“Hey,” I say as I knock on the office door.
“Hey, there you are,” Amber Lynn responds. “Shall we go?”
We exit the building and begin walking down Wilshire.
“So what was this all about?” she asks me.
“There’s, like, an online campaign to give Elsa a girlfriend in the Frozen sequel,” I tell her.
“There’s a Frozen sequel?”
“Yeah. I mean, they’re just starting production, I guess.”
“Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” Amber Lynn says. “It made, like, a bajillion dollars, right?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Highest grossing animated film ever.”
“Was it good?”
“Don’t know. I haven’t seen it,” I answer. “Have you?”
“Fully qualified to talk about it, then.”
“Yeah, exactly,” she replies. “We do that all the time.”
The light goes green, and we cross another street.
“So, what?” she asks. “Reg was like, ‘Hey, I heard about this thing where people want Elsa to be a lesbian. Go talk to our token dyke about it!’?”
“I thought you were bisexual,” I say.
She says, “Yeah, that’s right. I just didn’t think that he knew the difference.”
“Well, I don’t know if he does or not,” I answer. “But, yeah, there aren’t too many choices in the office if you want to find somebody in the LGBTQ community.”
“Yeah. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Everybody’s totally supportive. But I have to educate them sometimes.”
By this point, we have reached the park. The city sounds have faded, just a bit, to be replaced by chirping birds.
Kicking a stone out of the path, Amber Lynn says, “Okay, so this is the part where I say, ‘Yes, it’s high time they put a member of the LGBT community in a major motion picture’, right?”
I shrug my shoulders. “But they shouldn’t be, you know, doing it just to do it.”
“Yeah,” Amber Lynn responds. “That’s just it. It’s got to be the right character.”
“You don’t think Elsa is?”
“I don’t know. Like I said, I haven’t seen the film. Don’t even know what it’s about.”
I start to explain, “It’s about a land where...” Then I decide to change tack. “Well, Elsa becomes the queen of her country, but then she, like, accidentally casts a spell and makes it winter all the time, or something. So she runs away and hides. And so it’s all about her sister Anna coming to find her and talk her into... umm...”
“Coming out of hiding?” Amber Lynn asks.
“Yeah. Ending her, you know, self imposed exile. My sister has, like, a four year old kid. They’ve seen it approximately eight hundred thousand times.”
“Oh,” Amber Lynn says.
She picks up a disc that has clattered to a stop near her feet. She tosses it back to the boy who had been unable to leap high enough to catch it.
“So...” Amber Lynn says, “do you think Elsa is the right character for this?”
“She’s got to be,” I answer. “Who else if not her?”
“Why’s that?” she asks me.
“Well, I mean, everybody already thinks that’s what the first one was about.”
“I’ve heard that. Why is that? Is it just because Elsa doesn’t marry a prince at the end, like in every other Disney film?”
“Well, not just that,” I tell her. “Like, Elsa has this big song, ‘Let It Go’. It’s supposed to be about how she can finally be herself now that she’s living in isolation from her kingdom.”
“‘Be herself’, as in...?” she asks.
“As in, use her magic powers that she didn’t want the kingdom to know about,” I answer. “That’s the literal reading. But it’s not hard at all to read it as a metaphor for coming out.”
“But that’s not what they intended.”
“You know, I don’t know,” I say. “I kinda feel like they had to know that people were going to read it that way. I kinda feel like it would have been easy to change the song to make it harder to get that message out of it.”
“Well, I’d imagine they’d never come out and say that’s how they intended it.”
“No,” I agree. “But they have said, like, ‘Well, now that we’ve released it, it belongs to everyone, so you can see anything you like in it’.”
“That’s not the same thing,” Amber Lynn argues.
“It’s still very different from saying, ‘That’s totally not what we intended, and you’re obviously insane or deluded for coming to that conclusion’. Which is probably what they would have said ten or twenty years ago.”
“Even four or five years ago,” she responds. “Things are changing so fast all of a sudden. That Supreme Court decision?”
“The gay marriage one?”
“Yeah. I was like, ‘Whoa, what country is this?’. And that was, like, five years after Prop Eight.”
“After what?” I ask.
