The Disney cartoon “The Owl House” is reaching its end. It’s a sad reality for those of us who have never felt more seen by a piece of queer media. The main character Luz lured the audience in with a premise that is all too tempting to anyone who ever felt isolated, alone, or misplaced. “The Owl House” is a fated, enchanted opportunity to leave the world she knows behind and find herself among a new group of misfit friends, taking place in an otherworldly location where their truest potentials can be finally realized. However, this magical escape went wrong, for she found herself in a world just as flawed as ours, with a bunch of issues that stop her from finding peace from the very things she was trying to abandon. But with help from her newfound band of mystical kids, they come together when times are dire to fight for the chance to practice magic, and by association — love, free from the restraints that they were once chained to.
“The Owl House” focused on the protagonist’s relationship with a magical girl and offered audiences more relationships to come while being nuanced in what little representation was available for Raine and Eda’s relationship. By mere word of mouth, it accrued its popularity by its inherent entertainment value and enthralling story. The show offers an imaginative and truly creative world which intertwines the main protagonist into some main conflicts by way of chance and destiny. That same show is now going to close its curtains and take a final bow to the crying eyes of thousands upon thousands of fans across the country and world.
The creator Dana Terrace has truly done her best to write a show made by and for queer people, from pushing for the show’s creation and development, to giving us some of the most iconic animated queer characters out there, and wrapping the show up as nicely as possible within the timeframe she and her team were cornered into. No one can fault her or the fans for fully believing that there might have been a true chance to feel represented on screen without the fear of censorship or cancellation looming overhead. This show was and will remain to be important to those of us who hold it dear to our hearts. Queer media is well known to be on the chopping block and is rarely expected to reach its fullest potential on mainstream channels due to its politicized nature in the realm of mainstream media, which is at the behest of larger powers which do not favor the featuring of queer characters and relationships on screen as much as they do straight cisgender ones.
Terrace is quoted in a Reddit post as saying vaguely that “At the end of the day, there are a few business people who oversee what fits into the Disney brand…those guys decided [“The Owl House”] didn’t fit.” Many fans and queer critics think that it is because former Disney CEO Bob Chapek felt that its explicit queer content did not fit the “family friendly” company brand (disregarding the fact that many recent properties do not fit that title — but it appears that animated content is not subject to the same rules).
The soft cancellation of the show is a direct sign of things to come, as well as things that the queer community are currently witnessing within the animation industry and wider cinema itself. Everyone’s favorite pieces of media are being canceled, killed before they even aired, and altogether removed from the only places they can be viewed legally (wink-wink). But it is up to fans to make sure these properties do not die in vain, “The Owl House” included. The fans were the reason the show gained prominence given the intentional lack of advertising. They were the reason it gained critics’ adoration and good viewership ratings. Despite everything Disney (and in assumption of the correlating time, Chapek) tried, they could not stop the show from becoming a juggernaut in the realm of animated media. And they will never be able to erase the fact that it did, for a brief period of time, represent us on screen with the most explicit techniques it had up its allowed sleeve. So, in the wake of its death, I find it important to honor its legacy considering how hard it fought to survive to live as long as it did.
The most famous aspect of the show is its queer representation on the animated screen. With characters ranging from bisexual Luz to non-binary Raine, the writers made sure to try and include any kind of LGBTQ+ representation they could get away with. What makes it novel is the fact that within the canon of the show, not a single character questions its persistent existence. I mean, there are light poles that have eyes and sentient flesh attached to them, but from the point of view of Luz and the other non-human characters, neither aspect is to be ashamed of — Belos (the emperor and another guy from Luz’s town who hunts witches) and his Christian-coded oppression excluded. Also, the fact that a darker-skinned bisexual Latina is the main character alongside her supportive mother is a first for animated “children’s” entertainment. Let alone the neurodivergent-coding she and other main characters receive as the show goes on.
What the show and its writers focus more of their attention on is the differences and similarities to real world issues of queer, neurodivergent, and non-conformist oppression. As Luz grows into a wise and powerful witch she encounters others that, like her, are deemed as different and worthy of oppression by the systems in place. Luz’s mentor Eda is the best example for both statements, as many in the fandom find her traits to mirror those of autism or ADHD, but given her status on the Boiling Isles she is often the outcast in society. Eda’s neurodivergent-coding is never depicted as negative from Luz’s point of view, but it’s shown that her quirks (as seen by others pressured by Belos and his control) put her in a position to be singled out and literally witch-hunted multiple times for not conforming to his laws and rule.
