Is Disney's disservice to LGBTQ+ depictions now finally ending?

Louise Cusine discusses the new Disney Channel show The Owl House, which has Disney's first bisexual lead character

Louise Cusine
24th August 2020
Credit: IMDb
Disney has never been forthcoming with regards to LGBTQ+ representation as the mass media company has only exhibited the smallest signs of progression. Amity, who is Disney’s first bisexual lead-character in the new Disney Channel Show The Owl House, has generated an abundance of excitement and anticipation for the LGBTQ+ community.

In 2013, Frozen could be considered as an icebreaker for the LGBTQ+ community. There were obvious signs of switching the stereotypical gender roles, with Kristoff appearing feminised for the entirety of the movie, and Elsa being portrayed as a headstrong woman who didn’t need a man to save her. Not only did the characters give off subtle remarks of progression but also the song 'Let It Go' was adopted as an LGBTQ+ anthem.

Disney failed to put at least one LGBTQ+ character in the twelve movies that the company produced in 2015

Credit: IMDb

Two years later, however, Disney endured an astronomical failure through GLAAD’S (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Annual Studio Responsibility Index, which usually positively draws on the attainment of LGBTQ+ characters in movies. In spite of this, Disney failed to put at least one LGBTQ+ character in the twelve movies that the company produced in 2015. A few years later, fans lobbied for Elsa to have a girlfriend in Frozen so much so that the hashtag GiveElsaaGirlfriend trended on Twitter. Yet, to the dismay of many viewers, Elsa did not have a girlfriend in Frozen 2. Ice cold Disney, ice cold.

In 2017, Beauty and the Beast attempted to add an LGBTQ+ character, but the scene was over in the blink of an eye. Since the scene was extremely short, it is debatable as to whether the audience actually noticed this representation. For those who didn’t notice this scene, it was LeFou dancing with a man at the end of the film which was the only overt indication, despite LeFou being coded as a gay man for the entirety of the film.

Disney's minimal attempt at LGBTQ+ representation in the 2017 release of Beauty and the Beast (at 1:28)
Credit: Hock Panda on Youtube
Credit: IMDb, Disney Pixar

The unfathomable disappointment of having an LGBTQ+ scene that lasted mere seconds was partially revoked by introducing the first openly lesbian character in the movie Onward who was also voiced by openly lesbian celebrity Lena Waithe. That being said, the lesbian in this movie was cast in a bad light as she was not human (more troll-like) and she didn’t seem to play a significant part in the movie.

The fact that Amity and Luz are a bisexual and interracial couple is incredibly positive for LGBTQ+ awareness

Credit: Huey Duck on Youtube

Despite all the failed attempts, it seems that Disney could eventually be making up for lost time with a bisexual lead character in The Owl House. The fact that Amity and Luz are a bisexual and interracial couple is incredibly positive for LGBTQ+ awareness, couples like Amity and Luz are often misunderstood and fetishised. In the show, they both show romantic feelings for each other and dance at prom. It is substantially clear that the mouse is making small but valuable steps forward. In fact, this is possibly the only time when Huffington Post can officially say that they have seen "a truly authentic performance of queerness by a main character in Disney.’’ As a result of an overwhelming amount of support from Disney Channel viewers, the show has been renewed for a second series, perhaps indicating Disney’s slowly changing attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community.

Overall, can Disney recover from their historic faux pas? Only time will tell. As for The Owl House- it’ll be a hoot!

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