What started as a college thesis at Ringling School of Art and Design has turned into a viral video the internet can’t get enough of. A day after its release, the short animated film, In a Heartbeat, has been viewed nearly 6 million times on YouTube — and I will take credit for at least a dozen of those views.
The four minute film was created by Beth David and Esteban Bravo and features a teenage boy going through all of the emotions of a crush, starting with the beating of his own heart. But the twist — and what makes this film so special — is that the object of his affection is another teenage boy. David and Bravo have added a much-needed story to the gaping hole of inclusivity for LGBTQ characters and plot lines in today’s media.
Kevin Truong for NBC Out quoted Bravo on this topic:
“There have been a few nods to the LGBTQ community in recent children’s programming … but it’s very rare that an LGBTQ character is given the spotlight. Especially in a medium like animation that is predominantly geared towards children and family.”
Yet, the animators have made a film about same-gender love in a way that is sweet and innocent, and totally kid-friendly. WAIT. Stop. Rewind. All first crushes are sweet and innocent and kid-friendly, no matter if it’s two boys or a boy and a girl or two girls experiencing the overwhelming feelings that accompany new love. And that is the point. Love is love. Really.
Still, some people balk at the idea of showing our kids what love looks like between same-gender couples. Some people, like the ones in Alabama who refused to show Disney’s remake of Beauty and the Beast because of a gay LeFou, think homosexuals are deviants and our love is corrupting society’s young minds.
When I watched In a Heartbeat for the first time, my kids watched it with me. My oldest child is 6, my twins are 4. It didn’t even occur to me to screen the film before showing it to them. I knew the film was about a closeted boy who has a crush on another boy at his school, and boy, do I know those feelings well. I wasn’t afraid to show them a story about love, but I was afraid to relive my own days as a closeted youth.
The film is about a boy whose own lovesick and happy heart beats out of his chest to follow the boy he likes. As the boy tries to catch his heart before his crush — or anyone else — discovers his feelings, he is outed when his classmates see him struggling to get his heart back after it has tackled his crush. My kids and I gasped as we watched the boy’s heart tear in two as he finally pulls it away.
“His heart is broken,” my daughter said. And mine broke a little, too. It broke for the boy in the film, for the kids who are still under scrutiny and harassed for having no control over who their heart falls in love with, and for all of the times I felt the fear and shame of hiding a crush on another girl when I was a tween and teenager.
David and Bravo have admitted that making the film has been like writing a letter to their past selves. They wanted to tell the story from a “genuine place,” having each grown up closeted while in school.
Young love should not be made more difficult than it already is. Whispers and disapproving stares should not be a part of any love story, but for LGBTQ youth, they are. In a Heartbeat perfectly captures the unique experience of falling in love when you are anything but straight. It also shows the giddiness, nervousness, and exhilaration of new love, and there is not a closet big enough to hide that kind of love or call it anything other than what it is. So I’ll say it again: love is love. Really.