Not this again.
Baymax, a new series based on the beloved puffy robot from Big Hero 6 on Disney+ has included a couple of LGBTQ+ characters, a rare and refreshing effort to promote inclusivity in children’s television. In one scene, for example, a person who appears to be a transmasculine character is seen shopping in a tampon aisle.
Naturally, bad-faith trolls are raging in response on social media. But a majority of viewers are thrilled to see some much-needed representation from the company, going so far as to dunk on the critics’ predictable—and, wouldn’t you know it, entirely misinformed—complaints.
In the third episode of the series, titled “Sofia,” an pre-teens character heads to the all-genders restroom at her middle school. She gets her first period before the talent show, but Baymax, the kind robot who specializes in healthcare, is ready to help. He heads to the supermarket to grab some pads, tampons, etc. for the youngster. Problem solved.
While at the store, Baymax encounters a transmasculine character wearing a transgender flag shirt, who, along with several other helpful customers, suggests some pads with wings for Sofia. This is a big moment for a youth-targeted series: It’s already rare for Disney (and other broadcasters) to explain normal sexual health like puberty and periods to kids, and this show is finally casting a wider net when it comes to those who menstruate. It’s not just cisgender women!
The robot grabs items without bleach, some tampons specialized for the first period, and more products suggested by a gentleman buying for his daughter. It takes a village! Waltzing back to the school, Baymax lugs seven overflowing satchels of sanitary products to his pal Sofia.
Although Sofia is reluctant to apply a pad or a tampon (and is moritfied by the idea of watching Baymax’s tutorial video), she eventually figures everything out and competes in the talent show.
If this wasn’t enough to make you fall in love with the pillowish robot, in another episode, Baymax convinces two young gentlemen to go on a date with one another by analyzing their attraction towards each other. “Your pulse and heartbeat have quickened,” Baymax says, after one asks the other out to dinner. “Your pituitary gland is secreting hormones,” he continues, before he’s cut off by a thoroughly embarrassed man.
Though plenty of social media users have rightfully heralded Baymax as a gay icon, there’s the obvious pushback against the purported messaging of the series. Before the episodes dropped today, conservative writer Christopher Rufo shared the leaked clip of Baymax in the grocery store shopping for tampons, pushing back against the idea that men can have periods and that young children need to view such content.
“EXCLUSIVE: I've obtained leaked video from Disney's upcoming show "Baymax," which promotes the transgender flag and the idea that men can have periods to children as young as two years old,” he tweeted. “It's all part of Disney's plan to re-engineer the discourse around kids and sexuality.”
The trigger language is, of course, disingenuous and untrue. There’s no re-engineering of a discourse happening as part of a grand Disney agenda. Young folks, no matter their gender identity, should have a normalized education about menstruation. If they’re not buying pads and tampons for themselves, like Baymax, they can be helpful advisors and a support system to their partner, pal, or family member. Fans of Baymax! came into Rufo’s replies to defend their robot buddy.
Disney’s long overdue introduction of puberty, menstruation, and queer identity into its projects has unsurprisingly been a lightning rod amidst the culture war and current state of regressive moral panic. In the past year alone, the releases of Turning Red and Lightyear—which included characters having their periods and a gay couple, respectively—have ignited outrage from conservative parents unwilling to see the necessity of representation, not to mention education, in youth-oriented entertainment.
Lightyear’s one quick on-screen kiss between two married women generated faux-scandals that included an Oklahoma theater attempting to censor it entirely. Turning Red, on the other hand, was subjected to months of pearl-clutching anger for just a few scenes involving pads and tampons. The furry monsters destroy half of Toronto—still, the most enraging scene involved flowery pink plastic.
Baymax! shows the importance of explaining periods in just a quick minute. In the episode about menstruation, Sofia has no idea what to do. In a crisis, she spurts out teared anguish over her troubles. “I wasn’t prepared for this! The dispenser’s empty,” she shouts. “I don’t even have a tampad. A pad-pon. A maxi-pad-pon with wings?”
Oh, Sofia. We’ve all been there.
But now, when other young viewers experience their first periods, maybe they won’t have to stress so much about handling it. Baymax and Disney have laid out a valuable lesson. And, even better, if anyone in the audience happens to be transmasculine, they’ll know they aren’t alone in the world.
You can catch up with LGBTQ+ icon Baymax via his new show, which is streaming now on Disney+ with his original film Big Hero 6.