“Proposition Eight,” she says. “California voted to ban gay marriage in 2008.”
“Wait, they voted to ban it?” I ask.
“The state legislature?”
“No, the public. It was a ballot initiative.”
“The people of California voted against gay marriage?”
“Yeah. And that was just eight years ago.”
“Wow,” I say. “Wonder what they’d say today.”
“You never know,” Amber Lynn replies. “I thought there was no way in hell it was going to pass then. But it did.”
We walk on in silence for a moment. I realise that we’ve completed a lap around the pond.
“And I think your generation is changing things,” Amber Lynn suddenly says.
“Yeah. Look at the polls. Amongst the general population, it’s just about fifty-fifty on gay marriage. But as you go to younger ages, they start to favour it more and more.”
“I don’t know what’s different about your generation,” Amber Lynn says. “But you guys are much more in favour of LGBT rights. Maybe it’s because people are finally able to live more openly. You know, it was illegal in a lot of places. As recently as ten, fifteen years ago.”
“Gay marriage?” I ask. “In a lot of places, it was illegal until the Supreme Court decision.”
“No. I mean, just being gay. Most states had sodomy laws of some sort.”
“Wait,” I say. “It was illegal to be gay?”
“Yeah. Most states had a law that said people of the same gender couldn’t fuck. Some states even banned hetero sex outside of marriage.”
I look up at Amber Lynn. Sunlight intermittently glints off her sunglasses as we walk under the trees.
“You’re full of shit,” I say, shaking my head.
“It’s true,” she answers. “Look it up. I think some states still have those laws on the books. I mean, the Supreme Court has declared them unconstitutional, and they were almost never enforced anyway, but they’re still there.”
“Like Texas?” I ask her.
“I would not be surprised,” she answers. Her Southern drawl seems to seep through, momentarily, and turn the last word into sur-prah-zed. Her expression darkens as she repeats, “I would not be surprised.”
Research shows that sodomy laws existed throughout the United States until a 2003 Supreme Court decision.
She continues, “Anyway, yeah, more people now, especially young people, say that they have a close friend or family member who’s LGBT. And that’s because we’re finally able to live openly in a lot of places. I mean, there have always been LGBT people. You just didn’t know it because they were in the closet.”
“Yeah,” I say. “There’s a line in ‘Let It Go’: ‘The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all’.”
“I don’t know about ‘controlling’ me, but yeah, I definitely felt the fears in Texas.”
I ask her, “So when did... when did you know that you were bi?”
“I don’t know,” she replies. “Sometime in high school. By about, like, winter break in my junior year, that’s when I was able to admit to myself that that’s what I was. I mean, I was still thinking about it before that – probably knew in some way – but I didn’t really express it that way until then.”
There is a pause, and then both of us start to say something at the same time.
She laughs, “Go ahead.”
“No, you,” I say.
She holds out an arm. “I insist, Helena.”
“Okay,” I say. “I was just going to say... well... I’m still trying to figure it out.”
“Figure what out?” she asks.
I come to a stop at the side of the path, my arms folded. “I... I think I might be...”
“Be what?” she asks, quietly and gently.
I edge closer to her and whisper, “Gay.” After a pause, I add, “Or... or at least bisexual.”
“Really?” she asks. “That’s great!”
I’m puzzled at this reaction. I explain, “I mean, I’m nowhere near sure about it. I’m just, like, thinking about it.”
“That’s still good,” Amber Lynn insists. “Most people don’t even get that far. So many people just kind of, you know, assume that they’re straight. Or that it’s normal to be straight, and that anytime they feel anything to the contrary, they’re just like, ‘Oh, it’s a phase. It’ll pass.’”
After a pause, she continues, “Even within the LGBT community, there are these... walls, I guess.”
“Yeah. I mean, there was this one girl I went out with once. I told her I was bi, and she was like, ‘You like guys?’. I was like, ‘Well, yes, but I like girls too’. But she didn’t buy it.”
“She didn’t buy that you were bi?” I snigger.
“No. She was like, ‘I thought you were like me!’. I was like, ‘I am, just not completely’. She kept insisting that I was going to go back to guys. She thought that it was a phase. I was like, ‘Wait, how many people have said that to you about being a lesbian? And you’re saying it to me?’”
