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Owl House

After a seemingly never-ending stream of Disney’s half-hearted attempts at representing LGBTQ+ folks and people of color–or rather simply displaying them–my hopes have not been high for any Disney production since 2015.

Alia Hudroge

When I first caught word of Disney’s The Owl House, I had little faith in the series despite the hype surrounding it. After a seemingly never-ending stream of Disney’s half-hearted attempts at representing LGBTQ+ folks and people of color–or rather simply displaying them–my hopes have not been high for any Disney production since 2015. However, after watching the series, I agree with Petrana Radulovic’s assessment in her review for Polygon: The Owl House is too good for Disney. Despite its popularity and promise, Disney is cutting the cord on The Owl House after only two full seasons, with season three only set to contain three 44-minute specials. As the show comes to a close, I’d like to give a slightly premature eulogy. The Owl House, and especially its bisexual, AfroLatina, misfit protagonist, is a breath of fresh air. Much has been said about queer representation in The Owl House, so I will be brief: the inclusion of a bisexual protagonist as well as gay, lesbian, and nonbinary characters is refreshing. Better yet, the existence of queerness goes without explanation or conflict in the series. Even the bad guys are not queerphobic, everyone uses Rain Whispers’ they/them pronouns with ease, and the only issue Amity’s mother has with her daughter dating a girl is that the girl is Luz the weird, rebellious human. In the latest episode, “Thanks to Them,” we see Luz come out as bisexual to her mamá and appears to be warmly and unquestioningly supported and accepted. Less discussed is the representation of people of color in The Owl House. When watching the series, it struck me that seeing brown skin in fantasy fiction is strangely uncommon. Like queerness in the series, variations in skin tone go without explanation, which is refreshing in a genre that so rarely features people of color and feels the need to justify their existence when they do appear. So often in fantasy fiction, it seems that the creators understand that audiences will suspend their disbelief for wizards and dragons, but brown skin is a bridge too far. But The Owl House not only offers both major and minor characters with a diverse set of skin tones, it also represents them as naturally as it does its queer characters. Not only do we get an AfroLatina protagonist, but we also have characters like Gus, Rain, Darius, Skara, and many others who have brown skin. And Luz’s Latinidad feels so casual and real to me. Her Latinidad isn’t just hidden trivia either, it matters. My heart warmed to see Amity and the Boiling Isles gang learning Spanish because it matters to Luz and her mother Camila. I love that Luz speaks Spanish to herself when in need of reassurance, and it feels like she’s channeling the voice of her mamá. That Luz is AfroLatina also makes her a uniquely fitting protagonist for a story about navigating two different worlds at once, the human world and the Boiling Isles. She doesn’t quite fit in in either world, which speaks to the experiences that many of us have navigating bicultural, biracial, immigrant life. While Luz is a misfit, it is not her Latinidad that makes her an oddball, and she gets to be nerdy and goofy without her weirdness ever conflicting with her Latinidad. When I was growing up, I recall accusations of “Oreo” and “coconut” being hurled at Black and brown kids who were nerdy, emo, liked anime, or were otherwise a little weird. I was in a tiny friend group of these supposed Oreos and coconuts, emos and anime fans of color who were too weird for our cooler Black and brown classmates and too Black and brown for the white weirdos. This is not the world represented in The Owl House, Luz doesn’t have to be an Oreo or a coconut. Like Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Hector Nieves and Miko Kubota in Glitch Techs, Luz lives in a world where nerd culture is not restricted to white kids. In the world of The Owl House, nerd content is also hinted to be as diverse as its fanbase, as we see that Luz’s fictional hero Azura also has brown skin–while most of my fictional heroes had to be white by necessity. I especially love that Luz is a nerdy misfit teenage girl, a population I feel is wildly underrepresented and too often denied leading roles. I look forward to a media landscape that’s friendlier to weird girls of color everywhere, where characters like Luz are more and more common. With only two episodes left before The Owl House comes to a premature close, I am both saddened and hopeful for the future. Disney is right that The Owl House does not fit the Disney brand–whether because of the appeal to older audiences, horror elements, queerness, browness, or because this series has too much heart for Disney. Given Disney’s recent history of flip flopping on the issue of LGBTQ rights and media representation, I am reluctant to give Disney the benefit of the doubt, and I’m not surprised that The Owl House is ending in this particular way. An abridged third season allows Disney to keep its brand integrity while also avoiding much of the backlash that would likely result from an outright cancellation. The Owl House commits to its queer and non-white characters and audience, which is decidedly un-Disney-like. While good, diverse children’s media is still hard to find and what little there is often in constant danger of being dropped by major networks, like The Owl House with Disney and Glitch Techs with Nickelodeon, I am still thrilled to see that there is a desire among creatives to diversify the children’s media landscape. That a series like The Owl House was greenlit in the first place and given three seasons–even if the third season is heavily abridged–is promising. The will to style, the will to tell stories to and about queer Latine kids is there, and The Owl House is evidence of this. Here’s to a future full of stories for weird, queer, Latine kids.

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