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LGBTQ fans are calling Disney out for celebrating Pride. Here’s why.

Mickey Mouse icon with gay rainbow flag design at the annual gay pride march in central London
Photo: Shutterstock

The Walt Disney Company is one of the largest and most influential entities in the world. Yet, as the corporation has begun celebrating Pride Month, it has been met with a heavy load of criticism from fans, employees, and activists, mainly from accusations that Disney is actually harming the LGBTQ community.

Many of the issues stem from the fact that Disney has censored or allegedly removed content about LGBTQ characters, especially in Disney content made available outside of the United States.

Related: Patti Harrison is the first trans actor in a Disney film in the new “Raya & the Last Dragon”

On the very first day of Pride Month, right as the company launched a Disney Pride collection and Disney properties began making Pride Month posts, Disney was hit with a lawsuit from an executive accusing them of discriminating on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation.

Joel Hopkins, the current Vice President of Production Finance for the production company ABC Signature who is gay and has been with Disney for 27 years, claims he has been “discriminated against and put on a dead-end career track and repeatedly denied promotions with no remedy or relief.”

After coming out to co-workers around the time he became the Vice President of Production Finance for Touchstone TV in 2000, Hopkins has not been able to receive a promotion or advance in the company while others have.

Hopkins is seeking compensatory and punitive damages because he has been denied promotions because the company with an estimated $200 billion in assets would claim that “Disney was hurting financially and not promoting,” his lawsuit read.

Disney also faced criticism from fans and media for reports that the movie Cruella featured the company’s first openly gay character in a movie because actor John McCrea, who plays the character Artie in the movie, said in an interview that ” he’s queer,” although it’s not actually stated and only reportedly “hinted at” in the movie. According to Forbes, “Disney has pioneered their ‘first’ gay character at least 7 times, give or take,” from recent movies or shows that “all feature minor characters who make exceedingly subtle references hinting at same-sex attraction.”

Because of that, “none of these queer background characters really stick around in collective memory long enough to make an impression,” and so some fans see Disney as trying to “pull the same trick” each time of getting praised for its reported “first.”

People that created some of Disney’s content also had criticism for the company’s celebration of Pride. Alex Hirsch, who created the Disney Channel animated series Gravity Falls, sent a series of tweets denouncing the company’s celebration of Pride as well. He claims that he was forced to censor gay characters, even without a significant role in the show’s episodes.

“To any creative at Disney… please mercilessly spam your execs with ‘There’s room for everyone under the rainbow’ next time they tell you to ‘Please revise’ your LGBTQ+ character for ‘not being Disney appropriate,'” he tweeted, quoting the line that a tweet from Disney Plus used to open Pride Month.

Hirsch was also clear that despite Disney shows having LGBTQ representation since he was told to remove his, he believes the company has “walk[ed] back much of that progress” in recent business decisions.

Some of those decisions, hinted at by Hirsch and others, is their removal or editing of content featuring LGBTQ representation to be deemed more “acceptable” in foreign markets, such as anti-LGBTQ countries like Russia, China, and Malaysia.

Just over a week ago, Russia’s communications authority sent a notice to Disney warning them that a Pixar film “denies family values and promotes non-traditional sexual relationships,” which is against their laws.

Facing censors that will ban or block content with LGBTQ characters, Disney has often edited the content out to fit into the markets in anti-LGBTQ places, and has been accused of requesting that representation not be included ahead of time.

While Disney can’t control the laws of other countries, critics note that they could use their influence, remove their movies, or leave their market as a sign of protest against anti-LGBTQ policies and governments, rather than trying to appease them.

Gizmodo wrote that “Disney looks particularly egregious celebrating [Pride] because, well, all year ‘round it otherwise does the barest of minimums to incorporate LGBTQIA+ stories and characters in its biggest material, leaving them on the cutting room floor or slight enough to be edited out of movies to better appeal to bigoted markets that Disney would otherwise love to see some money out of.”

Users on social media sites have continued to criticize Disney’s apparent conflict with LGBTQ representation on and behind the screen. A Reddit post regarding Hirsch’s comments, for example, was deemed to have “murdered” Disney “with words,” and received hundreds of thousands of interactions.

A TikTok video posted to Reddit with thousands of upvotes criticized the company for having “the most openly hypocritical entertainment company when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ [people.] No proceeds given to charity, LGBTQ+ voices silenced, scenes censored, yet they pretend to care.”

@chriskalos

and this is what we mean when we say rainbow capitalism is bad. we like having allies. we don’t like being lied to. #disney #lgbtq #pride #capitalism

♬ original sound – Chris Kalos

The right also makes a point of criticizing Disney and other companies for pretending to be “woke,” or supportive of LGBTQ people, when in reality they continue working with anti-LGBTQ businesses and countries. “Disney has no problem playing both sides of the issue so it can make as much money as possible,” Washington Examiner opinion reported.

The criticism amounts to accusing Disney of pink-washing, which is used to described companies claiming to be pro-LGBTQ or using pro-LGBTQ marketing while not consistently standing with the LGBTQ people when it isn’t financially lucrative.

Disney has not commented on any of these issues as of yet, but whether they want to or not, their checkered treatment of LGBTQ people appears to be causing more issues than quelling them.

The homeowners association told them couldn’t fly a Pride flag. So they did this instead.

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