“Yeah,” Amber Lynn says. “The community, the LGBT community... it’s just so diverse. There’s, like, all kinds of people. We’re all unique. We should celebrate that. And we should team up. All of us.”
“What if it turns out I’m straight?” I ask.
“Well... that’s cool too.” She takes my arms and continues, “Look, I don’t know what you’re going to end up discovering. If you’re bi, or a lesbian, or straight, or what. But just the fact that you’re honest with yourself, that you’re exploring yourself... that’s what matters. You’ll know who you are.”
“Maybe,” I reply.
“So... was there anyone in particular...?” she asks.
I look away.
“You know who it was for me?” she says, as she leans in close to me. It is a conspiratorial lean.
“Who?” I ask her.
“But they’re... like... teenagers.”
“So was I at the time,” she shrugs. “Saw them at the Olympics, and just... well, in a flash, I went from ‘That’s so cool’ to ‘That’s so hot’.”
“Come on,” she says, taking my hand and leading me down the path. “Let’s go.”
“Yui,” I tell her as we begin walking again.
“She was a year ahead of me in high school.”
“Oh. That’s who it was for you?”
“Yeah,” I answer. “I never really got to know her, but I would see her across the hall, or in the crowd at my volleyball games. She was, like, absolutely gorgeous. Radiant smile. At the time, I think I just kinda looked up to her. You know, like a role model or something. But now I...”
“You think you were attracted to her?”
“I don’t think I was at the time. But I think I am now. I mean, I haven’t seen her in, like, three years, but I can still picture her. And, like, a while ago I started to picture her... you know... doing stuff.”
“Yeah,” I admit. “Doing stuff... to me.”
A knowing smile appears on Amber Lynn’s face.
But in a moment, her face takes on a look of recognition. She asks me, “So is that why Reg wanted you to talk to me?”
“I don’t think so. I mean... I didn’t say anything about this to him.”
“He couldn’t have noticed it on his own?”
“Reg?” I ask, incredulous. “Reg would never notice that.”
“No, I guess not.”
I say to her, “So...”
“Did you have any role models?” I ask. “Like, you know, anyone who made you realise it was... you know... okay to be what you were?”
“Not really. I mean, my guardian had always made clear to me that everyone deserves to be treated fairly. I mean, she was a magistrate, so that was kinda her job.”
“Not, like, Ellen DeGeneres, or Will and Grace, or anything like that?”
“Well, I guess that’s what this whole thing with Elsa is about,” I respond. “Because, like, think about all those girls who watch Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty, or... or Beauty and the Beast, and they’re like, ‘Well, who says I have to have a Prince Charming? What if I want a Princess Charming?’”
“Didn’t Frozen already do that? I mean, Elsa didn’t marry a guy at the end, right?”
“No, she didn’t. I don’t think she even had a love interest in the first place. And Anna ended up single too. She almost married a guy, but then he turned out to be the bad guy.”
Amber Lynn continues, “But you’re saying it’s not enough that it wasn’t a heteronormative love story? You want a lesbian love story?”
“Sure,” I answer. “Why not?”
“Well, I think Disney can think of a few reasons why not,” she says. “Like the protests.”
“Yeah,” I admit.
“But here’s the thing.”
“Why should Disney care if protesters do show up? They’re so big, it doesn’t matter to them. Like... let’s say Frozen 2 comes out, and it’s all about Elsa coming out. You’ll have those right wing radio hosts and whoever come out and say, ‘Omigod Elsa’s gay!’” She whispers the last word, mocking the reaction she expects. “‘You should stop watching all Disney movies, and stop watching the Disney Channel, and stop buying Mickey Mouse dolls, and cancel your trips to Disney World, and stop watching ABC, and stop watching ESPN, and not have anything to do with anything that Disney owns ever again!’
“But how many people do you think are actually going to boycott Disney cold turkey?” she asks. “They’ll turn off ESPN for a week or two, maybe. But then they’ll be like, ‘Well, I’ll watch Monday Night Football this week, but only because my team is playing’. And their kids will be like, ‘I thought we were gonna go to Disney World this summer! When are we gonna go to Disney World?’ How many families are going to be able to keep saying no to their kids every single time they want to see a Disney movie, or watch something on ABC?”
