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Bob Chapek has been the powerful man at the helm of Disney for around two years and hasn’t always been a happy figure. But now he is finally in the crossfire of criticism for his handling of the so-called «Don’t Say Gay» law — even from his own ranks. In order to explain what this has to do with the topic «film» we love so much and why it affects not only the current Disney boss, but the whole mouse house, we have to go back a bit and briefly delve into the world of politics watch.
That’s the «Don’t Say Gay» law in Florida
At the end of February, the Florida House of Representatives introduced a new law that caused protests across the country and has just been confirmed by the state Senate. House Bill 1557, popularly known as the «Don’t Say Gay» bill, bans discussions in kindergartens and in the first three grades of school about sexual orientation and gender identities.
It is disputed whether words like “gay” are allowed to be put into the mouth at all. Opponents of the law allege that teachers are not even allowed to honestly answer a question about why a classmate is brought to school by two fathers, for example. The Republicans behind the law deny this accusation. Spontaneous confrontations with any LGBTQ+ topic are still allowed, just no permanent inclusion in the curriculum. But when it comes to ambiguities, the law goes even further anyway…
Because quite nebulous, even in older age groups, dealing with the topic is only allowed to the extent that is appropriate for the age and development of the respective children in class. Because at the same time parents are granted far-reaching rights to sue teachers and schools, there is a great fear that any discussion, even at older age groups, will be suppressed in a kind of self-censorship.
Because hardly anyone would want to regularly explain to the court why their own lessons were appropriate for their age. The accusation: That is exactly the calculus behind the law – as was the case with a draft law also passed in Florida earlier this year to ban racism topics from the curricula.
In the USA there are numerous demonstrations and student associations made the slogan «Say Gay Anyway» socially acceptable, which has now also been taken up by numerous stars from brands of the mouse house such as Marvel and «Star Wars», including Mark Hamill , Pedro Pascal and Mark Ruffalo (you can find her tweets as examples for numerous others in the course of the article). But what does Disney have to do with it?
The ex-boss and the stars speak, Disney itself is silent
Disney is one of the most influential companies in Florida, where in Orlando, among other things, Disney World is home to the legendary Mouse House theme park complex. After the previous Disney boss Bob Iger (like US President Joe Biden, by the way) made critical comments immediately after the first round on the way to law in February, his successor Bob Chapek remained silent for a long time.
In a statement, Chapek pointed out that there is no point in positioning yourself publicly as a company and that this only contributes to further division. But because Disney is busy donating money to politicians in the background, including many who support the law, there was a shitstorm: Chapek received massive criticism both publicly and internally, so that he now reacted after all.
In a call to the company’s shareholders, who also criticized him, Chapek defended himself. They are against the law and use their influence behind the scenes to change the minds of Republican politicians. He announced millions in donations to LGBTQ+ organizations currently fighting the law (although one prominent organization has already refused to accept the money) . Above all, he pointed out that Disney shows with its films how much they support the LGBTQ+ community . In an internal memo to his own employees, he became more specific:
«It’s the best way for our company to create lasting change through the inspirational content we produce, the welcoming culture we create and the diverse organizations we support.» And right here we are with our beloved films .
Disney double standard? Pixar contradicts the Disney boss
Because does Disney really support the LGBTQ+ community with its films? You can already have a different opinion when you look at it from the outside, because how many queer characters can you think of in the mouse house? You then have to think about it for a long time and end up with very few characters, the implementation of which is sometimes dubious:
LeFou is gay in the Beauty and the Beast remake, but that had to be explained separately from the film for viewers to even notice. Here and there we have been able to see queer characters more clearly, for example in the Marvel film » Eternals » (two men live together as a married couple) and in the Pixar hit » Onward: No Half Measures » (there is a minor character with a few lines of text that is homosexual ), but overall the representation of queer people in Disney films is neither particularly visible nor extensive.
But much worse: Disney is said to be suppressing even stronger LGBTQ representation in its films.
This accusation comes at least from the employees of the animation company and the Disney subsidiary Pixar. In direct response to Chapek’s memo cited above, a memo they wrote and sent states that even if the answer to discriminatory laws was to create content, it is not allowed to create it at all. In the translated text:
“We at Pixar have all personally watched as beautiful stories filled with diverse characters come back from Disney HQ with just crumbs of what they were before. Almost every moment of public homosexual affection is being excised at Disney’s request — despite protests from both creative teams and Pixar executives.”
The criticism should not only be aimed at Chapek. Because it doesn’t sound like it’s been difficult to tell such stories since he took office around two years ago. So far, there has been no public response from Disney’s leadership to Pixar’s explicit allegations. It will certainly also be exciting to see whether details will follow in the future, to what extent specific films may have been changed or entire film ideas cannot be implemented as a result.
Incidentally, “ Red ” is the latest Pixar film to start on Disney+ today, March 11, 2022. Although it doesn’t deal with LGBTQ+ issues, it’s still part of Pixar’s efforts to focus on a wide variety of characters – and in the USA also from relevant side faced the absurd accusation that he was not inclusive because there is no white identification figure.
Disney+ also features the short film “ Out ” from Pixar’s newcomer series SparkShorts, the only Disney animated film to date that really explicitly deals with LGBTQ+ issues.