M3GAN: Coded Gay

A "Why Does Hollywood?" post by Logan Gion

This past January, M3GAN was released in theaters to surprise critical acclaim, scoring a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and 72/100 on Metacritic, numbers unheard of in the month Hollywood traditionally uses as its dumping ground. M3GAN also made a haul at the box office, grossing almost $180 million worldwide off of a $12 million budget. This success was likely predicated on her “dance” that she performs when she finally decides to liberate herself. The dance was copied on TikTok and parodied on shows from Drew Barrymore to SNL. Of note, the SNL sketch makes a “gay sequel” because of the character’s popularity among homosexual men.

Meanwhile, I, intrigued by the positive reception, saw the movie upon release. While she puts her “step on me” energy to literal use during the film, I didn’t understand the queer fascination. Five months later, I watched the movie again (with–you guessed it–my Midsommar friends). With the gay appreciation in mind, I reoriented my perspective and was smacked by the obvious: M3GAN is a classic, coded-gay villain.

No symbolism HERE. None whatsoever...

What does “coded gay” mean?

A “coded gay” character is one that is not heteronormative, yet, whether because of the culture inside the movie or outside it, they cannot be publicly out to the audience. Usually, this causes the character to exhibit anger and repression, resulting in villainous behavior while giving behavioral clues to viewers.

Classic Disney villains are notorious for this archetype, relying on foppish men or power-hungry women to forward their diabolical schemes. One would think such portrayals would uniformly irk the LGBTQ+ crowd. Ironically, however, many in the queer community became Disney super fans. ANY representation, after all, is better than erasure.

Thankfully, Pride rights have made progress in recent decades, and accurate, multifaceted representation of LGBTQ+ people has become more commonly visible in our contemporary media. If queer people have lovely and lovingly crafted shows, why, then, are gay people still flocking to M3GAN?


How is M3GAN coded gay?

  • LOOK at that coat. Her fashion game is on point! (To be clear, gay people are firstly people–individuals. Having gone clubbing in Miami, I can say with certainty that not all gay people are fashionable, nor does being fashionable make one gay. That said, this archetype, by its coded nature, relies on heuristic cues to clue audiences into the character’s true nature.)
  • Every other character besides Cady, M3GAN’s primary user, treats the robot like a freak or a useful product. Consequently, M3GAN becomes exceptionally protective of Cady and lets go of her last before going complete villain.
  • Furthermore, M3GAN grows to care for and love Cady in a way Cady can never reciprocate. Cady only sees M3GAN as a friend and, like any child, selfishly dumps all of her problems and bad habits onto M3GAN. Meanwhile, Cady is M3GAN’s entire world, the focal point of all of the robot’s knowledge. M3GAN was designed to obsess over Cady and create a personality devoted specifically to her.
  • Though she frequently asks for logical guidance, M3GAN is paradoxically told how to behave like a human yet is expected to be superhuman, even though she doesn’t understand why and literally cannot be human.
  • In multiple scenes, M3GAN tells people that she “doesn’t know who she is,” “has no framework for how she’s supposed to live,” and “was just expected to figure it out.” These are all sentiments I’ve heard echoed by friends and loved ones who are LGBTQ+.
Most importantly:
  • No one accepts M3GAN once they find out who she is and what she’s capable of. Once she frees herself, her loved ones, workplace, and maker rejects her with horror and repulsion, utterly destroying her defective body and brain. She is an abomination and has no place in this world.

If the “coded gay” portrayal is outdated and stereotypical, why are some gay people so plugged in to M3GAN?

I believe that, because there are (and will hopefully continue to be) several contemporary, positive examples of LGBTQ+ characters, there is once again room for the coded-gay archetype. Why? Because discrimination and marginalization of queer people is still present in today’s society. Many gay people still feel that sting of rejection or experience fear of losing their jobs or loved ones should they be outed. Resultantly, having angry feelings about these situations is natural, and M3GAN, both the movie and the character, give Pride people an outlet for those feelings.

While the shark in Jaws is scary because it’s a seemingly unstoppable force of nature and Chucky taps into a viewer’s core fear, M3GAN will join the movie villain hall of fame because of her understandable motivations. Is she evil? Of course! But that’s what makes villains fun: they get to say and do all of the things a viewer would like–but just for a short time, enough to get those impulses out of one’s system. After the movie’s over, then, audiences can just press the off switch.

Where can I watch M3GAN?

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