Welcome back to the third-and-final part of our queer-theory examination of Kronk’s New Groove (2005). Let’s get right into our last questions:
How is gender presented and examined?
In one early scene, Kronk consults devil and angel versions of himself in order to decide how to precede with a moral quandary—a cliché that was pretty typical of early 2000s cartoons. There is an uncomfortable moment in which the “angel” version of Kronk, the one that Kronk seems to favor, is berated by the “devil” version of himself for the fact that the angel is “wearing a dress.” This entirely derails the moral debate, as the angel becomes extremely defensive about this accusation. Having this kind of gendered discussion in an internal monologue is incredibly interesting for the sake of my analysis of Kronk as (I hope this conclusion does not come as much of a surprise) not being cisgender. This indicates a high degree of internalized transphobia and shame, showing that Kronk still holds onto the value of male gender performance and experiences distress from the disconnect between an internal, effeminate self that he has worked to repress.
There is also a scene towards the end of the film where a group of townspeople all come to the decision to pretend to be Kronk’s wife in order to impress his father, leading to some “comedic” depictions of crossdressing. Truthfully, I don’t really know what analysis I can offer besides stating that this scene epitomizes the way gender is dealt with in Kronk’s New Groove—as something to be mocked and parodied, leading to excessive and insensitive depictions of gender nonconformity and variance.
How are heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships presented?
Heterosexuality in Kronk’s New Groove is actually examined in a very interesting way, as Kronk’s female romantic interest (Birdwell, a rival camp counselor) is initially assumed to be male by Kronk. This is disproven rather inconsequentially, and Birdwell defies traditional femininity in quite a lot of respects. She has a stern personality, thick brows, angled features, and an overall rather un-emphasized figure. She also takes the nomenclature of Ms., which is a subtle nod to this gender nonconformity as the usage of Ms. was popularized so that women’s professional lives were not linked to their personal romantic lives as was true with the preexisting Miss/Mrs. dichotomy. There is also a scene where Birdwell “lets down her hair”, but merely takes off her hat and makes a dramatic show of her extremely tight bun “flowing” in the air—mocking the cliché that an uptight woman will let down her hair and reveal herself to have been secretly feminine the entire time.
For how ridiculous and convoluted the development of Birdwell and Kronk’s relationship is, it’s still refreshing to see a passionate romance between two gender noncomforming characters. It’s revealing to Kronk’s relationship to gender that the woman he ends up pursuing has such a disconnected relationship from traditional gender presentation (perhaps indicating that their interest in one another is partially informed by a sense of one another as kindred spirits). This is reinforced by their mutual passion for camp counseling and baking, with this gender variance being another trait the two have in common.
Are queer relationships presented? How are they being presented?
Queer relationships are not presented, and any mild homoeroticism is played off entirely as a joke. Next.
Are there transgender characters being presented? How are they being presented?
No transgender characters are presented, and as previously mentioned— gender nonconformity is also played off for comedic effect.
Now, after that buildup—the ultimate question is “so what?” I would personally conclude, that Kronk’s New Groove is a film about a gender nonconforming (potentially transgender or nonbinary) character grappling with the pressure to appease a homophobic/transphobic parent— or that it’s at least reasonably analogous to this experience. The most meaningful takeaway from this that I can offer is that queer representation in media is so lacking that I have resigned to connecting with Kronk’s New Groove as a means by which to explore and conceptualize the queer experience.
Likewise, a lot of media in the early 2000s worked to subvert actually handling LGBT topics through the use of queer coding (indicating that a character may be LGBT through the incorporation of behaviors, mannerisms, and cues that are often—but not always—offensive or stereotypical.) The pervasiveness of queer coding makes talking about queer topics in media feel a bit like being a conspiracy theorist, and it can really disconnect LGBT people from their own identities and experiences. The fact that I have been able to analyze Kronk’s New Groove in this way is not a triumph, but symptomatic of a broader issue regarding the way that queer stories are handled in media.
And that’s it! Make sure to like, subscribe, and leave a comment below. And remember, it’s just a theory…a KRONK THEORY!