Image courtesy of Disney
In January 2020, Disney Channel debuted “The Owl House,” an animated series created by Dana Terrace. The pilot episode introduces fourteen-year-old Luz Noceda (voiced by Sarah-Nicole Robles), resident weird kid, who discovers a magical portal to a place known as the Boiling Isles. There she meets a witch named Eda (voiced by Wendie Malick) and her demonic roommate, King (voiced by Alex Hirsch). Luz seizes the opportunity to learn magic from Eda, in the hopes of becoming a powerful wizard like her favorite book character Azura. The rest of “The Owl House” follows Luz’s experience living with Eda (also known as the Owl Lady), and the cast of lovable characters expands with each episode.
On August 8th, “Enchanting Grom Fight” premiered, an episode that gave many fans the confirmation they had been waiting for: Luz is bi and has a female love interest, a character named Amity Blight (voiced by Mae Whitman). Dana Terrace, the creator of “The Owl House,” posted in a since-deleted Tweet that same day, describing her intention to provide LGBTQ+ representation from the show’s outset. At first, Disney seemed unwilling to comply, but with enough insistence and the work of an amazing crew, the show has become its best, gayest self.
Before this prom-inspired episode, there were background characters who hinted at future LGBTQ+ representation. For instance, one of Luz’s best friends is shown to have two dads. However, this detail can be easy to miss, unlike the events of “Enchanting Grom Fight,” which are the story’s main focus.
In this episode, viewers learn that Amity has a crush on Luz and wants to ask her to the Boiling Isles’ equivalent of prom. Luz accepts, wears a combination suit-dress, and gets to dance with Amity in a – quite literally – magical moment. Subsequent episodes have continued to underscore Amity’s infatuation with Luz, showing her blush and act like a typical flustered teen dealing with a crush on one of her friends.
“The Owl House” is not the only animated show from 2020 with queer representation. In recent months, “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power,” as well as “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts,” both confirmed gay or lesbian characters in their main cast. While these shows should not be downplayed and deserve their own articles and analyses, “The Owl House” stands out to me because it is not a Netflix original but a Disney Channel show.
It’s no secret that Disney has left many LGBTQ+ folks alienated by its repeated claim to representation. Many characters have been heralded by the media as Disney’s “first” gay character, from LeFou in the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” to a half-second lesbian kiss in the most recent Star Wars film.
The list of Disney “firsts” goes on, but “The Owl House” is extra special for two reasons. First, it is a show made by a bi woman with the clear intent of providing representation for folks like her. Terrace knows that representation matters, and she is openly fighting for that representation in a kids’ show. Second, “The Owl House” is not a major motion picture shown exclusively in theaters, but a TV series available for large audiences of kids to watch on Disney Channel, which has had its own issues with LGBTQ+ representation. For example, the 2006 film “High School Musical” has a queer-coded but not explicitly gay character (Ryan Evans), and forces a girl to be his love interest by the third film. Later, in 2014, the creative team for “Gravity Falls” wanted to portray two old women falling in love, as well as a necklace with a queer symbol on it. Both were censored by Disney: The two old ladies were changed to a man and a woman, and the necklace design was changed to overlapping male and female symbols.
Thus, “The Owl House” represents a major step forward for LGBTQ+ representation in Disney Channel shows. I grew up watching programs like “Kim Possible” and “American Dragon: Jake Long” on Disney Channel, which were entertaining but overwhelmingly straight. I am extremely thankful that kids today can be introduced to characters like Luz and Amity and learn from a young age that girls liking girls is something to be celebrated and that their feelings matter.
What’s more, Luz is not a background character whose bisexuality is used merely as a claim for progressive representation. She is the show’s main protagonist, whose experiences are placed front-and-center in virtually every episode. Little moments and hints at her bisexuality are impactful, such as when Luz says, “I have a new crush, and her name is knowledge.” But the big moments between Luz and Amity stand out above the rest, and it makes me hopeful that Luz is now officially bi well before the series finale – unlike shows that must wait until the final episode to confirm their LGBTQ+ characters, often due to censorship. (Korrasami deserved better.)
“The Owl House” was confirmed for a second season back in 2019, even before its first episode premiered on Disney Channel. With 20 episodes in season 1, “The Owl House” still has plenty of room left to tell its story and further develop the relationship between Luz and Amity – and to explore their individual identities and emotions.
This show means a lot to me, because I get to enjoy a compelling story with beautiful animation and lovable characters. The fact that Luz is canonically bi is icing on an already delicious cake, and I am optimistic for where the show will lead in the future.