Here's the Deal With the Controversial Gay Jock in 'ParaNorman'

By: Brandon Voss

The stop-motion animated zombie comedy ParaNorman first came to our attention back in September, when various conservatives were in a tizzy over the potential threat of Mitch Downe, who's considered the first openly gay character in an American animated feature. Voiced by Casey Affleck, Mitch, a musclehead jock and the older brother of a main character, appears to be straight until he casually mentions that he has a boyfriend.

Promoting the film's recent DVD and Blu-ray release, Chris Butler, ParaNorman's gay screenwriter and co-director, discusses the reasoning behind the Mitch's inclusion in a new interview with

"It was important to us," says Butler, who laughs off accusations that he used the film to push his own gay agenda. "We were telling a story that was fundamentally about intolerance. We believed that it was important to have the strength of our convictions. And yes, we played it off as a punch line to a joke. But in a sense, that made it all the more potent, I think, because Mitch is just an ordinary guy — and what I wanted to do with the script throughout the story was, first of all, to turn preconceptions on their head. But also, every character in the movie is judging someone else, good and bad, usually misjudging, and I wanted to make the audience complicit in that. You think you know that a zombie is going to want to eat your brain, you think that this dumb jock is straight. Actually, you don’t know everything just by looking at them. That was important to me. And also, I thought it was a funny joke."

Butler also addresses the negative reactions to the character by concerned parents and conservative bloggers: "It is funny. It’s sad though. It’s absolutely bizarre to me that people cannot see what the movie is about. They can quite happily talk about tolerance without understanding what it means at all. That’s sad. It’s very sad to me. But that makes it all the more important to make those kinds of choices in filmmaking. That makes it all the more important for me to make family entertainment and push the boundaries. Because the only way we’re going to change that kind of stupidity is one step at a time."

Do you love ParaNorman's harmless gay lug, or do parents have a right to take their kids to LGBT-free family flicks?

And while we're on the subject, revisit our list of the 20 gayest cartoon characters ever!