What is depicted in a negative light, however, is the ways in which both Belos and the adults that Camila (Luz’s mom) and Luz have to deal with put pressure on them and other misfits to conform to the expectations placed upon neurodivergent-coded characters and to some extent Luz and others’ queerness. The pressures felt by Luz are what leads to the inciting incident of Luz leaving through the portal to start the series. Luz initially escapes Earth to avoid what can only be described as a conversion camp designed for “outcasts” such as herself. After all, Luz is (at times) just a stand-in for queer and neurodivergent people to see their struggles mirrored on the screen. She thinks that in trading her hometown Gravesfield and its rigid structures for a magical world that there would be no stigma to face, no camps to be sent to, no shame to be felt. But as the show progresses, it is revealed that a colonizing white man who aims to commit wizard genocide instituted a structure of supremacy with him at the top. In the end, she and the rest of the main cast have to fight for their freedom from Belos first and then The Collector. It establishes the world in a queer lens, one in which supremacist structures (patriarchal, cisnormative, neurotypical, able-bodied, etc.) are inherently against the natural ways of life and that these structures were most definitely not put in place by the will of those who will be affected by it. By the framing of the show, the aim was and always continues to be a queer liberation of the people, not only that of the Boiling Isles, but of Earth as well.
This queer lens and narrative framework is not new, only novel. But it is influenced by the ways in which its peers and predecessors have set up their stories in a way that invited queerness into the mix as something to be normalized and celebrated. “Steven Universe” is one of the largest names in this regard, not only giving us the first animated lesbian-coded marriage on screen, but also creating a world so vast and rife with themes of rebellion against strict binaries (specifically in terms of gender and relationships). The story of “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” is dedicated to defeating systems of oppression that keep trying to define what is and is not acceptable to the empire it serves. Of course, while queer structures of storytelling are not needed for queer stories to be told, it helps get the message through about what it is truly like to live under a government or society that, through the ideologies of fascist and authoritarian rhetoric, aim inherently to remove us from the picture so that their ways of living life stay the standard.
On a less grim note, it’s beautiful to see how Amity and Luz handle their struggles on screen. Unlike most of their straight counterparts, they actually communicate what’s wrong with each other and can tell when the other is holding back in their emotion; this same healthy relationship rhetoric can be seen later on with other dynamics as well. It’s hard to imagine these kinds of discussions being present without the effort of past examples being brought forth to the screen so that new generations of queer kids can learn how to handle things on their own, with or without their partner. Princess Bubblegum and Marceline’s relationship in “Adventure Time” is a brief but recent example of showing healthy ways to communicate issues in a relationship. The same can apply to Ruby and Sapphire from “Steven Universe” and, to a lesser extent, Catra and Adora from “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power”. Sammy and Yasmina from “Camp Cretaceous” also serve as a relationship model throughout its seasons, as they come to each other in times of anxiety and fear to confide in the other and later tell their friends how they feel in the moment. Luz and Amity, while not having as much screen time as other relationships in media, are just as valuable in the ongoing need to understand how and when to bring up an issue one faces, either within their relationship or just in their own heart.
Overall, the experience I and many other fans of the show have had is one of great joy and deeper sentiment that most other shows might dismiss as not necessary or childish. The fact is this show has touched as many hearts as it has made an impact in the community of animation and queer fans of content like this. While those who aren’t fans don’t see the ramifications of such a legacy-leaving show, viewers can see its true value, dead or not. “The Owl House” will, like its discontinued peers, pave the way for easier and better queer representation across the board in the realm of media at large. Change starts from the bottom up, and I’m sure many more creators like Terrace are waiting for their chance to make the next big splash in the current sea of content.
I’m gonna miss Luz, I’m sure many of us will. To me, she was the first instance of Latina bisexual representation I’d ever truly seen on screen. In all her quirks and energy, I fell for how she saw the world and was there alongside her each time the world betrayed and rewarded her for her courage and hope for the future. In the darkest of times, I, like many others, turn to my favorite media. Not as a crutch, but as inspiration for bigger and better things, replenishing my hope in the world. That is what media ends up being at times: hope manifested into the creations of artists who hold humanity to a higher standard than most do. And in doing so, giving the audience more reason to believe in life as a possibility that can be made a reality. I will fight to make sure whatever comes next is just as revered and known as this show — should it deserve the crown. It is up to us to assure the future of further queer media, of its quality and impact on the communities it aims to represent. From now on, we live with the spirit of shows like “The Owl House” in our hearts, guiding us towards the next great things, and wishing us well as we go into the world with hopeful eyes and strong resilience to the world around us. That’s the best we can do.