Erin Burchill ‘25, Entertainment Editor
In early March, the publicly named “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed through Florida’s Senate, allowing it to go into effect in July of this year. Many elected officials, celebrities, and companies spoke out against this immoral bill, including the Walt Disney Company.
Shortly after the bill passed in the House of Representatives, former Disney CEO Robert Iger posted on Twitter saying “I’m with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.” Employees of the company were outraged at this—not only the tepid response from Iger, but the lack of response from the company itself…that is, until March 28.
The official Walt Disney Company account tweeted a statement regarding the passing of the bill. It said that the Don’t Say Gay bill “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts…We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”
Top comments on the tweet come mostly from supporters of the bill, and bash the Disney company for opposing what some are calling, as conservative activist Scott Presler described it, “the Florida anti-grooming bill.” Most replies touched on supporting the rights of parents and protection of children from supposedly inappropriate subjects such as sexual orientation and gender identity. Some others questioned why the company was tweeting about the Don’t Say Gay bill instead of facing recent allegations of Disney employees being involved in child trafficking. Somewhat surprisingly, replies supporting Disney’s stance or urging them to be more radical were a rare sight.
Disney employees were upset with the company from the beginning. Protests against the company’s silence were staged following the ratification of the bill, and walkouts continued to take place after Disney’s passive statement was posted on Twitter. These employees, queers and allies alike, demanded more immediate and impactful action from their employer.
Judging by reactions to Disney’s recent statement, it is fair to say that some may think the company is already a bit too inclusive; however, most of the support is purely for show. During pride month, Disney parks are decorated with rainbow banners, signs, and merchandise, yet these are mainly exclusive to the month of June. While selling rainbow pins and t-shirts may be an acknowledgement of queer identities, it does not truly support the people it claims to. Disney has never been a confirmed supporter of LGBTQ+ organizations and charities, and unless some of the profits from their pride merchandise is going to these groups, it is likely purely for the company’s monetary gain.
Following backlash to their response to the Don’t Say Gay bill, Disney promised to donate five million dollars to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and other organizations that support the rights and needs of the LGBTQ+ community. The attempt seemed like a bit of a step in the right direction, but the HRC disagreed, turning away the donation “until we see them build on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals…don’t become dangerous laws.”
Not only does Disney seem to ignore the real needs of the LGBTQ+ community, they have been known to censor same-sex relationships in past and future movies. The Pixar company, owned by Disney since 2006, wrote a statement bringing to light the censorship that their movies have endured from cuts made by Disney. The letter said, “We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were. Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”
According to a separate statement from Pixar, their most recent film, Turning Red, contained inclusive scenes that represented queer identities and same-sex relationships between some of the characters. However, the vast majority of these were removed by Disney before the film was released—the only ones left in the movie were hidden in the background, not noticed by viewers until the third or fourth watch.
Inclusivity in Pixar’s films is starting to shine through, however. The next movie produced by Disney will be Lightyear, a Toy Story adaptation being released in June of this year. Pixar has confirmed that a same-sex relationship was originally planned for the movie before being removed by Disney. However, in an exciting win for the LGBTQ+ community, Pixar has added it back to the final film, even including a kiss between the two women, so it would seem there is slight hope for future Disney and Pixar films.
Fighting against Disney executives reflects quite well on Pixar. In doing so, the company displays its strong belief of equal representation in media and its willingness to fight for those that are underrepresented. It is crucial to tell diverse stories—especially when those stories are catered to younger audiences—to ensure that viewers can experience the normalization of minority representation, and can be educated on identities with whom they may be unfamiliar or may misunderstand.