I think it’s time we had a little talk about Pride Month, Disney. As many of you know, June is Pride Month. It’s the time of year when people strive to embrace the self-affirmation, respect, and representation of the LGBTQ+ community. And in recent years, great strides have been made towards LGBTQ+ representation in media aimed towards a younger audience. Shows like Steven Universe, The Owl House, She-Ra and The Princesses of Power, and more have done wonders for normalizing LGBTQ+ portrayal for kids. In other words, things have come a long way, and we should be proud of that.
That being said, there’s still a ways for the LGBTQ+ Pride movement to go. Several big corporations that own and release these shows have been known to be slow on allowing this kind of representation in their media. So when they suddenly decide to do a 180 and openly support LGBTQ+ Pride, it can come off as insincere at best. At worst, it feels like an attempt to cash in on the growing movement. Case in point, Disney’s gotten a lot of flak recently for their actions, both past and present, regarding LGBTQ Pride.
Disney’s Misguided Message On LGBTQ+ Pride
As Pride Month kicked off last week, people, both those who identify as LGBTQ+ and those who support them, took to social media to celebrate. That’s when Disney came out with this post on Twitter.
And then there was the news that they were releasing rainbow-colored Pride pins to show their support. On the surface, this seems like a very sweet gesture. However, those who have paid attention to Disney in the last few years have taken exception to this. And they have good reason to.
Disney has been well-known for being very straight-laced and conservative about their views at times. In recent years, this has led to them dragging their heels on representing the LGBTQ+ community in the work they put out. One of the more prominent examples where they’ve restricted something because of LGBTQ+ content is the show that’s, for better or worse, defined why they want out of cartoons in the last decade, Gravity Falls. Series creator Alex Hirsch has been very open about how he wanted to include same-sex couples in episodes like “Love God.” However, Disney shot him down. They were too afraid of offending some people who oppose these kinds of things. Here’s what the voice of Stan Pines/Soos/Bill Cipher said in response.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
While some would argue that things have improved, citing The Owl House as an example, those who work at Disney would say otherwise. Dana Terrace, the creator of The Owl House and a Gravity Falls alumni, has been very vocal about her own struggles. When she wanted to include LGBTQ+ representation in her show, she had to fight tooth and nail to be able to do that. As someone who identifies as bi-sexual, this was a very personal matter for her, so it must have meant a lot when she ultimately won out. However, it still shows that, despite the growing inclusivity of LGBTQ+ characters in kids shows, Disney continues to be slow to accept this. Which is why they’ve gotten a lot of flak for that tweet. And for announcing those limited edition Pride pins.
On the surface, it may seem like Disney has finally come around to supporting the LGBTQ+ community. However, given what we know about what goes on behind the scenes, it’s clear that enough of the higher-ups remain reluctant to do so. As a result, their attempts to come off as supportive of LGBTQ+ Pride seem like a shallow attempt to cash in on the growing popularity of the movement. While I would say that someone like Cartoon Network has done better, something made me realize that they, too, have improvements to make.
My Thoughts and Tweets
Late last Thursday night, I was scrolling through Twitter before going to bed. That’s when I came across this Tweet criticizing Cartoon Network for their own issues with LGBTQ+ representation. In it, the user pointed out the fact that Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe, went through Hell so her show could portray same-sex couples. It’s something that Rebecca herself has not been afraid to admit, either.
The fact of the matter is that, despite all the progress being made, many big corporations remain reluctant to be more LGBTQ+ inclusive. Maybe they don’t want to alienate consumers who are opposed to that, but the reasons matter little. For all their talk, Disney struggles to put its money where its mouth is, and Cartoon Network seems to be doing little better.
After reading that Tweet, an epiphany came over me. Whenever Disney or Cartoon Network would do something that would be seen as progressive, people would praise them for it. However, at the end of the day, they’re still corporate entities rather than people. Instead of praising the companies themselves, we should be praising the creators and the people who work for them. They’re the ones who fought to make this happen, not the companies. Thus, I felt inspired to Tweet this in response.
Bigger Than I Thought Possible
When I woke up the next morning to go about my day, my phone kept ringing. When I went to check it, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Over night, my tweet saying we should support the series creators over their corporate bosses had gone pseudo-viral. As the day continued, that one tweet kept getting likes and retweets until they climbed into the hundreds. I was floored. Even Matt Braly, the creator of Amphibia and one of Dana Terrace’s colleagues at Disney, liked it, replying by say that I was completely on point.
I felt completely humbled by how many people seemed to like what I had to say. At the same time, I also felt proud to know that there were many who agreed with my statement. It shows just how many there are out there who want to support the LGBTQ+ community.
Creators First, Corporations Second, LGBTQ+ Always
I will be the first to say it: I do not identify as Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender. However, I personally know people who are. But more importantly, I’m a big believer that people should have the freedom to live the way that makes them happiest. If that means they want to identify as the opposite gender, be romantically interested in the same gender, or both genders, they should be allowed to do so if it makes you happy. Because this world needs more happiness in it.
Until the day comes when big businesses genuinely support LGBTQ+ Pride, though, let’s not waste time praising them when they do something inclusive. Instead, let’s focus our praise on the individuals who fight to make this inclusiveness possible. The more we show them our support, the more their bosses will have to listen to them. Until then, Disney, come back with those pins when you’ve proven you genuinely care about promoting LGBTQ+ Pride.