I ask, “You don’t think the protests will have any staying power?”
“No. I mean, sure, some of them will be committed to it. There will be a few people going around telling their friends, ‘We’re a non-Disney household’, acting all smug about it and shit. But it won’t be enough. And on the other side, they’ll get more business from same sex couples, and from the LGBT community, and from allies.”
“I don’t know,” I respond. “I think they’ll still be afraid of the publicity.”
“They probably will be,” she admits. “But I’m not completely sure. I mean, remember when Brave came out? It was a big thing that Merida didn’t want to marry a prince. Now here we are, like, four years later, and we’re seriously considering the possibility that they might have a gay princess.”
“Elsa’s a queen.”
“But she’s, like, one of the ‘Disney princesses’, or whatever, right?”
“I don’t think so,” I reply. “I don’t think they’ve added her.”
“Oh. Well, they’re certainly marketing the shit out of her. I see her on girls’ shirts, and backpacks, and lunchboxes, and everything.”
“Yeah,” I say. “And they’re all dressing up as her at Halloween.”
“Okay, so, back to the question,” I say. “Should Disney give Elsa a girlfriend?”
“It doesn’t matter,” she replies. “They won’t.”
“But should they?”
She considers it. “No.”
I glance up at Amber Lynn.
She points to a cart. “Want some ice cream?”
“None for me, thanks,” I say.
She buys an ice cream sandwich, and we sit down on a bench.
“They shouldn’t give her a girlfriend?” I ask her. This seems to contradict our entire conversation.
She explains, “They shouldn’t just give her a girlfriend. She should have to earn her, like the rest of us.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, in all the other Disney films, it’s obvious that the princess is going to find a guy to marry. Usually, it’s also obvious whom she’s going to marry, because they both like each other, but there’s some reason why they can’t be together. Like, Cinderella’s poor. Ariel’s really a mermaid.”
“And the Beast is a beast,” I add.
“Exactly,” Amber Lynn says, having finally unwrapped the ice cream sandwich. She takes a bite.
I point out, “Well, in fairness, that is, like, every romantic comedy ever.”
“Right. But they can put a twist on it.”
“What kind of twist?”
“Let’s say the whole thing is about Elsa looking for a guy. Maybe she just does it out of a sense of obligation. You know? Like, she goes to herself, ‘Well, I don’t really want to, but I guess I have to have a kid at some point, because that’s kinda how a hereditary monarchy works’.”
She takes another bite and continues, “So she goes on this voyage to a far off land, and Anna is like, ‘Come on, pick one of these guys and we’ll go home,’ and she’s like, ‘No! I could never share my kingdom with one of these assholes!’. But then as she keeps looking, she gets to know this local girl, and eventually, she’s like, ‘Omigod, she’s the one I want to share my kingdom with,’ and Anna’s like, ‘You’re fucking with me, right?’.”
“Sounds kinda like Coming to America,” I answer.
“Omigod! Yes!” Amber Lynn shouts, as a bit of ice cream goes flying. “Coming to... is there another kingdom in Frozen?”
“I think so. I don’t know what it’s called.”
“Well, regardless, I think we’ve got a winner here,” she says. “Let’s write this up and pitch it to Reg.”
“You know,” I say, “this actually does fit in with the typical Disney film.”
I point out, “It still has the one big reason they can’t be together. Instead of, like, one of them being poor, or one of them being a beast, or one of them being unable to breathe on land, it’s because they’re both girls.”
“Yeah,” Amber Lynn says. “But the typical Disney film would have one of them change into a guy. You know, some sort of magic spell or something.”
“That would be good too.”
“No,” she insists. “We want the message to be that it’s okay to love whomever you want, not that it’s okay to love whomever you want provided that one of you is willing to undergo gender reassignment.”
“Maybe that would be the next sequel,” Amber Lynn suggests. “Anna falls in love with a girl, but then she goes, ‘Look, somebody around here has got to produce an heir,’ and so she becomes a guy.”
I tell her, “Well, that’s probably a sequel too far. For now, anyway.”
“Yeah. For now.”
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