Fandom has its hierarchies just like any other social group—there are the big fandoms, like Sherlock and Supernatural and Teen Wolf, and sometimes it’s hard to get beyond those and find fic for other, smaller fandoms. For example, though the Disney/Pixar movies are as ripe for ficcing as any other movies are, there is very little fic out there for them. So I stumbled upon today’s fanfic rec completely by accident—but I’m very glad I did.
Though this is a Disney/Pixar fic, you don’t have to be super concerned about your innocence being ruined; in fact, this is a fic that gently subverts the idea that queerness is only for grownups. As Riley grows up, the emotions struggle with the big red puberty button, while Riley herself slowly comes to terms with her feelings for her best friend, a girl by the name of Alex.
When Riley is fourteen and in her first year of high school, she and Jordan go on a double date to homecoming with Alex and Adam. Disgust pronounces the dress, hair and shoes perfect. Joy is giddy as Alex and Riley are getting ready, as they take pictures with Adam and Jordan. Fear has a list of things that can go wrong. At the top of the list is Riley tripping over her own feet in the ridiculous shoes Alex suggested and breaking her ankle. It doesn’t seem as farfetched as his crisis scenarios can get, but they still manage to keep him mostly quiet most of the night.
Sadness watches Mom and Dad throughout the evening. She makes sure Riley smiles at Mom when Mom tears up taking pictures, and when Dad hugs Riley, she makes sure Riley hugs him back just as tight, but overall she doesn’t have that much to do. Riley is really happy. Joy is really happy, in that way she gets, overflowing with effervescent energy that makes Sadness feel like she can never keep up.
Two hours into the dance, Alex and Riley are whispering by the punch bowl. Alex keeps reaching out to smooth Riley’s hair or touch her arm to get her attention. Joy is wound up, dancing around the controls, with Disgust standing behind her judging other people’s outfits. Adam comes over and catches Alex around the waist, pulling her away to the dance floor. Sadness sees Joy furrow her brow as Riley turns to look for Jordan.
Then Anger pushes the button. Deliberately. The alarm starts to scream, Sadness looks over at Joy, who looks back at her, stunned. None of them know why. Not even Anger himself. When they ask him later, he just says, “We don’t like Adam.”
Which is apparently true, though that was the first time any of them noticed.
Puberty is rough.
Upside Down is very realistic to the young coming out experience (well, it is to mine, at least). Riley tries dating boys, but finds that she’s irrationally jealous about Alex’s boyfriend to the extent that she doesn’t spend very much time with her own boyfriend, who subsequently breaks up with her. Thanks to the U.S.’s terrible sex education, she doesn’t have words for her feelings and concerns until she starts consulting books and the internet. But don’t worry—it is a Pixar movie after all! Riley and Alex do eventually get together, and it’s just as wonderful as the end of the actual movie.
We very rarely get stories about young children struggling with their sexuality, even though it’s certainly a thing that happens. That’s why, even if Disney/Pixar doesn’t seem interested in telling queer children’s stories, it was very important and very meaningful for me to read this fic. If you want to read it too, you can find it here on the AO3!