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Masculine Representation in Disney Pixar’s “Luca”

Disney Pixar’s Luca released back in early June. Although I’m late to the party, I just recently watched the animated movie. I almost cried at the demonstration of chosen family and acceptance. For all it’s glory, Luca falls short with its queer-baiting. However, it does provide a diverse range of masculine representation in the men of the film.

Luca Paguro

As a young sea creature who herds goatfish, it’s not surprising that Luca Paguro would be interested in exploring the surface world despite his parents’ warnings. His curiosity piques when he meets Alberto Scarfono. As a newcomer to the surface world, Luca is understandably scared, kicking and screaming because “OF COURSE IT IS!” his first time to the surface. Or could it be his first time beginning to explore his sexuality? Alberto is Luca’s push past all of the insecurities and worrying set in place by having to keep his identity a secret.

Luca and Alberto have no problem showing physical intimacy as they establish their relationship. Their physical intimacy teased the possibility of a romance. Disney did a wonderful job establishing a healthy friendship with its own flaws. It fell short on blossoming the relationship further to show solidarity young queer folx that need reassurance that they are accepted. Luca and Alberto are at the age where people begin to question their identity, and society deems part of our identities includes sexuality. 

The society of sea monsters was nearly non-existent save for Luca’s immediate family, Uncle Ugo, and the two older sea creature ladies that lived in Portorosso. Why don’t we see their sea creature community? Why did Luca’s parents threated to send him away to the Deep Sea with Uncle Ugo? And why was Alberto alone on the surface? 

I think that the sea creatures, just like Portorosso, are homophobic and were a threat to the LGBTQIA+ community. That is why Luca’s mother was so worried about Luca’s safety about wandering too far away from their family farm. The Deep Sea is a safe place for queer creatures like Luca, Uncle Ugo, Grandma Paguro, the two older ladies, and Alberto. 

Alberto Scarfono

In the case of Alberto, his father knew Alberto was gay and abandoned him on the surface, hoping the humans would find him and kill him. When I theorized this, I nearly cried. However, it makes sense. His father left and never came back. One could assume that his father was captured and killed by humans, but humans like Ercole Visconti and Massimo Marcovaldo would actively hunt for more creatures or gloat that they captured one. However, Alberto is young and was probably in denial of his abandonment and didn’t know how to get back home.

Where Disney’s queer baiting becomes more apparent is when Alberto becomes jealous of Luca’s friendship with Giulia. Guilia, who shows no interest in either Luca or Laberto and is ostracized by other people of Portorosso, indicating her own queer identity, had more of a platonic relationship with Luca than Alberto. Unfortunately, their ages prevent them from thinking through situations completely, and their emotions get the best of them. 

Alberto, who knew and accepted his sexuality, so in order to prevent a relationship from blooming between Luca and Giulia, Alberto tried to force Luca to confess his identity, but revealed his own, prompting Luca to act out of panic and pretend to not know about Alberto’s true form. Alberto used Luca’s identity against him, knowing Luca was uncomfortable and afraid of the repercussions. 

This scene was as powerful as it is heartbreaking because this type of betrayal in 1959 would’ve ended in death. It reminds me of Brokeback Mountain (2005). Jack Twist wanted a life with Ennis Del Mar, but Ennis wasn’t ready to commit to that because it would be dangerous if anyone found out. [SPOILER ALERT for anyone that hasn’t seen Brokeback Mountain] Unfortunately, Jack dies in an accident according to his wife Lureen Newsom Twist, but Ennis believes Jack’s sexuality was discovered and was murdered for it. The reason behind Jack’s death is never explicitly stated.

Lorenzo Paguro and Uncle Ugo

Lorenzo is a well-meaning father but an emotionally absent father. He is also the comic relief juxtaposed next to his worrisome wife, Daniela, when he finally starts to show he cares about his son as they search for him on the surface. Lorenzo not only knew about Luca’s sexuality, he was in denial of it because he did not have the masculine son he wanted. He did the same to his brother who we know as the creepy Uncle Ugo from the Deep Sea. 

Uncle Ugo is creepy, as most uncles are, because Luca is unfamiliar with him. The Deep Sea is pictured as a dark place. On the surface, it alienated the LGBTQIA+ community from the rest of the world. However, going deeper, they just decided to make a community of their own where they are safe, keeping out those who established and enforced their status quo that was alienating and oppressive of anyone that didn’t follow it.

Massimo Marcovaldo and Ercole Visconti

Massimo exhibits positive masculinity where Ercole exhibits toxic masculinity. Ercole’s character is flamboyant and exaggerates his place in society. He tries to control and dominate his community through fear and annoyance. Based on my perception, Ercole was in the closet and hated his sexual identity. He overcompensates trying to establish and prove his masculinity by bullying Giuliana and eventually Luca and Alberto, showing his own internal homophobia. 

In contrast, Massimo is completely supportive of Giuliana, Luca, and Alberto. Massimo openly showed affection to his child and his adopted children. He had no problem standing up for what he believed in when faced with majority dissent. Massimo is a working man but doesn’t impose gender roles. Massimo is a pillar in the community, and everyone looks up to him. Even though he misunderstood the sea creatures, and therefore the LGBTQIA+ community, Massimo had no problems realizing the error in his thinking and accepting Luca and Alberto as family, being the father figure both of them needed.

A'Lyah Releford

Agnes Scott '23

A'Lyah Releford is a second-year English Literature - Creative Writing undergraduate at Agnes Scott College. Currently, she is working on poetry and short story fiction. Her future career plans are to be a published author and award-winning screenwriter.
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