By: Amber Leventry
Meet Danny, a 23 year old gay man trying to figure out how to adult.
Meet Quinn, a six year old boy who likes to wear his mom’s clothes.
Meet Danny the Manny, a five episode web series that explores sexuality, gender, and acceptance when Danny and Quinn’s worlds collide. Danny is Quinn’s nanny, AKA manny, but when he discovers Quinn’s affinity for heels, boas, and makeup, he takes it upon himself to become his mentor for what he calls the “gayer good”.
The five episodes total about 25 minutes of run time, but a lot is packed into this beautifully shot, sweet, and thought provoking series created by writer/director Mike Roma and produced by Allison Tate. Danny the Manny will make you laugh, want more, but if you are anything like me, may also make you cringe when Danny assumes Quinn must be gay or transgender when he stumbles upon Quinn trying on dresses.
But that is the root of Danny the Manny. What does it mean for a six year old boy to wear women’s clothing? Danny’s instinct is to encourage, celebrate, and normalize it for a boy who reminds him of himself as a kid. Danny also wants to provide the support he didn’t feel when he was a child. When Danny discovers Quinn’s secret, Quinn runs into the closet, embarrassed and painfully ashamed, to which Danny replies, “Quinn, can you come out?”
The pun was not lost on me, nor was my feeling of being a protective mama bear as I wanted to shout, “Just let the boy be who he is! Wearing dresses and liking pink doesn’t make a boy gay!”
I loved the series, but wondered why a pro-LGBTQ series and a cast and crew made up of LGBTQ individuals would perpetuate the very stereotypes our community and allies are trying to break? Why does Danny need to assume Quinn is queer? After all, Danny The Manny writer, Mike Roma, wrote this in a letter which tells about his experiences as a gay child and babysitter: “We’re now living in this gray area where gender is being questioned and roles are being capsized. My goal is to bring the subject out of the shadows, to urge others to question our own ideas, and to open up our imagination about what it means to be a boy or a girl.”
I nervously asked Roma my motherly questions. He graciously answered this way:
“I think this was an important assumption for Danny to make because he’s a flawed character. His assumption gets ridiculed by pretty much everyone he meets. By his date Ben. His bestie Taylor, and by Karen [Quinn’s mom] who says Quinn should be able to experiment. Danny is a person, and people make mistakes. I think Danny’s projecting a lot of himself onto Quinn, and the journey is realizing that Quinn is their own person and will discover how they identify later on in life.”
I put down my defenses and realized Roma achieved exactly what he was going for. We were having a conversation about gender. While I criticized Danny for being too motivated to assign Quinn an acronym in the LGBTQ rainbow, I knew I wasn’t as out of line as the people who negatively assume a child’s gender or sexuality based on the clothes they wear or toys they play with. But I realized Danny is a representation of many people in our society. His agenda is for the gayer good, while the other agenda is not as honorable. Material things don’t determine a person’s identity, but the things we say and do will affect the confidence in which he or she expresses that identity. The middle ground of conversation and a willingness to understand will create an agenda made for the greater good.
The Danny the Manny crew is working on turning the series into a 30 minute television show, but be sure to watch all five episodes here first.