The newly released animated family film “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is full of gags, colors and elements from the mass media. Producer Michael Rianda, also the producer of ‘Gravity Falls’, infuses his geekiness and offbeat sensibility into “The Mitchells vs. The Machines.”
The plot of the film is centered around the broken father-daughter relationship of the Mitchell family. When Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is heading off to college, her parents Rick Mitchell (Danny McBride) and Linda Mitchell (Maya Rudolph) decide to fix the problem by making the travel into a family road trip, along with their youngest son, Aaron Mitchell (Micheal Rianda). On their way to California, a robot apocalypse occurrs, and the Mitchell family are the last humans surviving on Earth. Through trusting one another and learning to see the world from one another’s point of view, the Mitchells save the human race and bond with one another. “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is a goofy and entertaining film to watch, more importantly, it delivers the message of queer acceptance.
Nowadays, although the characters of films and series are more diverse significantly in terms of races and sexuality, for both adults and children, animated family films still lack the presence of the LGBTQ+ community. For now, most LGBTQ+ characters are underrepresented, for example, Gobber the Belch from “How to Train your Dragon” and a minor token character from Disney’s “Onward.”
However, Netflix’s “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” break the ground for LGBTQ+ character in family films: the main character Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is openly queer.
Hints of Katie being a queer can be observed from the trailer. A rainbow pin is inconspicuous but visible on the coat Katie is wearing. Rainbow is known as a symbol of LGBT+ pride, the colors represent that diversity in the LGBTQ+ community. Pink represents sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for the soul. Also, on her “Mount Rushmore” of favorite filmmakers, Celinne Sciamma appeared. Sciamma is a French filmmaker focusing on the theme of the fluidity of gender and sexual identity among girls and women.
Interestingly, the voice actress of Katie, Abbi Jacobson has openly talked about her love life.
“I kind of go both ways; I date men and women,” said Jacobson in an interview.
In another interview, Jacobson commented on the importance of diversity in children’s films.
“I love that Katie’s queer,” said Jacobson, “I’m queer, so it was so refreshing to get to play a teen queer girl in an animated movie…I think it’s so important for young people to see that. The [movie] is about a fracture in a family and it has nothing to do with fact that Katie is queer, it’s just something that’s only celebrated and accepted in her family. I think it’s so rad for kids to see it. Maybe even more rad for parents to see it. So I was really, really excited to be a part of that story.”
However, throughout the films, other than fast flashes of rainbows and paying extra attention to her new friend Jade, Katie’s queer quality wasn’t the center of the story. Only at the end of the film, Katie’s mother (Maya Rudolph) asks, “Are you and Jade official, and will you be bringing her home with you for Thanksgiving?” casually, confirming that Katie is in a relationship with a female classmate. Thus, the presentation of queer wasn’t much mentioned, but it is still a remarkable action to take.
Other than representing the LGBTQ+ community, “The Mitchells vs. The Machine” also explores the theme of humans and technology. As technology gets more advanced, the connections between humans are getting distanced. Many spoofs were included in the film, for example, cat Instagram filters, memes, emojis, flying blocks of text, and freeze frames. These mass media trending effects seem funny and ridiculous in the film; their purpose is to make the audience reflect on their addiction and dependence on technology.
Overall, “The Mitchells vs. The Machine” is an 8/10 family film. It is entertaining while educating and normalizing the concept of LGBTQ+ to children.
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