The Thing About Mitch (You Know, Mitch, the Jock from ParaNorman)

Warning: The following article discusses a bit of dialogue from the end of ParaNorman and contains spoilers.

What writer/co-director Chris Butler has done at the end of ParaNorman should go down as one of the most beautifully subversive moments in the history of mainstream American film.

ParaNorman Mitch

You know the moment: Norman’s cheerleader sister Courtney (voiced by Anna Kendrick), having spent half the film cooing over Neil’s jock brother Mitch (Casey Affleck), wraps up the evening by asking the football hero for a date. Nothing fancy, just a movie. Mitch, aloof as ever, misreads the invite and reveals that his boyfriend loves “chick flicks.” Cue rimshot.

It’s a tired joke, a zinger that was already creaky when it was recycled earlier this summer, when it served as a punchline in the music video for Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” But here’s the thing: it’s a joke that appears in a heavily marketed family film. Kids across the country are dragging their parents to see a strange animated horror-adventure yarn, and they’re winding up watching the first openly gay character in a kiddie flick.

OK, so ParaNorman is too good to be reduced to merely “a kiddie flick.” Its appeal is wide; anyone of any age with a hunger for knockout visuals and terrific storytelling will find much to love here. Butler and co-director Sam Fell keep the subversion going elsewhere, twisting the story into places we don’t expect, while crafting a story that’s about kids but not just for kids. But still, my point: a wide release from a major distributor, aimed at a family audience, with a gay character.

The throwaway nature of the joke is key, not because the filmmakers are trying to slide something past us, but because the quick punchline is played with such flippancy it renders the character’s sexual orientation otherwise irrelevant. In the world of ParaNorman, Mitch is gay and everyone’s fine with it. This ties in with the movie’s lessons about bullying and fear of those who are different, but it does so subtly, quietly. Maybe it’ll plant a seed in the minds of some younger viewers, who might begin pondering, hey, it’s OK for Norman and Neil to be different, and then that train of thought might float over to hey, Neil’s brother is different, too, and that’s also OK.

This alone is a very, very cool thing. But here’s even something cooler: the nature of the joke suggests Mitch is out. He’s completely casual about talking in public about his boyfriend. How’s that for radical, suggesting the school’s star quarterback and probably the most popular kid in town is openly gay. That’s a hell of a role model to toss to teens lurking in the closet, and could very well help lead to a generation which has no use for the closet.

I’d like to think we’re on our way to that generation. Some of their parents might object (as this depressing IMDB message board suggests), but at the screening I attended, not one kid seemed to mind. After ninety minutes of watching a study in intolerance and fear, that’s the perfect way to react.

24 thoughts on “The Thing About Mitch (You Know, Mitch, the Jock from ParaNorman)

  1. Austin says:

    i loved the movie and when i heard mitch say that it made me shed a tear of joy that someone is actually great enough to put that in an animated movie considering im gay and i live in a town that is 99% religious and frown towards the homosexuals (sorry spell check) this movie made my day and gave me hope for a better more inviting town

  2. S says:

    Why is a guy saying he has a boyfriend that likes chick flicks worse than straight couples making out on screen? Gay people exist. Get over it. The homophobes are going to look really stupid in a few years time, hell they look pretty stupid now. I’ll just put it out there that I’m a straight male with a girlfriend. Dear gay people, not everybody is a douche bag that hates you for no good reason, keep the faith!

  3. […] filmmakers did not shoe-horn this line in the corrupt the youth of today. They didn’t even stick the line in to make a massive LGBT […]

  4. Desiree says:

    I couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome that part was. I wanted to jump up from my seat and punch my fist in the air.

  5. Eve says:

    Faith in humanity is restored.

  6. Mughain says:

    The line took a few seconds to sink in before I squealed in delight. Finally, we’re making progress! Perhaps in the next 50+ years we can actually have two gay characters, in a PG movie, holding hands! *GASP*

    No, really, I am pleased. It’s nice to know that, slowly but surely, gay people are becoming more tolerated in our society. It gives me hope for the future. :3

  7. really? says:

    Being happy for such a throw away line is sad. Your feelings were baited and set, and you fell for it. It’s as sad as “she was alone and had no friends, but she loved Johnny Depp” OMG, I’m alone, I have no friends, I love johnny Depp!!! Sqweee!!!!!
    I’m with the other guy up there, I truly am not a homophobe, just let it be as if it were normal and it will be, not understated or backhanded…
    “We want equality.” OK…the girl asks and he says, my girlfriend loves chick flicks…men, not funny or important. Just like Mitch being gay…
    Also, a director shoving his gayness in for a second feels like such a ploy…like he’s hoping people will talk and support it for it. Do you want to be sheep? Do you want to be used for your sexuality?
    Have a straight guy make an all gay character and that’ll be amazing…oh wait, lots already have…move on. Its like black people claiming racism. Stop asking for equality then yelling about every chance you get. You’re the only side fighting…have you seen glee??? The battles over. Let’s just be happy.

    • derBingle says:

      Sorry – was this post supposed to be coherent?

      Man, one throwaway line in a movie and your feathers are ruffled. You keep saying “get over it”, but clearly you can’t. It IS normal in the movie, Mitch is gay and out and has no shame about it. Who’s “looking for hate”? What are you on about?

      ” Its like black people claiming racism. Stop asking for equality then yelling about every chance you get. You’re the only side fighting…have you seen glee???”

      Oh, there’s no more homophobia or racism in America anymore? Awesome! I had no idea both those problems had been solved! Guess the director can stop “showing his gayness”, which doesn’t sound weird, immature, and homophobic at all!

