This film is significant in that it features the first self-identified gay character in a mainstream children’s animated film. The film also promotes family togetherness and teamwork but does little to engage with other cultural identities.
Norman uses his gift of communication with the paranormal to release an evil spirit that has been haunting the town of Blithe Hollow for hundreds of years.
- Demeaning language- “Limp-wristed hippy garbage,” “goober,” “survival of the thickest,” “scary little fat kid,” “jackass,” “weirdo” “hell,” “wiener,” “geeks,” “freak,” “fatty,” “dirty old creep”
- Threatening language- “I’ll make you suffer,” threat of “execution”
- Visible weapons- gun, pitchfork, brass knuckles, bat, rake, electric shock
- Off-screen zombie violence
- On-screen zombie violence- hitting zombies with cars, tearing off zombie limbs, squishing zombies, stepping on zombie brain
- A ghost appears to be impaled on a tree
- A noose is put around Norman’s neck during a play
- A ghost dog is cut in half
- Prenderghast suddenly dies and returns as a ghost
- Fire, explosion
- Scary ghosts and zombies
- A brief shot up a woman’s skirt
- Mitch is shirtless when he answers the door.
- Mention of adult video store
- Alvin puts his hand on Courtney’s butt without her consent
- Prenderghast takes unidentified pills
- Visible wine
- A sign to the Lucky Witch Casino features alcohol
- Neil is a fat-bodied character, and fat is often coded as “feminine” in the media (especially for males). In this way, Neil challenges traditional gender stereotypes regarding masculinity because he is one of the main characters in the film.
- There are a few minor characters of color. For example, there is a black female police officer in the film.
- Mitch, who is constructed as traditionally masculine (large muscles, tattoo, athletic, works on cars) throughout the entire film, indicates that he is gay at the end of the film. This is important because Mitch challenges stereotypes surrounding gay male identity in which the gay male is usually depicted as hyper-feminine in the media. Also, this is important because this is the first mainstream animated children’s film to feature a character who indicates their sexual orientation as gay.
- The film also challenges assumptions of heteronormativity. For example, Courtney makes several unsuccessful attempts to win over Mitch’s affection because she assumes that he is heterosexual given his body and mannerisms.
- Neil states that he has IBS and severe allergies, but this does not prevent him from being a “good” character or a main character in the film.
- Neil is fat-bodied and depicted as a good character. For example, he is caring, kind, and saves Norman from Mr. Prenderghast and zombies.
- Norman’s grandmother is old-bodied and is one of the few characters who accepts Norman for who he is throughout the entire film.
- Mitch has a tattoo on his arm and is depicted as a good character. This is important because tattoos are often used as an indicator of deviant behavior in the media.
- The majority of the characters conform to traditional gender stereotypes regarding masculinity and femininity. For example, Norman’s mom is depicted as passive and sensitive while Norman’s dad is depicted as irritable and unsympathetic.
- The majority of the characters appear to be white.
- Sheriff Hooper, a black female police officer, adheres to the “angry black woman” trope. For example, Sheriff Hooper is very loud, sarcastic, and reckless.
- The majority of the characters appear to be heterosexual.
- No major characters appear to have a visible disability.
- “Mental case” is used as an insult.
- In the beginning of the film, when most characters do not believe that Norman can speak with paranormal entities, he is depicted as a person with a mental disability. Therefore, he is ostracized and severely bullied by the community. It is not until Norman proves himself useful and saves the community that he is respected and his abilities to communicate with the paranormal are considered credible.
- While the characters in the film do not necessarily conform to ideal body types for real human bodies, ideal body types can be understood in the world of ParaNorman by contextualizing the bodies. For example, Courtney and Mitch represent ideal body types as Courtney is thin but curvy, exposes her midriff, and as other characters reinforce her attractiveness while Mitch is muscular, has a strong jawline, and has broad shoulders.
- Additionally, grotesque bodies are mostly used to reinforce stereotypes. For example, Mr. Prenderghast, who is grotesque (bad breath, raggedy beard, torn clothing, fat-bodied), is depicted as eccentric and unkempt.
- Salma does not adhere to beauty ideals as she has a unibrow, thick-rimmed glasses, and braces. She is also depicted as extremely intelligent, reinforcing stereotypes regarding appearance and intelligence.
Suggested talking points
- One of the main points of the film is why people bully and the detrimental effects of bullying. Oftentimes, bullies feel the need to hurt others because they fear those who are different. In order to justify mistreatment of people, Othering occurs.
- Alvin, the main bully in the film, has gauged ears, wears a studded bracelet, and is depicted as unintelligent. This is a stereotype surrounding bullies. However, appearance is not indicative of a person’s moral character.
- The film promotes the idea that it is important to get to know the character of a person before you make assumptions and judge them.
- At one point, Alvin puts his hand on Courtney’s butt without her consent. In the film this is depicted as comedic, but in reality it is a very serious matter as unwanted touching is sexual assault.
Keywords: paranorman, gay, queer, animated, stop motion, action, family, movie, review, 3 paws, three paws,