca are seeing Giulia off on the train to school… until Alberto drops the bombshell that he sold the Vespa and bought Luca’s way in to school so he can go chase his dreams. Surprise!!

Alberto and Luca say goodbye, with Alberto running after the train for as long as he can and the two just unable to take their eyes off of each other and yelling their goodbyes, and I’m just a sobbing mess because thanks Pixar that’s clearly what I come to you for, and it’s just so blatantly gay. Like, holy shit, this is literally the most clichéd thing ever it’s such a huge trope when lovers are being separated for any length of time in old movies.

And that’s just (if you’ll pardon the pun) the surface-level stuff.

Let’s rewind and add another layer of obvious gayness: metaphor. Luca and Alberto are merboys, as I mentioned earlier. But there’s this weird quirk where when they’re on the surface they transform into humans? Which is just tragic, really, because the design of all the merpeople in this movie is just gorgeous, like omfg why would you ever want to be a human when you can be that, but whatever. If they get wet, though, they’ll immediately turn back into “sea monsters.”

Luca’s parents–fearing for his safety–tell him in no uncertain terms that he is not to go on land, but his grandmother tells him she used to experiment as a kid and it’s really no big deal, much to his mother’s shock and horror. Throughout the rest of the movie, she will quietly support his rebelliousness, and she’s just kind of the best. I love lesbian grandma.

Then Luca meets Alberto.

Following Alberto leads Luca to his first experience on land, and he’s an anxious mess about it while the more experienced Alberto reassures him without patronizing him, and… yeah, it’s not difficult to follow what this just might be an allegory for, right?

Luca is immediately attracted to his new “friend’s” brash, adventurous attitude. I mean, he starts following him around with puppy dog eyes, basically. At one point Luca, doing the heartbreaking ‘good kid’ thing of clearly realizing he’s having much more fun than he can possibly be allowed to have, tells him “bye forever” and Alberto says “see you tomorrow,” and guess which one is right?

They proceed to spend every day together, and for what it’s worth there’s a montage that makes it pretty clear his parents know what’s going on and are upset? But the kelp finally hits the fan (idk, best I could come up with) when he’s out all night because he accidentally falls asleep at Alberto’s place.

… again, the thing that pushes his parents past the point of no return is that he falls asleep at another boy’s place. This is not subtle, guys!!

So they plan to send him to live with his uncle in the deep sea to keep him away from Alberto, and Luca cannot abide this so he runs away. And runs right to Alberto. They decide to go to the human town and get their Vespa, even though Luca is terrified from having grown up being told by his parents that humans kill sea monsters, and for what it’s worth there’s quite a lot of outward signs of, uh, sea…monster…phobia? Look, the allegory is pretty obvious even if there isn’t a great word for it. People are terrified of these adorable merfolk for… extremely unclear reasons? So, they go to the town to win their Vespa (and the freedom to be together that they understand it will provide), but while they’re there under no circumstances can they allow the fact that they’re sea monsters to become known. They have to hide it and outright lie to everyone about it, even their new friend Giulia who frankly seems like she’d be pretty cool about it?

This is the closet. They’re closeted. They’re in the closet. Again, not subtle. And every time they get a little water splashed on them they panic and violently try to dry off to put their boring human facade back on. Suppressing their true natures. Just constantly terrified of being outed lest a terrible fate befall them.

The two gay boys live together in Giulia’s treehouse, because they’re gay. As previously mentioned, Alberto gets frustrated and jealous when Luca gets closer to Giulia–but importantly not because he wants to get closer to her as well (which is what would happen in most Disney movies at this point), but rather because he’s worried she’s taking away his boyfriend. (Seriously, it’s hella obvious. Just say gay, Disney. Just. Say. Gay.) And in a fit of desperate rage he throws himself into the water, intentionally revealing his true form to Giulia, who reacts with surprise but not fear? But you don’t really have time to notice that because Alberto is prompting Luca to show himself, too.

