At its core, fandom has always been about connecting and centering a group of people who care about a common theme. Fans from all walks of life come together to celebrate the stories that matter to them.
Sonic the Hedgehog is an ode to both the original fans of the Sega video games and newfound fans alike. The care and trust put into these characters and their fandoms first showed itself when Paramount Studios updated Sonic’s character design amidst fan criticism, but it’s shown best through the themes of the movie itself.
Sonic the Hedgehog takes the basic arc of a Sonic game and turns it into a deeper story about the power of connection and embracing the inner, othered child in all of us. By expanding on the expected quest for world-hopping rings, Sonic takes what’s predictable, ramps it up, bounces it a few times just for fun, and pops it out right where we need it to be: in a testament to community and celebrating the full expression of self -- a theme particularly prescient for queer folks.
Sonic (as voiced by Ben Schwartz) begins the story as a carefree, young hedgehog. He explores his freedom and full sense of expression in the safety of his home. But when his guardian — a literal wise owl — urges him to stay hidden and keep his powers to himself, he leaves his home world to live secretly in the small town of Green Hills, Montana. The town is infused with warmth and community, but Sonic's fear of expressing himself leaves him isolated and caught in a semi-stasis of his childhood self.
While watching a group of young kids enthusiastically embrace each other, Sonic’s intense isolation and loneliness overpower him. He tries to run away from his feelings and accidentally outs himself in a giant burst out of pent-up power that shakes the entire town of Green Hills. His unintended visibility and full expression of self initially put him in danger. Dr. Robotnik (brilliantly and hilariously portrayed by Jim Carrey) recognizes Sonic as a possible source of power.
Throughout the movie, Dr. Robotnik serves as a mirror to Sonic’s story. Robotnik is the cautionary tale of a man who rejects community and thrives in self-imposed isolation. After a traumatic experience as a child, Robotnik defends himself by dehumanizing those around him. His curiosity and desire for power lead him to attack Sonic — the only visible Other — in an attempt to force out the answers and understanding that he’s spent years searching for.
With Robotnik chasing after him, Sonic reaches out for help from Tom (James Marsden), local sheriff and full-time caretaker of the town. Together, they go on a journey towards self-growth and finding a home that is truly their own. Sonic’s inner child flourishes as he explores the sights and wonders of the world with Tom. Most importantly, he builds the legitimate emotional connections that his internalized shame and isolation kept him from pursuing.
He does what so many people of our current generation are finally giving ourselves permission to do — live unapologetically and unabashedly as our fullest, fastest, most magically Othered selves.
Sonic’s greatest victory comes as he reveals his full self to the town of Green Hills. Rather than demanding answers of who and what he is, the people welcome and embrace him. They protect him. The narrative rewards Sonic for being himself, for seeking out help when he needs it, and for finding a family that can build a home together.
Come for the heart-warming Sonic content, stay for the hilarious, chaotic energy of the entire cast, but linger a moment longer for a chance to see the final frames burst and expand with hope. They offer a broadening of the universe, as if to say, “Thank you for being here. Welcome, we’ve been waiting for you.”