Disney criticized for underrepresentation in LGBT+ commuinity

By EMILY MELVIN
On March 4, 2020

Photo courtesy of N Veenstra, Flickr

Disney’s newest Pixar film, "Onward," is set to hit theaters tomorrow. The film has been highly anticipated, as it is filled with characters like elves and other mythical creatures in a fantasy-like world. It includes everything a fan of Pixar movies would want: adventure, family, loss, love, magic and a single queer-coded character. 

Disney has announced that “Onward" will be credited as the first Disney movie to feature an openly LGBTQ+ character. A purple cyclops named Officer Specter identifies as a lesbian police officer in the movie. Actress and writer Lena Waithe voices the character and is an openly gay woman of color. 

It is important that Disney accurately casted the role, as many depictions of LGBTQ+ roles are often not played by queer actors. 

However, Disney is not receiving the praise they might have expected.

Within the media and industry, LGBTQ+ representation has faced many challenges. 

We should still acknowledge Disney for attempting to become more inclusive, but it feels forced. Disney is not being discreet with their character development and are clearly adding a queer character to seem inclusive. Major companies that are directed towards family entertainment are always stuck in a gray area when trying to satisfy all customers and viewers.

Disney has subtly attempted to include queerness in past movies and shows, but it is often overlooked or not openly addressed. Social media has had a lot to say about Disney’s intentions, and people have mentioned other times Disney has purposely created a queer-coded character in a form of queerbaiting.

“Queerbaiting, a system by which creators depict an obviously queer relationship without acknowledging it,” wrote SYFY Wire, the newsletter for the SyFy channel. “[It’s] a lovely new fad in which creators claim LGBTQ representation in their work without providing it in any concrete way.”

Queer-coded characters are created in hopes of satisfying every viewer’s perspective on homosexuality. However, this does not make it acceptable or sufficiently support the LGBTQ+ community, and people are expressing their feelings. 

“But don't worry guys!! Disney gave us our first LGBT+ character in Onward!!” Twitter user @mbrleigh sarcastically shared. “Ignore that she's the ugliest designed female in the promos, that she's apparently only in one scene, and that gay characters are ok in a modern FANTASY world. Don't forget the fantasy part!”

It is almost an insult to the LGBTQ+ community and those who identify as lesbians, because Disney is spreading the assumption that love between two women is only a fantasy and nothing to find beauty in. 

This is not the first time Disney has discreetly included queer characters in other projects, as they claimed to have a lesbian couple in Pixar’s "Finding Dory." However, Disney still has yet to confirm the relationship between the two women. 

Little moments like this have occurred in Disney films for years, simply basing themselves off of stereotypes. Many Twitter users have been posting characters from various movies and shows, suggesting they too are queer. 

These include some of the Muppets, Ryan from the "High School Musical" franchise, LeFou from "Beauty and the Beast" and several others. The assumptions may be accurate, but they are purely based on stereotypes, which ultimately continues to be a problem. 

Despite the possibility of other queer characters in the world of Disney, many are livid over Officer Specter’s brief screen time. 

Russia has already censored the gay character and scene to make it more family-friendly, before the film has even been released. 

“This is at least the third known censorship of a gay scene from a foreign film in Russia since the country passed a controversial 2013 law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ to minors,” an article from the Moscow Times wrote. “They have completely erased Disney’s efforts to be progressive and inclusive, and they are only making the issue worse.”

Disney is at least trying to pave the way towards an inclusive entertainment industry, but work in this area still needs to be done. The world we live in is a queer world, and we need to accept that and embrace it however we can.

 

emelvin@ramapo.edu

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