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You Can Kiss Disney Movie Representation and Inclusion Goodbye Under Current Bob Iger

Disney movie representation
Credit: Disney

Bob Iger’s return as Disney CEO has been controversial, to say the least. While The Walt Disney Company has been navigating some tough waters in recent years, the highest member of the executive team hasn’t been very coy in his opinions about the company’s role in the ongoing social and political battles being waged in the United States. Iger’s comments this year reflect a likely reality in future Disney movie releases. Whether this is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder.

bob iger ruining disney

Credit: Disney

Disney’s Role in the Culture Wars

Disney has found itself in the midst of a cultural battleground in the wake of the pandemic. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has taken aim at the company, accusing it of promoting child grooming and pushing a progressive social agenda. At the heart of this conflict lies Disney’s endeavor to infuse greater diversity into its recent films.

This effort has led to a range of reactions. Pixar’s Lightyear started the real outrage and faced online criticism for featuring a kiss between a married lesbian couple in 2022. This event caused several countries to block the release of the movie.

Later that year, Disney released Strange World, a film that received a mixed reception and encountered financial challenges despite its groundbreaking animation and visual appeal. Notably, the film introduced the openly gay character Ethan Clade, triggering controversy among conservative groups who accused Disney of pushing a “woke” agenda. His sexuality did not solely define Ethan’s character, but the debate around his inclusion echoed the ongoing discussions about LGBTQ+ representation in media and society.

Disney gay characters

Credit: Disney

Critics have used Strange World‘s underperformance to argue that promoting inclusion and representation can be divisive. This underscores the delicate balancing act that studios like Disney must perform in an era of heightened social consciousness. They must navigate the complex terrain of artistic expression while considering audience reception.

When Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel in the live-action version of The Little Mermaid, it sparked excitement and controversy on social media. Similarly, introducing a nonbinary character in Pixar’s Elemental riled up detractors. Some conservative audiences, uncomfortable with these changes, opted for alternative offerings that didn’t include diverse characters or seemingly push an agenda like Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros Movie.

However, it’s crucial to recognize that films featuring diverse characters are not doomed to failure. Recent successes, such as Netflix’s Nimona, illustrate that well-crafted stories with compelling characters can thrive despite opposition from anti-LGBTQ+ factions. Nevertheless, Bob Iger’s comments hint that these criticisms will push Disney’s endeavors back into the closet.

Disney gets legal win in case over response to 'Don't Say Gay'

Credit: Disney Parks Blog

Bob Iger’s Stance on Disney Movie Representation

In a now infamous interview with MSNBC in July, Iger made a remark that hinted at this company redirect. “The last thing I want is for the company to be drawn into any culture wars,” he told the nation when addressing the situation with former CEO Bob Chapek and the anger surrounding Disney’s response to the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”

More recently, Iger stressed that Disney would “quiet the noise” in the culture wars. He also solidified this during an annual shareholder meeting in April. “Our primary mission needs to be to entertain and have a positive impact on the world,” Iger stated. “I’m very serious about that. It should not be agenda-driven.”

The Little Mermaid

Credit: Disney

These comments don’t seem to represent a leader who admires the company’s commitment to more diverse characters. In fact, it seems to hint that the CEO would like to shove everything back into the closet and return to using simple characters that aren’t polarizing. It also paints a picture of a man entirely beholden to the stock market.

As stated above, whether this is a good or bad thing is in the eye of the beholder. Many marginalized groups argue that their right to exist and be represented shouldn’t be a political issue. On the other hand, some people believe these groups tread on their traditional beliefs.

Truth be told, many of Disney’s inclusive characters have been shallow at best. Many argue that the company has pandered to diverse audiences with little value. If Disney’s own CEO agrees that underrepresented communities existing in films cause too much controversy and freely states that the company should reel it in, it can never really do anything of substance with diverse characters.

At the end of the day, Iger is steering the ship. What the crew wants doesn’t matter; what he considers valuable is where the company will focus. Iger will go where the money is, and if he thinks it is more profitable to “quiet the noise,” then we can expect a lot less representation and inclusion in future projects.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.

About Michael Stoyanoff

Michael is a Disney fan with an entertainment background and passion for writing. Living in Orlando, he has been around the theme parks for over a decade. In his free time he enjoys running, playing video games, and traveling the world. He also loves hanging out with his dog, Mr. Pippers the Pug.

One comment

  1. Finally. We need to get back to where it all started. I don’t hate anyone or exclude anyone. But so many beloved films are just simple fairytale stories.

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