“Sky High” is Gayer Than You Remember

Abi Hilden, staff writer

“Sky High” A 2005 Disney movie about family, friendship, love, trust, and superhero high schoolers. Oh, and it also happens to have quite a bit of gay subtext.

For those who haven’t seen the gloriousness that is “Sky High,” here is a short synopsis. Freshman in high school, Will Stronghold, is the son of two superhero parents. His father is Steve Stronghold, a super strong superhero called The Commander. Will’s mother is Josie Stronghold, a superhero with the power of flight called Jetstream. They are a world-renowned superhero duo with a legacy that Will feels pressure to live up to. In order to live up to this legacy, Will must be assigned as a hero at Sky High, a high school for teenagers who have superpowers. The only problem? Will has developed no powers. So, he is assigned the label of “sidekick” along with all of his friends. The movie follows Will as he navigates life at Sky High from bullies to fitting in to a supervillain plot to destroy the whole school.

As I mentioned in the introduction, this movie has a hidden plot riddled with homosexuality. There is quite literally a coming out scene.

During a sidekick group study session at Will’s house, his father comes into the room and begins to ask the group about their powers. After discovering the fact that his son’s friends are all sidekicks, Steve Stronghold leaves the room acting a bit uncomfortable. Will follows his father into the kitchen where they have a talk and Will eventually comes out to his father as a sidekick. His reaction to this revelation was less than ideal, initially denying the truth and blaming other people for making his son a sidekick. Then, he responds with the classic move of a homophobic parent and makes the situation about the fact that Will never told him. Will counteracts this with the fact that he knew he would be disappointed but that he’s proud to be a sidekick. Now, replace the word sidekick with a non-hetero sexuality and this scene has effectively turned into a coming out scene between a homophobic father and his queer son.

But the thing is, Will isn’t even the only queer-coded character in the movie. Most of the sidekicks are also queer-coded, with their signature colors forming the entire rainbow and the group all getting bullied by the superheroes. One of the other characters, Will’s best friend since childhood, Layla, even has a line in the movie where she says “I’m not into labels.” Then there’s the fact that even the sidekicks’ powers seem to be metaphors for queerness, from Zach, who glows, to Warren Peace, who creates flames. They are literally glowing and flaming, a way that many queer people have been described throughout time.

There are plenty of other examples throughout the movie like the fact that Will’s straight attractions are the result of manipulation and/or compulsory heterosexuality, the enemies to lovers vibes that radiate off of Will and his frenemy Warren Peace, the queer-coded bus driver mentor that is Ron Wilson, the fact that Will’s parents are disappointed when he is a sidekick and then happy when he is switched to the hero class, and so many more that I just don’t have the word count to explain.

A spectacular part about this entire observation is that I am not the only one who has had it. During my research, I discovered that people have posted about this subtextual plot in forums as early as 2008, only three years after the movie was released. This discovery just confirms what I already know to be true: intentional or not, queer people relate to the story that “Sky High” portrays. As a movie, it is a wonderful example of how queer people are not lesser than straight people. Just like the superheroes, the sidekicks can and will save the day.