On the same-sex kiss in the new Buzz Lightyear movie, star Chris Evans lamented, “It makes me happy. It’s tough to not be a little frustrated that it even has to be a topic of discussion.”
The launch is, of course, laser-focused on the controversy, as that’s how the film is making headlines. More than that, though, it’s what wins the film and Evans brownie points in Hollywood, where the agenda, not the art, is the primary focus. It’s laughable for Evans to claim he doesn’t want to be spending his time talking about the kiss — it’s a media gift during Pride Month, especially.
“The goal is that we can get to a point where it is the norm, and that this doesn’t have to be some uncharted waters, that eventually this is just the way it is,” Evans went on.
Truly listen to what he’s saying here: The goal isn’t producing a blockbuster or an award winning film; it’s advancing a narrative and a cultural realignment.
And what of that realignment? We were once told that these kinds of media moments were about encouraging acceptance, but in the last several years, it’s clearly become about recruitment, as well. That effort is evidently working: One in six adults in Generation Z identify as LGBT, according to survey data released last year from Gallup, with the majority considering themselves bisexual.
It’s become an issue of social contagion. A writer for The Washington Post published a story on the data reported by Gallup and interviewed a student from my home town of Montgomery County, Maryland who identifies as “nonbinary” and uses they/them pronouns. The piece began, “Jasper Swartz recently realized that nearly all of their friends are ‘queer in some way.’”
Parents around the country have told me the same: Their middle and high school students feel boring and uninteresting without some kind of “identity” they can wear with pride.
There are also consequences for refusing to participate in Pride and LGBT activism. Recently, five members of the Tampa Bay Rays made national headlines for declining to participate in the team’s Pride campaign of adding a rainbow-colored logo onto their uniforms. The message sent by this national shaming was clear: It’s no longer about “live and let live.” You’re either with us, or we’re against you.
Where does this leave parents? They won’t like the answer. It isn’t an easy solution. The reality is: It’s time to opt-out on a great deal of popular culture and fight back. It’s time for us as a society to reckon with the fact that the objective of many activists is no longer pride and acceptance. They want to capture our kids as gender activists, and we cannot allow them to do so.
We’re seeing it play out nationwide: It’s not enough to opt out of bringing your kid to a Pride Parade when you know there will be sexually explicit images present there; you have to make sure your child’s teacher isn’t reading a book about a transgender child or drag queen to your kindergartner. It isn’t enough to miss seeing “Lightyear;” you have to affirmatively and consciously inculcate your child with the lessons and values you want them to grow up believing in. That was the motive behind my decision to co-found a children’s book series called Heroes of Liberty, which aims to actively promote positive values in children when their literature is awash in radical gender and race ideology.
Americans are already opting out of “Lightyear,” which is proving to be a box office disappointment. Of course, those covering the industry are trying to explain away the numbers, but the fact is, Americans aren’t interested in what they’re selling. However, it’s not enough to avoid seeing a movie or to boycott individual books, movies, and TV shows. American parents have to add, not just keep subtracting.
In its piece on the explosion of youth identifying as LGBT, The Washington Post laid out the path of one student: “Jasper grew up scrolling through gay memes on Instagram and following transgender influencers on YouTube. They attended a diverse public middle school in Montgomery County, Md., that taught lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity in health class.”
We’ve seen parents nationwide fighting back against this kind of instruction at school board meetings, but parents are also going to have to take the difficult next step of fighting against the tide and firmly saying “no” to smartphones and unlimited internet access to their children. A local mother and professional working in the field of national drug policy told me, “These kids are facing a reality that we didn’t have to deal with, and we need to preach internet safety. In our little parochial school most kids in my son’s sixth grade have iPhones. People don’t realize what kids can access with an iPhone. I think teens should not be allowed on social media, but that’s not the reality we live in.”
The fight isn’t just with schools and Hollywood students, but with our own kids, who want to watch all of the latest movies and shows and be like their friends with iPhones.
Do we really want our children to be like every other child in their generation, though? Even before the toll of COVID, the data was clear: depression and anxiety are reaching astronomical rates among children and teens. Something is deeply amiss, and the warning bells are sounding; we’re clearly doing something wrong.
We as parents have the ability to right the ship, both in our own homes and more broadly as a culture. It won’t be easy, but rarely does doing what is right come easily.
Bethany Mandel is an editor at the children’s publishing house Heroes Of Liberty.