One Saturday morning, my son was sitting in the living room, watching an animated video about numerals.
"Mom!" In keeping with his TV-watching custom, he was shouting, even though I was only a few feet away.
"Mom, Mom!" he persisted, never removing his eyes from the screen, "all of the people in this video are straight!!"
While Waylon took the whole thing in stride (he seemed more curious than anything else), his epiphany about heteronormativity was a bit sad for me. Which is why I was so excited when I found out that the 22nd Annual Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival is sponsoring Saturday Morning Cartoons for kids.
Follow the jump for an interview with AGLIFF Program Director Jake Gonzales.
The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival bills itself as "the oldest and largest LGBTQI film festival in the Southwest." As part of aGLIFF's 22nd year, Saturday Morning Cartoons will be free for kids 3 and up (and their adult guests). The program includes Buddy G., My Two Moms and Me (2007), Tomboy (2008), and Dottie's Magic Pockets (2007).
I asked Jake Gonzales, Program Director at aGLIFF, to tell me a little bit about choosing the selections for Saturday Morning Cartoons.
How did AGLIFF come up with the idea for Saturday Morning Cartoons?
I actually came across the program idea in the British Film Institute's Lesbian and Gay Film Festival newsletter. They send out some pretty interesting emails around their festival, and I saw a screen shot from one of the animated films. It piqued my interest and I investigated. I came to discover that we'd received all three films in the series last year but didn't know what to do with them. It seemed only natural after our rebuilding this year that we'd want to reach out to the LGBTQ-identified parents and even the ally parents with LGBTQ kids (Tomboy is about a young Latina who doesn't fit gender stereotypes).
To make this more fun and accessible for families, we're going to do a special "cereal brunch," and admission is free for children and their guests - so in essence, the kids get to bring their parents. This one is all about them and encouraging them to interface with media by and about their experience - even if that's not where they're at in the cognitive process of things yet.
What's your favorite film in this program?
Is it any wonder that it's Tomboy? As a genderqueer person, growing up I always felt pulled in both directions, but what I was "supposed" to be and act like and what I really wanted to be and act like. This film does a great job depicting the internal and external struggles of the main character as she attempts to deal with the pressures of conforming to the binary gender system.
As a feminist parent, I feel the lack of children's media that challenges gender binaries even more acutely than I feel the lack of media that represents gay or trans families. I've also become more aware than ever about how children's media--especially video games and cartoons--construct and perpetuate racial stereotypes. Were you thinking about these issues?
I approach the film festival programming from a social justice standpoint, as well as with an eye towards the theories of entertainment education from international development theory - so these things are always on my mind.
I think this program certainly addresses both the issue of representation of LGBTQ families, but also points out (through it's lack of conformity to the standards of children's programming - not by outright statement) that gender identity and expression is a spectrum.
Two of the three films are primarily white though one of them features an African American construction worker who I think is represented without (much) bias. The third, Tomboy, is about a young Latina dealing with gender identity and expression issues around being called a "tomboy." I think the racial stereotyping in this is minimal if any.
In the larger scope of the film festival, it's hard to find works that address the intersectionalities of oppression, as one film that may deal with marriage neglects the needs of the trans community in the marriage fight. Another might talk about the issues faced by youth, but not address the pressures placed on them by their families of origin. It's always a delicate balancing act.
Is this part of a conscious effort to reach out to parents as AGLIFF supporters?
Definitely! It has been my hope since I started with aGLIFF about 18 months ago to widen the spectrum of programming available at aGLIFF. While we certainly still show steamy features and shorts, I've consciously made the effort to offer programming that appeals to the widest audience possible, but still lives up to aGLIFF's motto, "Our Lives on Film." It does us no good to give lip service to the motto by showing only a certain genre of film representing only a fraction of our community, so I've kept this at heart and it's been the impetus for programs like the Saturday Morning Cartoons.
Hey, parents like steamy features and shorts too, you know! We just need childcare in order to go see them. Now THAT would make aGLIFF really family-friendly!
Saturday Morning Cartoons will run Saturday, September 12, at 12:30pm. For more information, check the aGLIFF schedule.
h/t to Paul Soileau (or was it Rebecca Havemeyer?) for telling me about this program.