Strange World’s Gabrielle Union on why LGBTQ+ Representation Matters

Gabrielle Union has talked about the importance of positive LGBTQ+ representation in film, upon the release of the new Disney animated adventure movie ‘Strange World’, in which Gabrielle plays Meridian, the mother of Ethan Clade, a 16 year old who identifies as LGBTQ+.

‘Strange World’ centres around the Clade family, a multiracial family of explorers embarking upon a new and dangerous mission. The all-star cast also includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White and Lucy Liu, who all lend their voices to the characters, in the animated sci-fi adventure.

In recent years, Disney has incorporated more LGBTQ representation into their projects, including ‘The Owl House’, however this is the first time a LGBTQ character has taken the lead in a Disney movie.

The film has been praised for treating Ethan’s feelings and sexuality as a natural part of the story without it making it the focal point. We only learn of his sexuality during a scene with Ethan and his grandfather Jaeger (Dennis Quaid) where they talk about his crush and Ethan responds by blushing, and revealing who he crush is, to which his grandfather displays no surprise or shock at the ‘revelation’ of his grandson’s sexuality.

The film depicts Ethan’s family as loving and unwaveringly supportive, mirroring Union’s own personal experience raising an LGBTQ teen. Union and her husband Dwyane Wade are parents to Zaya, a trans teenager and have been Zaya’s biggest champions ever since she came out, so it is clear to see why Union feels it is so important to show a different narrative, one where Ethan’s family is as loving and accepting as they are too:

She says: Well, it’s interesting. I think people keep using the word normalizing, and the reality is, it’s normal. We’re normalizing normal. It just is. The LGBTQ community exists. We are a part of every community in every society around the world. We just are. And creating a beautiful family-friendly action movie where everyone just gets to be, and we all move lovingly within that space, is incredibly important, because people think it has to be this super treacherous, this hand-wringing, this harmful, confusing experience to raise and love an LGBTQ child, and it’s not. It really doesn’t have to be at all. And this is a beautiful example of a family, though perfectly imperfect, dealing with its own generational issues. They still create a loving space for everyone to exist exactly as they are, and I think the world needs that example”

Union and Wade have been long-time advocates for LGBTQ+ youth and have also spoken out in the past about their own experience of raising an LGBTQ+ child and the responsibility they feel to try to reach out to parents who hold anti-LGBTQ+ views.

The film has seen disappointing box office figures on release, with some moviegoers criticising the movie as being “too woke” and others commenting on the lack of promotion by Disney in the lead up to the release, however despite the disappointing box office figures, a number of viewers have taken to Twitter to praise the film for its approach to representation and for its depiction of its LGBTQ+ characters and ‘normalising’ love in a way most movies don’t.

Watch the trailer here:

The film is out now across UK cinemas.