    • Josh says:

      It’s kind of like the guy who says “no offense” before calling an obese woman a hippo. I’m sorry, but you sound pretty homophobic.. The biggest reason people are happy about it is because you rarely see gay characters. It’s rarely smoothed as normal. There’s this masculine character who’s gay… And it’s pretty awesome. Hate to tell you but the only sheep I see here is you, and our culture keeps tugging you along your own mind in a circle… So you can come back with some snappy comment spewing you’re views (which have no perspective being a “straight guy”). I’m going to support human rights and changing our culture so it stops using the minds of people like you. Love everyone and stop settling for garbage like Glee.

    • MARK says:

      wow REALLY sound like you’re the one who’s acting more like a sheep (i’d say u are a one of the biggest sheople!) But let me just give you and everyone else a quote from a very famous, respected man. “You are NOT homophobic! Homophobic literally means you have a valid fear or PHOBIA of homosexuals. You’re not afraid! You’re just an A*HOLE!” -Samuel Jackson

  8. really? says:

    Also, why couldn’t Norman a main character be gay? I’d like to see that, not in a yeah right that’ll never happen, I mean I hope one day I do, and its no big deal.
    Also why was it the jock fit character? That girls loved, but now we know men do too. Why not the fat sidekick? Why doesn’t Hollywood ever give them the gay seal of approval? Why are Superman and Justin playing the gay roles in two well written sitcoms at the moment, and not A. Real gay actors? B. Fat actors? I’m not being pro-fat, just pointing out that inequality is everywhere if you look for it.
    I’d rather enjoy the shows than look for hate. Looking for it doesn’t stop hate, it keeps it going. Let’s enjoy the show called life.

    • Heidi says:

      Well I’m pretty sure Norman and the fat sidekick would be too young? Like man they’re starting middle school (?) I’m pretty sure that they’re not worrying about whether they like guys or girls at that age. Not to make accusations, but it does look like you are looking for “hate”.
      I agree that there aren’t as many fat actors due to being that the media prefers skinny/muscled actors more, but the actor’s sexuality shouldn’t have anything to do with whether they get hired or not. Who cares if the character is gay, that has nothing to do with hiring actors. They are ACTORS and they are meant to act as their character. They’re not going to have their character’s sexuality, because they are not their character. Heck, Neil Patrick Harris is homosexual, yet in How I Met Your Mother his character is the womanizer.
      All this article is is about how they decided to pitch Mitch as openly gay, and I’m pretty much up for that. It was a little nice bit, which no one seemed to mine. It was like it didn’t even matter, and it shouldn’t really as of now. If you’re gay, then you shouldn’t be looked at a different way or criticized for the choice you made. The way how Mitch was that open about having a boyfriend and didn’t even hesitate when he responded made it reveal how it didn’t matter at all. Not only that, they did this in a Kid/Family film. Truly, in the end, it didn’t matter whether Mitch was into boys/girls, but the fact they put that little bit sold that it shouldn’t irk anyone whether someone prefers dicks or vaginas.

      • TIm WIlliams says:

        Wow Heidi, you sure haven’t been around kids much! Sorry if you feel that 7th grade kids don’t know about sex or anything sexual at that age… because you are so very, very sadly mistaken. From the Goonies through things such as Diaries of a Wimpy Kid, THIS IS NOT NEWS – even in mainstream films. Which rock were you living under since, hm, 1901?

  9. dest says:

    Whenever mitch said that, i almost fangirled in front of my family :)

  10. Cid says:

    “Maybe it’ll plant a seed in the minds of some younger viewers, who might begin pondering, hey, it’s OK for Norman and Neil to be different, and then that train of thought might float over to hey, Neil’s brother is different, too, and that’s also OK.”

    I feel like I have to comment on this, because I know you meant for this to sound positive but it kind of comes as if you are still isolating gay people from the rest. Because I think the whole point of the whole thing is that Neil’s brother IS normal. He isn’t different at all, and shouldn’t be compared to Norman, who has been ostracized by society for his quirks. And the real lesson to kids (at least concerning Neil) is that “Neil isn’t different at all by being gay, it’s completely normal.”

    • Good point, although my use of “different” is meant as a positive. The movie is a celebration of differences, so isolation isn’t a factor. The movie shows us one character (Norman) who is isolated for his differences and one (Mitch) who is not, and eventually leads to a moment where neither are isolated. Their differences are acknowledged, accepted, even appreciated. You can be different and normal. Different IS normal.

  11. jenna5960 says:

    I was excited to see the movie mainly to see what all the excitement was about. After seeing it I am glad how the character was portrayed however in the same breath we are saying see how great it is and accepted it is to be gay, throughout the movie it was not okay to be fat or otherwise different like Norman who was labeled a freak. It’s too bad the acceptance policy of the movie couldn’t have carried out into other categories of “different”.

  12. Josh says:

    I liked Paranorman and after seeing Mitch just openly say he has a boyfriend made me feel like coming out of the closet but I’m a bit shy telling anyone I’m gay.

    • I’m not in much of a position to give advice, as I don’t know your situation, but I’ve always believed that it’s better to be out. As for being shy, it’s not like you have to go around telling everyone you meet; being out just means being honest with the people closest to you, whoever that may be.

      I wish you the very best in your decision, whichever decision you make!

    • anon says:

      Do what I did, ‘test’ some of the people you’re wanting to tell, by asking them advice on the following scenario:

      Your friend/a friend has told you he/she’s gay.
      You’re ‘asking’ advice on what to do?
      Then ‘play’ but the empathy card, you find him/her normal like everyone else.
      Then tell them, that you’re actually that friend.

  13. Eren says:

    I hope in a few years there would be like LGBTs in a Horror movie :)

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