The Walt Disney Company is facing heavy criticism after news broke that the multibillion dollar media conglomerate’s next film will feature a gay lead character.
However, the criticism here is not for the reason one would think. The entertainment giant announced that actor Jack Whitehall has been cast as their first openly gay lead character for the film “Jungle Cruise.” The raised issue with Whitehall’s casting is that he is a straight, white male.
While Disney has shown minor LGBT-related content and storylines on its TV networks. And it has been boycotted for it due to the material going against the religious and personal beliefs of many. The outrage this time is coming from within the LGBTQ community. Many believe that Whitehall’s casting is perpetuating stereotypes, as yet another straight man will be playing a gay character. This decision adds to the representation crisis going on in Hollywood.
Many LGBTQ members remain very unhappy with Disney’s imperfect implementation of its first gay character. But the fact remains that this film coming to the big screen is a significant achievement. A few years ago, it would have been unheard of to feature a gay character in a movie tailored for children.
“It’s important to introduce LGBTQ stories and experiences into the mainstream media. This movie is an amplified example of doing this because it’s a family movie. The representation will be getting extended to children, which is huge,” affirmed Hilton Bush, an LGBTQ college student.
Caroline Uribe, an LGBTQ member part of the National Guards, also weighed on the matter.
“Whether the character is a lead or not, the idea of Disney having a gay character is amazing. The more representation, the better.”
As for the choice in casting, opinions vary.
“I’m on the fence about the casting decision. Gay actors having to ‘play straight’ to get substantial roles, yet they aren’t getting cast as characters who fit their real identities,” Bush expressed.
“In Hollywood, there are countless examples of straight, cisgender identifying actors playing an LGBTQ character. Yet, there are very few instances of this sexuality role-reversal opportunities given to LGBTQ actors,” he further explained.
“It would have been nice to have a gay actor, but I agree that there is a level of typecasting when it comes to LGBTQ actors who are only being cast for LGBTQ roles. It would also make many more LGBTQ community members more comfortable having more LGBTQ individuals being on the same playing field as their straight counterparts in general,” he said.
Uribe, on the other hand, has a different perspective.
“The casting choice doesn’t bother me at all. To me, acting is acting, so it’s actually pretty cool that a straight man would want to take this role.”
Many have called the outrage and threats to boycott the film misguided. Some believe that while the character should have been represented more realistically, it would be more harmful to turn your back on this progressive step forward altogether.
“The film needs to be welcome for its progressive nature. However, I think this criticism and calls to boycott are more than fair and expected. The fact that most LGBTQ roles through a wide range of media are played by straight white males is problematic,” Bush explained.
Uribe agreed with the notion that Disney is moving in a progressive direction with this film that should be welcomed. However, her views on the boycotting differed.
“To boycott the movie as a whole would be like boycotting the show ‘How I Met Your Mother’ because Neil Patrick Harris plays a straight man.”
“Jungle Cruise” is set to hit theaters in October of 2019.