Luca, who is vocally far more terrified than Alberto of what the humans will do to them if they find out. Who resisted coming to the human town in the first place because of his fear. Who is clearly much deeper in the closet than Alberto.

In retrospect, it was pretty obvious what was going to happen here, but it still hurts.

Luca pretends to be shocked, points at Alberto, and cries “Sea monster!” Heartbroken, Alberto turns to leave. When the local bully (we’ll come back to him) and his cronies rush to their “rescue” and start throwing spears at the fleeing Alberto, Luca cries, “No!” in anguish, but luckily Alberto escapes.

Luca panicks, and Giulia tries to calm him down … by splashing water on his face. Upon seeing Luca’s partially-revealed form, she–clearly still not afraid, by the way–insists that he leave for his own safety. (Because of her town’s… y’know what, I’m just gonna go ahead and say violent homophobia, because that’s what it is.)

So, as I said earlier Luca apologizes to Alberto and then tries to fix everything with his big, dumb plan to be a big, dumb hero, and is literally about to win when… it starts pouring rain.

Luca takes shelter under an overhang while desperately demanding why did this have to happen now, when he’s so close to fixing everything… and then his fucking wonderful dumbass boyfriend comes running towards him with a fucking umbrella only to have it knocked away by the bully character (who I once again promise we’ll come back to), revealing Alberto as a gorgeous merboy (or “sea monster,” if you really must), only this time in front of the whole freaking town instead of just their emotional support human Giulia.

The townsfolk are shocked, horrified, and prepared for violence. Alberto, who had earlier demanded Luca join him in outing himself, now begs him not to to try to keep him safe.

Luca hesitates, gathers himself, and steps into the rain, revealing himself in all of his fishboy glory and standing defiantly beside his boyfriend. And it’s just one of the best damn moments I’ve ever seen.

What happens next is almost as important.

The townspeople are still prepared for violence, but Giulia smashes into their ringleader with her bike, hurting herself in the process, and her father (who we’ll also get back to in a second) steps up and says Luca and Alberto are good boys… and they technically just won the race!

The townspeople finally turn their back on the bully that’s been running roughshod over them, and cheer for the boys. And upon witnessing their triumph, Luca’s parents (who have been looking for him and are sorry they were assholes, btw) drop their umbrellas and reveal themselves, as does his grandmother (who apparently visits the town on weekends?), and an obvious (and adorable) older lesbian couple that lives in the town. Because, you know, when you come out and kick ass and people embrace you for it, it encourages everybody else to do the same.

I hope it’s understandable that I spent a majority of this review gushing about Luca and Alberto, and to a lesser extent Giulia, but I want to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that just… every character in this rules! Especially the parental ones. Luca’s parents have a rough start, but they come around hard. (And I really appreciate that, because his mom is such a milf in her mermaid form, and I would hate for her to be a shitty homophobic parent!!) But the real shining star in this category is without a doubt Giulia’s hulking stoic teddy bear of a father. He’s so good.

Really, the only character who isn’t amazing and lovable is the bully. (I promised we’d come back to him!) Because he isn’t supposed to be amazing and lovable, you’re supposed to hate his guts! Which, mission accomplished there!

So, uh, yeah! I love this movie, clearly. I’m not sure Turning Red even lasted a week as my favorite Pixar movie, but it’s really hard to choose between the two right at this moment? They’re both so good (and so gay), I’m really excited about the future of Pixar movies.

It’s still frustrating that Luca and Alberto have to join Elsa and the majority of the cast of Turning Red on Disney’s “okay, but they are clearly gay why can’t you just say it???” mountain, but Luca and Turning Red are at least more than crumbs. Barely more. And still a frustrating example of why Disney’s gradual monopolizing of the entertainment industry is far from benign… but I’m sorry, my tastes are disgustingly mainstream, so I’m going to have to just keep hoping that mainstream stuff gets better.


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