“Paranorman” is a 2012 stop-motion animated horror comedy film directed by Sam Fell (Flushed Away, 2006) and Chris Butler (Missing Link, 2019), and for many is a Halloween staple. And for some, spooky films are never out of season. It’s a great blend of spooks and comedy, has a fairly accurate take on the Salem witch trials, and uses kickass imagery to display New England’s beautiful scenery. But I’m not obsessed with New England. You’re obsessed with New England.
Set in the fictional town of Blythe Hollow, Paranorman follows the story of Norman, an 11-year-old boy who can speak to the dead. This alienates him from family and schoolmates, leaving him an outcast from all but his friend Neil Downe and his grandmother’s ghost. But he’s quite suddenly thrust into being the town’s sole savior when the dead rise at sunset, and he’s the only one who can (and will) do anything about it. It feels like a cheesy 1980’s horror film fell into a stop motion bath.
Although I do love the dynamic between Norman and his friend Neil, I actually think the best, most well-written character in this film is Neil’s brother Mitch. Mitch is your typical 1980’s jock character:
He’s shown to love cars, lift weights, and has some of the funniest, stupidest lines in the movie. He even admits in one scene that's he's dumb and he knows it.
And at the very end of the film, he’s revealed to be gay. This muscled himbo is gay. He’s not effeminate, he doesn’t lisp or do his nails -- he’s almost the exact opposite of the old homosexual stereotype. Mitch is a great gay representation because he correctly represents that gay people are people, and they have facets, differences and don’t fit into a category. He really blasts away that line that too many of us hear: “You don’t look gay!”.
Not that some gays aren't effeminate. But that's just the thing, we're all different sorts in this community, and having a character that was built around a set of archetypes that are usually straight, but then adding in that he's gay as a side note had this writer celebrating.
His voice actor, Casey Affleck, definitely has some controversies to his name. But I feel like this doesn't detract from what a great job the writers did in creating Mitch's character.
The way he’s revealed to be gay is quite nice, too. Norman’s sister Courtney, who’s been flirting with Mitch the entire film, asks him if he’d like to go see and movie. Mitch’s reply?
“You’re gonna love my boyfriend. He’s a total chick-flick nut!”
I especially love Courtney’s deflated reaction. To me, she reacts just like he said he had a girlfriend. She’s disappointed. It isn’t played for a huge shock reaction. It’s treated like it’s normal.
Gay representation is out there, but to portray a character who's gay as a big, happy brute is a rare treat. But maybe his character hits just a little close to home when you are a muscled, gay weightlifter who’s sometimes a little air-headed!