Does Disney censor same-sex relationships? 'We are barred', claim employees

Contrary to CEO Bob Chapek's claim, employees say corporate executives demand cuts to 'nearly every moment of overtly gay affection'


                            Does Disney censor same-sex relationships? 'We are barred', claim employees
Disney CEO Bob Chapek is not apparently walking the talk (Richard Harbaugh/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images)
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As of March 2022, Disney CEO Bob Chapek finds himself at the center of a major controversy around the firm's commitment to diversion and inclusivity. First, he refused to condemn Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, then attempted to defend that silence. Now, it has emerged that Chapek's claims of "inspiring content" may be partly bogus, or that is what one group of Disney employees claim.

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Disney is notorious for its unwillingness to break from traditional gender norms, until very recently. Through films and shows like 'Raya and the Last Dragon' and 'Loki', the company made subtle hints towards its characters being members of the LGBTQ+ community, but rarely openly showed it. Marvel has become one of Disney's biggest brands to break that barrier, with numerous characters from upcoming films expected to be acknowledged as LBGTQ. 

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However, acknowledging is a far step from showing openly gay relationships, and it is one Disney's corporate bosses don't seem too keen to make. A report by Variety on March 9 claims that many moments of affection between gay characters have been killed off, because of senior leadership.

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An exterior view of a Disney store located in the Bayside Marketplace on March 04, 2021, in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Does Disney censor same-sex relationships?

Despite Disney's commitment to pushing for greater inclusivity, Disney films are yet to openly depict a same-sex relationship, for which there's a good reason. Corporate executives demand cuts to "nearly every moment of overtly gay affection… regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar," a letter from the LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar says. 

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 "We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were," the letter says. It adds, "Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it." Those damning allegations would appear to be true, given that no Disney film has gone beyond an occasional line or subtle hint towards same-sex relationships.

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The most on-the-nose reference Disney has made was through its 2020 short 'Out', which was about a gay man struggling to come out to his parents. Major properties like Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars through, have firmly refrained from venturing so far. It stands at odds with Chapek's statement in a company-wide memo on March 7. "We are and will continue to be a leader in supporting organizations that champion diversity," he said, adding, "The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce."

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The pressure campaign by Disney employees and fans seems to have some effect though. Shortly after Variety's report, Chapek told shareholders at a meeting that he opposed Flordia's bill, and worked "behind the scenes" to stop it from passing. He also announced he would be visiting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis along with a "small delegation of cast members" to further oppose the bill, but given that it has already passed the state government, it remains to be seen just how much effect that meeting will have. 

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