Growing up queer isn’t easy. My generation was one of the first to emerge in a culture that is more welcoming of LGBTQ+ voices, having learned that it’s okay to embrace your identity and accept that being who you are is a fact to be proud of, but there’s still a long way to go.
Representation is growing, and we’re slowly but surely winning in the fight for a fairer world, but endless obstacles still remain, and it’s important to never be complacent in a society that could take away our rights at any moment. While adults like myself are able to fight for progress, young people are often held under the scrutinous thumb of family, having to abide by strict social norms enforced by parents who may be subject to an immense generational divide. The harsh reality is that many young people are forced to hide their queer identities in fear of ridicule, violence, or abandonment from the only place they can call home.
Amity Blight in The Owl House encapsulates this struggle perfectly. Growing up in a family who run a business obsessed with profits and public image, her parents often force their children to abide by similar conventions. Unique identities are thrown aside in favour of pristine green hair and fanciful uniforms, with Amity being made to dye her own hair a fluorescent mint green to match that of her mother, a physical representation of the oppression that’s causing her to hide away in fear of rejection. But like many young queer individuals, there comes a breaking point where a stance needs to be taken. Amity makes that stand in season two’s latest episode, cementing a queer character unlike anyone we’ve ever seen before in Disney’s long history.
Before I delve into the show’s latest episode and its worthwhile impact, I’ll try and provide a speedy primer for those who aren’t familiar with the super gay magical witch show. The Owl House follows Luz Noceda, a young human girl who finds herself transported to a foreign world known as The Boiling Isles. It’s a place of magic, demons, witches, and everything she’s ever dreamed of. As someone who never felt like she belonged, this place feels like a new beginning for the show’s protagonist, and she takes each new challenge in her stride while meeting new friends and taking her first steps on the path to becoming a witch.
Amity Blight is first introduced as a bully, someone who despises the presence of a human amidst a society that should know better than to entertain such things. She takes after her parents, believing that there’s no better way to succeed than belittling those beneath you and celebrating your own superiority. But this facade slowly falls away as she begins developing feelings for Luz, a crush that sends her on a journey of self-acceptance we’ve yet to see conclude in the show’s storyline. It’s adorable, and achingly relatable. Young queer people are naturally guarded, afraid to explore their true selves until a catalyst comes along and forces them to recontexualise everything they’ve learned to define as right and wrong.
Luz is the revelation that Amity sorely needs, even if it leads her to confront trauma and move away from those in her life who are only capable of hurt. The first season’s final few episodes explore the playful flirtation that comes as part of any teenage crush, while the second doubles down on the harder truths of queer identity, and how rebellion becomes a necessity in the lives of young gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people on the path to discovering themselves.
‘Escaping Expulsion’ aired this past weekend and follows Amity as she performs at company events for her parents, helping flaunt the power of their weaponised products to a crowd willing to throw money away at bleak inventions. Due to failing grades at school, Amity is made to play along to keep her abusive mother happy. Unfortunately, in the midst of a demonstration a photo featuring Luz, Amity, and a few other characters falls from her pocket. It captures a moment of romantic vulnerability, a slither in time dear to her heart. Scared it will be damaged, she uses magic to destroy the encroaching abomination – the name of said monsters in the show – and recover her photo, leaving the crowd in shock as her parents scream in frustration.
In her fury, Amity’s mother discovers the figures present in the photograph, labelling them as a “distraction” from her daughter’s progress. In actuality, they’re the very things preventing our heroine from falling into abject despair. The episode has Luz and company being expelled from school as Amity is forced to stand and watch, too afraid to go against her parents; wishes in the fear of being outed and cast aside. It’s what a lot of people would do if put in her shoes, and it isn’t until Luz is placed in mortal danger that Amity comes to realise that her feelings mean far more than pleasing those who simply don’t care about her identity.
To restore their status at school, Luz agrees to partake in a presentation on behalf of Amity’s parents. Unfortunately, they’re dodgy arms dealers and aim on murdering the teenager in cold blood instead of sitting down to talk things out. This is a kid’s show by the way. It doesn’t take long for Amity to cotton on to her friend’s situation, bursting in to save the day even if it means severing ties with her family for good. Her mother screams in disdain, demanding her daughter step aside unless she wants to be abandoned for good, left behind like the meddlesome little girl she is. In response, Amity takes the family necklace around her neck and crushes it to pieces, a symbolic gesture of growth that shows she is ready to accept who she is, confronting trauma and coming to realise it doesn’t control her anymore.
For young viewers, this is a monolithic statement, one with too few examples in animation when it comes to showcasing the challenges that accompany the acceptance of one’s own queer identity. Amity Blight is a lesbian, as confirmed by showrunner Dana Terrace, and The Owl House isn’t afraid of shining a light on the brilliance of young love, and the trials and tribulations that come with hiding inside a closet that is far from your own making. The first hesitant steps out of this box aren’t meant to be easy, and you will face resistance, but in Amity’s case, she’s met with open arms by Luz, her friends, and siblings who understand the pressures that come with being the youngest child amidst a family of stubborn perfectionists.
If this episode can help even one teenager coming to terms with their identity feel welcome, or reassure those in problematic family situations that things can get better, it’s done more than it could ever imagine. I didn’t have such examples of queer representation as a child, so it feels important to highlight shows that come along and willingly change the game. The fact it’s under the Disney umbrella is more impressive, given the company is infamous for editing out minimal queer voices to appease international audiences. The Owl House makes it so integral to the narrative and thematic execution that it can’t really be ignored without butchering the show’s overall message, and I’m glad Disney understands this.
Rebellion remains a necessary part of the queer experience. It’s not something young people can willingly partake in, but Amity Blight and The Owl House have shown that it’s okay to strive for a future where your identity is welcomed, even if it means leaving behind those close to you.
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