Every once in a while, Disney makes it difficult to be a fan. Like this week, when it was declared that Disney+ was not being accepting of LGBT content. I can think of a few reasons they might be doing this, and none of them are good. Because there is no good reason for doing this, Disney, and it’s yet another disappointment in a long line of disappointments, which is weird given they’ve actually been better at this sort of thing behind the scenes than a lot of other companies. But come on, here. It doesn’t help. Representation matters, and Disney’s kind of sucking at that. In the sense that they’re really sucking at that.
I remember being very proud, back in the ’90s, that Disney was one of the first major companies to offer partner benefits to their employees. There was a boycott over that, as I recall, and Disney didn’t cave. That’s awesome, and I’m not sure a lot of people remember that. Because in recent years, they’ve been caving. They know that their movies won’t be shown in China with explicit queer characters, so what you get is “that one guy in Avengers whose husband disappeared.” Or “we’ve made it text that LeFou has a thing for Gaston instead of leaving it subtext, but not really.”
It’s frustrating. I’m not asking for a queer orgy in the middle of Frozen 2, but maybe make Elsa explicitly lesbian. (I still haven’t seen Frozen 2, but I’ve listened to a lot of queer people talk about Elsa.) Or at least let programming for Disney+ have queer people. There are two shows we’re pretty sure are being blocked because of that, and it’s a bad look. At that, they’re only able to have explicit queer content by making new stuff, because their old stuff doesn’t have any except for one character in the background of a bunch of Kim Possible episodes.
For many years, I’ve listened to people complain that Disney movies promote heteronormativity. And of course, this isn’t entirely wrong. And there’s only so much stock you can put in the idea that it’s their source material, because it’s true of their original properties as well. Of course Aurora ends up with Prince Philip; that’s how the story goes. But even Herbie goes after a female-coded car in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, and that’s a romance between cars. Not even talking cars!
Disney is slowly getting better at their diversity. After they saw how people latched onto Sofia the First as a Latina princess, they made one who actually was. There’s Tiana. There’s Mulan—though boy, have they been handling PR for that movie badly. Even their subsidiary companies are getting better at this, with things like Black Panther and the cast of the new Star Wars movies. Clearly, it’s time for Disney of the 2020s to learn something from Disney of the 1990s and not care about the boycotts if they do the right thing.