Disney is as ‘family friendly’ as it gets. We’ve never heard of parents objecting to their children watching a Disney movie – in fact, the production house almost has equal stakes in a child’s upbringing as their folks do. Many a time, we learn more from their films than we do in our educational institutions. Are they perfect? Nope. There are many things we wish Disney did better, like hiring a gay actor to play its first openly gay character. Instead, Disney cast straight comedian Jack Whitehall in Jungle Cruise to play the role of a gay man. Naturally, this sparked a row on social media.
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“Was really excited for Jungle Cruise but hearing that Jack Whitehall will be doing the usual straight-man-plays-camp-gay-man act has put me off big time. To be queer is NOT a punchline” wrote @eightlegsright on Twitter.
However, Gary Nunn for his article in The Guardian, believes that the “outrage at Disney casting Jack Whitehall to play a gay character is misguided”.
“Back when I managed UK campaign group Stonewall’s media office over a decade ago, fair and representative portrayal of lesbian and gay people in the media was a priority. A gay character leading a Disney film would have been unthinkable, and momentous. But this week, we’re piling on Disney,” he writes.
While many argue that it is important to give gay actors coverage and allow them to feel like they are being noticed, others believe that to keep such roles aside only for gay people will lead to them being typecast.
Disney has, in the past, broken many boundaries. The leading ladies of the production house ( particularly Tiana, Merida, Elsa and Rapunzel) have been badass women. They’ve gone against society’s expectations and created a life they could be proud of. They weren’t mere damsels in distress – they saved their kingdoms and loved ones from danger.
Tiana, the hero of The Princess and the Frog was a fabulous role model – a woman who believed in her dreams but also knew that she had to wake up and get to work to accomplish them.
The Little Mermaid is particularly important for the LGBTQ+ community. Like Ariel, many wanted to be a part of ‘their’ world. Ariel’s desire to dance and live like ‘them’ is something which really resonates with every kid who was bullied in school for either being too effeminate or too butch. Today, we can actually hope to see a gay character on screen – not a character we think is queer (like Elsa) but someone who actually owns their sexuality.
Colours of the Wind from Pocahontas is seriously slept on. It is a song that perfectly advocates for the need to treat our planet better. In almost every Disney movie, the power of love holds supreme. Unfortunately, as we grow up, it appears naive and foolish in an increasingly cruel world.
In its own way, Disney has always made us believe in a better world – in the undeniable truth that the good will always triumph.