Disney is homophobic. What’s new? 


Rachel Choi

Illustration by Rachel Choi

By Rachel Choi, Multimedia Managing Editor, Chief Copy Editor

Walt Disney Studios has produced a variety of content ranging from high-budget disappointments to low-budget masterpieces; but recent shows have nothing on “The Owl House,” in terms of both production value and diversity—something that Disney has struggled to provide. The characters of this three season-show come from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds and explore both sexuality and gender in open and positive ways—just looking at the main character says it all: Luz Noceda is a bisexual, gender nonconforming, Afro-Latina teen. The storyline, direction, artstyle, and voice acting are all top-tier. 

The problem, however, is that Disney canceled the show—taking both viewers and creators by surprise—and the originally greenlit, fully-fleshed out future seasons were compressed into a final third season. Only three “specials,” slightly longer episodes, were given to the show’s team to tie up every single loose end that the first two seasons were steadily building up to. 

The reason? According to “The Owl House” creator Dana Terrace on a Reddit post, “there are a few business people who oversee what fits into the Disney brand and one day one of those guys decided TOH didn’t fit that ‘brand.’”

This so-called “brand,” many fans rightfully assumed, was heteronormative and sterilized, wiped clean of any representation that bigoted parents could object to. As such, it’s not unreasonable to believe that the reason why it was canceled was merely because “The Owl House” was unapologetically open with its queer representation. While Terrace stated that she didn’t want to “assume bad faith against the people [she] works with” when addressing such assumptions, she has been vocal about how hard she had to fight with Disney executives to get queer representation in the show in the first place.

The process and results speak for itself. 

Disney has had a troublesome history when it comes to their stance on the queer community, jumping from borderline-external homophobia to carefully measured support. It has refused to take an official position in the face of Floridian Republican Gov. Ron Desantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a law to ban all discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, when it first came into discussion and has a history of donating to Republican politicians. In an open letter by queer staff of Pixar, a subsidiary of Disney, Disney has “[shut] down fan-created Pride events in the parks” and even cut “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection” in stories that were “shaved down to crumbs of what they once were.” 

Every time Disney does something homophobic, the company immediately backtracks to save face. Only after public backlash and outrage did Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek speak out and state that they supported their queer employees, specifically highlighting the “inspiring content” Disney produced. But only after Pixar’s open letter did Chapek promise to halt political donations to Florida. 

This “inspiring content” that Chapek speaks of is really worrisome, considering the lack of actual queer characters that grace the big screen or any mainstream media Disney promotes. Disney is often made fun of for having so many “first” gay characters—who usually are only on screen for a few seconds with no discernable way to determine their sexual orientation.

Take for instance the first official lesbian, a Cyclops cop in the 2020 movie “Onward,” who mentioned an off-screen wife. Or the first gay married couple in 2016 “Zootopia,” where Judy Hopps’ two loud neighbors were shown to share the same last name in the credits. Or the first lesbian couple in 2016 “Finding Dory” who were on screen for around three seconds. The first gay character in 2017 “Beauty and the Beast,” hinted to have an “exclusively gay moment,” turned out to have this exclusive moment in a group scene where he was dancing with some random guy. Add in a blink-and-miss-it kiss from a queer couple in 2019 “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker”—and the pattern continues. 

Disney is, for lack of a better term, pathetic. They have no spine when it comes to problems that directly affect both employees and fans, and their attachment to profit directly juxtaposes the family-friendly, for-all attitude they love to boast about. 

Despite it all, Disney continues to engage in rainbow washing: selling rainbow merch, tweeting Pride Month excitement, and slapping cheaply designed rainbows on every single thing they own during June. Instead of bringing substantial change to the way they handle LGBTQ+ issues, they instead latch onto the facade of corporate activism—shallow and self-serving at best. 

Disney is a multi-billion dollar conglomerate with a growing monopoly in entertainment. It’s given many people, especially those around my age, a childhood filled with magic and hope. However, it’s important to acknowledge the fact Disney is, regardless of magical whimsy and silly-goofy fun, frustratingly conservative in its means of following the dough. 

It’s another greedy corporation that will do anything in its power to milk people for their money. This won’t come as a surprise to most, but in the midst of their fun theme parks and colorful movies, it’s hard to not forget its stance on basic human rights.