Disney + ‘s new animated series, Baymax!, is a delightful collection of six 11-minute episodes starring everyone’s favorite robotic personal healthcare companion. While the rest of the members of Big Hero 6save Hiro, are absent, Baymax! is no less a story of heroism, albeit with fewer high-tech bad guys and epic car chases. Instead, Baymax! is truly heroic in offering kids the lesson (and adults the reminder) that everyone deserves attentive, compassionate, and non-judgmental healthcare.
Editor’s Note: The following contains poilers for the Disney + series, Baymax!
One of the recurring themes of Baymax! is the unnecessary but very common shame that can accompany any number of injuries or ailments. In every instance of Baymax first coming upon a new patient as a result of their vocal admission of pain (always hilariously repeated by Baymax, voiced again by Scott Adsit), the person in need first rebuffs Baymax’s attempts at help. “It’s not a big deal,” insists Mbita, the fish soup food truck purveyor who has just started experiencing symptoms of a fish allergy. But, of course, it is a big deal. In his gentle way, Baymax refuses to let Mbita suck it up and deal with his pain alone, especially as his symptoms become increasingly dangerous. Baymax is insistent and determined without ever being aggressive or dismissive of Mbita’s fear.
We learn Mbita is afraid of what this new allergy means for him, because making fish soup runs in his family. His parents started their business from nothing, and Mbita aspires to their courage. Baymax helps Mbita understand that a new allergy does not make him any less brave. Altering his lifestyle to accommodate new needs does not make Mbita weak or cowardly. By the end of the episode, Mbita is researching new menu ideas for his food truck as well as asking his crush Yukio, the cute applesauce guy, out on a date.
Fear is also a factor for Kiko, an older woman experiencing hip pain. She is immediately resistant to Baymax’s suggestion that she take part in water therapy by swimming at the next door pool. “Pain, my old friend,” Kiko says early in the episode, suggesting she’s been unsuccessfully dealing alone with her pain for a long time. When Baymax does finally get Kiko to the pool, she confesses she is not actually afraid of water, but that the pool itself holds painful memories for her. And, again, this isn’t a case where Baymax belittles the emotional aspect of Kiko’s pain. He hears her, and helps her feel better about her care on her terms.
The most talked-about (and tweeted-about) moment of Baymax! is during Episode 3, “Sofia.” Sofia is 12 years old and in the process of getting psyched for the middle school talent show when her first period strikes. The entire episode is a refreshing and groundbreaking depiction of a child dealing with menstruation for the first time. There are never any cutesy euphemisms for menstruation (though Sofia does get one good “period” pun in later). When Baymax goes shopping for pads and tampons, he receives advice from a wide range of people. There are cis women, a trans man, and a father who has experience buying pads for his daughter. For all the fervor of transphobes online, this is just another moment where Baymax! shines in simple, non-judgmental representation of a physical condition that many different kinds of people experience.
Even after Baymax returns to the school bathroom with a variety of products, Sofia is still upset, and does not want to perform in the talent show anymore. Baymax tells her, “It is nothing to be ashamed of.” And he’s right, of course, but Sofia insists that’s not even the problem. She’s worried everything will change, and that now people will treat her differently. “I’m not done being a kid yet,” she laments, and it hits hard. The ways we talk about puberty should never make a child feel robbed of their childhood. “Your body may change,” Baymax agrees. “But you will always be you.” Menstruating does not make you anything. Sofia is now a person who menstruates, sure, but she also keeps getting to decide what actually makes her the person she is.
No person is only their biology. No person is only their body or their illnesses or their pains. Each episode of Baymax! makes this clear, but it’s particularly impactful in Sofia’s case. It is empowering and not inappropriate for Sofia to learn about her body and how she can best take care of it, nor is it inappropriate for the 12-year-olds who will hopefully find their way to this excellent, gentle series. Because this is absolutely a great kid’s show! There are hilarious and charming gags aplenty, from Baymax scanning pigeons in the park to Baymax giving the slowest service of all time at Cass’ busy coffee shop. It’s a rare and special show that can pack so much heart and silliness and thoughtfulness into such short segments.
Baymax! is purely episodic until the final two episodes; Episode 5 leaves us on a cliffhanger regarding Baymax alone and unpowered in an abandoned warehouse set for demolition. Hiro rounds up all of Baymax’s most recent patients to create a search party. In this final episode, the show does an incredible job of “show not tell” in regards to how all of Baymax’s patients are doing now. Hiro’s aunt Cass, who struggled with allowing herself to close her coffee shop after spraining her ankle, shuts things down immediately, because finding Baymax is more important than work. Kiko jogs through the streets of San Fransokyo, no longer complaining of pain. Mbita is operating a new food truck, Sofia is not embarrassed to mention her period, and stray cat Yachi is no longer afraid to trust. Everyone is clearly doing better since being treated by Baymax, and not just in ways directly tied to what was hurting them in the first place.
After getting Baymax safe and powered up again, Hiro asks how he’s feeling. Baymax says he is now “fully operational.” Hiro insists again, “How do you feel? ” Because it should not be enough to merely be operational. Healing should also lead us to courage and confidence and empowerment. Access to healthcare is a challenge for far too many people, and while we’re unlikely to have our own Baymax waddling around anytime soon, it is hopeful and encouraging to have a series which can show viewers how they deserve to be treated, regardless of their condition and how it makes them feel.
Baymax would not give up on you. So, do not give up on yourself.