Is Raya from 'Raya and The Last Dragon' gay? Disney star Kelly Marie Tran thinks there were 'romantic feelings'
The film follows in the footsteps of 'Frozen', 'Moana' and other Disney movies that hint at LGBTQ characters but stop short of openly revealing their relationships
Disney's latest animated film 'Raya and the Last Dragon' has made headlines, but not for its animation, story or even production value. Rather, what's got people talking is comments by titular actor Kelly Marie Tran. In an interview, Tran hinted that the film had an undertone of a gay relationship between the two lead characters Raya and Namaari. The actress added that it was her decision and not the official line from Disney.
This film is just one of the many in recent times to hint at the LGBTQIA community, whose representation on screen has long been a source of contention. Tran's comments provide some hope to the community, as the actress stated, "I think if you’re a person watching this movie and you see representation in a way that feels really real and authentic to you, then it is real and authentic."
In the film, there's a scene where the two lead characters Raya (voiced by Tran) and Namaari (voiced by Gemma Chan) face off against each other. “Hey there, Princess Undercut,” Raya says with a smirk. “Fancy meeting you here.” It's a small line that can go unnoticed by many, but Tran says it is significant. According to Vanity Fair, who interviewed Tran, "she decided there were some romantic feelings going on there." It wasn't just platonic, as Disney had intended. Another hint can be seen in Namaari's character, who sports an asymmetrical haircut and a well-defined physique. It's clearly meant to catch the eye.
Further adding fuel to the fire is Raya's outfit. It can be seen as a cosplay of Korra, from Nickelodeon’s TV series The Legend of Korra, which also featured a gay relationship. While the show ended back in 2014, it has helped break the barriers for animated films in the US, which have traditionally been more open to such relationships as compared to the rest of Hollywood.
Disney and Hollywood slow to adapt
While Disney films and Hollywood as a whole have been trying hard to adapt and accommodate LGBTQIA-inclusive themes, it hasn't been easy for the former. It hasn't been smooth sailing. Creators have had to famously fight networks for the opportunities to represent gay relationships. Hollywood has often used representation as a "shock factor", meant to draw audiences to the cinema rather than to normalize LGBTQ relationships. That changed with 'Brokeback Mountain', followed by films like 'Milk' and 'Black Swan'. In the animated world, 'Adventure Time', 'Steven Universe', and Netflix's 'She-Ra and the Princesses of Power' all became the first to openly represent gay relationships after great struggles.
Rebecca Sugar, the creator of 'Steven Universe' told Vanity Fair, "I was asked to make Ruby a boy, told the characters could never kiss on the mouth, and that Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship could not be romantic. It was made clear to me that if I or anyone on the crew spoke about it publicly or confirmed that the characters were LGBTQIA+, it might lead to the show’s cancellation." Luckily though, Rebecca persisted and won the fight with the two female leads sharing a kiss in the series finale.
Disney on the other hand has been much more low-key. The company is yet to introduce an openly gay character, but has been willing to experiment with representation in the background. 'Moana' and 'Frozen' did not have any male romantic leads for Moana and Elsa, setting a president that Raya follows. In the 'Rise of Skywalker', Commander Larma D'Acy kisses her pilot wife Wrobie Tyce in the background. 'The Beauty and the Beast' features a dance between two men.
The first openly gay character for the Mouse House could come from Marvel's Valkyrie. In 2019, Marvel head Kevin Feige confirmed that the character's gay relationship would be explored in the upcoming 'Thor: Love and Thunder'.
While the company and the industry have a long way to go, Tran believes it is a step forward. "I want to live in a world where every single type of person can see themselves in a movie like this,” she told Vanity Fair. “There’s a lot of work to be done in that respect. I’d love to see a Disney warrior who is openly in the LGBTQ community. And I’m hopeful. We’ll see.” If Valkyrie's relationship is explored, it could open the doors to more LGBTQ relationships from Disney.
Internet asks if 'Raya and Namaari are gay'
Many on the internet didn't need the article to know the relationship between the couple. The movie, which is currently streaming on Disney Plus has caught the eye of many social media users. One user tweeted "Getting REAL STRONG gay vibes in Raya lol". That sentiment was echoed by another, who said "u cant tell me, raya and namaari didn’t have any gay tension like phew"
Getting REAL STRONG gay vibes in Raya lol— Pikachu (@jaysca101) March 6, 2021
u cant tell me, raya and namaari didn’t have any gay tension like phew— sam⁷ (@kawaiibtsxlaura) March 6, 2021
"Raya and the Last Dragon is both gay and amazing, I will take no further questions thank you" another said. One user though, was upset that Disney didn't explore the relationship further. They tweeted "So many times.... there were so many times we could’ve gotten a gay moment with Raya and Namaari.... I’m so upset."
Raya and the Last Dragon is both gay and amazing, I will take no further questions thank you— Sylvan Creekmore (@SylvanCreekmore) March 6, 2021
#RayaAndTheLastDragon SPOILERS— dinah ✿ | wv spoilers (@KristoffsHoe) March 5, 2021
So many times.... there were so many times we could’ve gotten a gay moment with Raya and Namaari.... I’m so upset.