A Broken Heartbeat

We have yet to see a major kids' film put a homosexual romance front and center. That may be about to change.

By Esther O'Reilly Published on August 5, 2017

The First Law of Culture Wars is that if you want to win the culture, you have to entertain the culture. Victory in the courts of law is the fruit of smaller, quieter victories won on Americans’ media screens. Nowhere is this more evident than in the advances of the homosexual lobby. Give them credit for patience and persistence: They’ve made their game plan and stuck to it, and it’s paying off.

But there’s still one territory they haven’t completely conquered: kids’ media. Although films like Paranorman have featured quick nods to young gay side characters, we have yet to see a major franchise film from Disney, Dreamworks or PIXAR put a homosexual romance front and center. So far, the marketing powers-that-be have sensed that there’s still a large enough bloc of the paying audience for family films who would be upset by such a gamble.

Winds of Change

That may be about to change in the not-so-distant future. Here’s one clue: In a Heartbeat. If you haven’t heard of it yet, this short animated film has racked up over 14 million views and climbing since its YouTube launch on July 31st. The creators, Beth David and Esteban Bravo, are both college students who identify as homosexual. Initially, they came together to make a short film about a heterosexual high school crush, but they decided it would make more of an impact to turn it into a same-sex one.

The basic attraction of boy to girl, man to woman, may be acted on in sinful ways, but the attraction itself is always redeemable.

David and Bravo’s talent is undeniable. The short, which you can watch in full here, is gorgeously animated, with a delicate score reminiscent of Michael Giacchino’s poignant work in Up. The basic plot is that a freckled, awkward lad falls hopelessly for the popular boy in school, while his own heart takes on an adorable life of its own and threatens to out him. The boys are unnamed in the short itself but have been given the names Sherwin and Jonathan in promotional material.

Sherwin’s heart leads him on a merry chase in its headlong rush to chase Jonathan down, longing to stroke that perfectly coiffed hair and nuzzle that cheek. Just as the heart is caught, a group of students sees them together and murmurs disapprovingly. And you knew this was coming: Our poor little heart is literally broken in two. But the film ends on a happy note, as Jonathan later finds Sherwin in the bushes and helps him put the heart back together. A heart of his own takes form in his chest as the two boys smile shyly at each other under a tree.

Cultural Bull’s-Eye

The young filmmakers are clear about what they hope this film will do. Bravo says, “With [In a Heartbeat], we wanted to challenge the preconceived notion that LGBTQ content is not appropriate or suitable for younger audiences. It’s an innocent and lighthearted story about a boy and his crush that we hope will resonate with younger people regardless of their background.”

Of course, never mind the fact that Bravo and David created mock movie posters for the film riffing on R-rated fare like Brokeback Mountain. We’re challenging the preconceived notion that LGBTQ content isn’t appropriate for younger audiences, remember.

Yet, if the explosion of fan art, social media buzz, and critical accolades surrounding this film is any indication, Bravo and David have hit a cultural bull’s-eye. Already, fans are clamoring for a full-length sequel, but one wonders exactly how Bravo and David would plan to fill the run-time while still keeping up the “light and innocent” farce. Sherwin and Jonathan play cards? Sherwin and Jonathan take a walk in the park? Sherwin and Jonathan make out in the bathroom? Whoops, this is getting dicey.

A Deadly Lie

Of course, the filmmakers would reply, “We can fill the time just like any light, kid-friendly romance would fill the time, and that’s exactly the point.” This is precisely why the short is so pernicious: It sells young people on the deadly lie that sexual confusion is no less healthy and innocent than rightly ordered sexual desire.

Which is more loving — to tell a child a lie, or to tell him the truth?

Some might say, “But the story is harmless. The boys don’t do anything inappropriate. It’s ‘clean.’ I’d rather my kid saw this than some high school movie where a boy hooks up with his girlfriend.” But the fact that a boy and a girl are also capable of sexual misbehavior is not the point.

The point is that, in a heterosexual context, there truly is something sweet and innocent about awkward, shy high school crushes. The basic attraction of boy to girl, man to woman, may be acted on in sinful ways, but the attraction itself is always redeemable. It was made to be fulfilled. Even films that are not child-friendly can depict this honestly, and for that reason they may well be far less pernicious than In a Heartbeat.

The Awful Truth

In a same-sex context, there is nothing to redeem. There isn’t even the promise of monogamous affection. There is only a boy confused and in pain. And yes, there is a broken heart. A heart that all too many men would be all too willing to put back together and break again a thousand times over.

This is the awful truth that lies hidden behind pink hearts and red cheeks. This is what “the LGBT community” has to offer Sherwin: a life of depression and gnawing loneliness, of booze and needles and threesomes, of old grooming young, strong preying on weak. All these it is made of, and of graves and graves and graves.

There are those would call me a hateful bigot for saying this. But I ask them, which is more loving — to tell a child a lie, or to tell him the truth?

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