This is far from the first time Disney has clashed with the LGBTQ+ community.
Going back to the days of Walt Disney, the company portrayed some prominent queer characters. Instead, LGBTQ+ audiences have adopted various evil queens and villains as their own, said Sean Griffin, author of “Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out.”
With the arrival of Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg in 1984, the studio adjusted its strategy to make gestures towards the LGBTQ+ consumer – but not in a way that might “aggravate the conservative, family-righteous values audience it also wanted. hang on,” argued Griffin.
The result is “a strategy of trying to appeal to both sides and not alienating or insulting either side,” Griffin said.
Griffin, who is also a professor of film and media arts at Southern Methodist University, added that Disney has recently received a lot of publicity about various Disney movies with openly gay characters. However, these moments tend to be “blink and you’ll miss it” type.
The two most prominent examples are the character LeFou dancing with another man in the 2017 live-action remake of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and two female Resistance fighters quickly embracing with a kiss at the end of ‘Star Wars’. : Rise of Skywalker” from 2019.
“He often tries to give a nodding representation – a representation that could probably be appreciated by someone looking for it, but could be missed by people who might be disturbed or traumatized by seeing what they feel like a inappropriate content,” Griffin said.
Disney did not immediately respond to request for comment on this story.
Even though Disney’s main family entertainment product hasn’t been blatant in its portrayal of gay characters, ABC — which is owned by Disney — has done so with TV shows like “Modern Family” and “Ellen.” In fact, “Ellen” had the first gay main character on TV in 1997.
So the problem for Disney and Chapek right now, according to Griffin, is that the CEO “always seems to be trying to play the ’80s playbook, trying to walk a tightrope not to offend either side.”
“You can’t say, ‘I don’t want to take sides,’ because people say, ‘By refusing to choose sides, you’ve chosen a side,'” he said. “Chapek thought he was working on an old strategy, and it looks like it didn’t work.”
Following the events of the last few weeks, it seems that House of Mouse still has work to do to mend the fences inside and outside the company.