Is Luca a Gay Metaphor?

Set against the backdrop of a beautiful Italian summer, ‘Luca’ is a coming-of-age film that follows the titular character, who is a young boy but also a sea monster. One day, Luca discovers that he changes into the human form as soon as he gets out of the water; this opens up a whole new world to him. Luca and his sea monster best friend, Alberto, spend an amazing summer on the land with their human friend Giulia.

However, Luca and Alberto must keep their identity a secret since the coastal town of Portorosso does not like sea monsters, and exposing their true selves could put their lives in danger. So, we can see why the animated film has got people wondering if ‘Luca’ might be a queer love story. Well, we are here to put your doubts to rest.

Are Luca and Alberto Gay?

‘Luca’ has received a lot of love as the film highlights acceptance of people who might be different. The Disney and Pixar collaboration has also been compared to Luca Guadagnino’s 2017 film ‘Call Me by Your Name.’ However, in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment in February 2021, director Enrico Casarosa clarified that ‘Luca’ is not a queer story. “I love Luca’s (Guadagnino) movies, and he’s such a talent, but it truly goes without saying that we really willfully went for a pre-pubescent story,” he said. “This is all about platonic friendships.”

In another press event, Casarosa emphasized, “I was really keen to talk about a friendship before girlfriends and boyfriends come in to complicate things.” For the uninitiated, the film is inspired by the childhood experiences of Casarosa himself. The director spoke to Disney News in late April 2021 and shared that he grew up in Genoa with his real-life best friend, also called Alberto.

Casarosa said, “My best friend Alberto was a bit of a troublemaker, (while) I was very timid and had a bit of a sheltered life — we couldn’t have been more different.  He continued, “Alberto pushed me out of my comfort zone, and pushed me off many cliffs, metaphorically and not. I probably would not be here if I didn’t learn to chase my dreams from him. It’s these types of deep friendships that I wanted to talk about in Luca, and that is what’s at the heart of this film.”

According to Casarosa, the characters being sea monsters could be interpreted in a myriad of ways. He said, “We hope that ‘sea monster’ could be a metaphor for all [manners] of feeling different — like being a teen or even pre-teen — any moment where you feel odd. It felt like a wonderful way to talk about that and having to accept ourselves first, whatever way we feel different.”

Since the metaphor is open to interpretation, it explains why many people are convinced that the film is also a story about coming out.  According to the director, he had his own reasons for using the metaphor, “We (him and Alberto) were also a bit of ‘outsiders,’ so it felt right to use sea monsters to express the idea that we felt a little different and not cool as kids.”

Therefore, even while no character in the film identifies as openly gay, fans strongly relate to the story of Luca and Alberto. After all, the two boys have to keep their true identities a secret from the world for fear of facing judgment and potential harm. On the other hand, people around them fear what they do not understand. Having said that, ‘Luca’ touches upon themes like fitting in, self-discovery, and acceptance, which could also apply to a queer story.

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