But some parents saw things differently.
At a school board meeting earlier this week, these parents denounced the mural’s LGBTQ images and ‘witchcraft’-related symbols, as reported by WZZM, a local Grand Rapids news station. . The parents also claimed that the video game art – identified as a “Genshin Impact” character by video game publication Kotaku – was actually a depiction of Satan.
The mural, located at Grant Middle School in Grant, Michigan, includes the message “Stay healthy” and depicts students wearing colors found on the trans and bisexual pride flags. Another student is pictured in overalls with a rainbow striped T-shirt. During public comments, the parents pointed to several elements of the mural that they said were problematic, including the small drawing of a hamsa, which one man called “hate material”.
Danielle Beight, one of the participants, criticized LGBTQ representation and compared transgender identity to a disease.
“When adults claim things that look like real life, it’s mental illness,” Beight said in video footage of the reunion captured by WZZM. “We need advisers. We need drugs that will help bipolar disorder. Fix their brains.
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Gonzales, whose design was selected in a competition, tearfully defended his work during the meeting. She argued that the mural was intended to promote inclusiveness and does not represent what the parents claim.
“I put my art into it to make people feel welcome,” Gonzales said.
Unconvinced, an adult alleged that Gonzales was trying to deceive the adults at the meeting.
“I feel like she did a pretty good job finding excuses to defend the things she put on,” said Katelyn Thompson, one of the speakers captured in WZZM’s segment on the reunion. . “None of us are that stupid.”
Kotaku writes that the drawing of what some parents have described as Satan’s face is actually a mask worn by the character Xiao in “Genshin Impact,” a popular action role-playing game. In the game, Xiao is an immortal guardian of the Liyue region tasked with defeating the evil spirits of the land. Donning the mask depicted in the mural triggers the ability of Xiao, Bane of All Evil, and its design is inspired by those worn in Nuo Opera, a genre of Chinese opera developed from ancient religious ceremonies intended to cast out demons.
The mural also includes several references to “The Owl House,” a Disney cartoon about a young girl studying witchcraft in the demon realm that was widely celebrated for its queer portrayal. A small image of the character Hooty and magic glyphs from the series are scattered among the student drawings. Another cartoon character, Sprig from “Amphibia”, can also be seen.
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Grant Public Schools later released a statement that the mural will remain in place despite the pushback, but with some changes. Several contested items, including the “Genshin Impact” mask and hamsa hand, were not part of his original contest submission.
“At the request of the student artist, the mural will be returned to its original form as originally submitted and approved by the administration,” the statement said.
On social networks, users condemned the parents’ outrage and expressed their support for the artist. Dana Terrace, creator of “The Owl House”, on Twitter encouraged Gonzales not to let enemies bring her down.
“If you’re the student artist, I just want to say you don’t deserve this vitriol and KEEP CREATING! Me and the [Owl House] crew support you!” she wrote.