Study shows Disney is failing LGBT kids – despite ‘cashing in’ on Pride merch

A report has shown that Disney’s blockbuster releases are failing LGBT kids – despite the company cashing in on LGBT merchandise.

Disney last month announced a ‘Pride’ merchandise range for the first time, featuring a range of rainbow-themed merchandise aimed at LGBTQ fans.

But just weeks after the launch, GLAAD’s annual Studio Responsibility Index report has launched – showing Walt Disney Studios failing a basic test of LGBT inclusivity for another consecutive year.

Disney’s lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated the global box office for years, but has never featured a single explicitly LGBT character. The Star Wars franchise has also failed to include any LGBT characters.

Industry insiders have hinted that Disney is reluctant to include LGBT characters in blockbusters due to fears of a potential negative reaction in overseas markets.

GLAAD’s report, which assesses big-screen releases noted a concerning trend of films that have “erased a character’s queer identity as they moved from page to screen.”

This appears to refer to the ‘straightwashing’ of characters in Marvel releases Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok, where characters who are LGBT in their source material are not depicted as such on screen.

The media advocacy group noted: “There are so many strong LGBTQ-inclusive comics… [and] on the television side, superhero shows regularly include LGBTQ characters and have been a hit with fans.

“It is becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore that LGBTQ people remain almost completely shut out of Hollywood’s big budget comic book films that have dominated the box office over the past several years.”

It adds: “Thor: Ragnarok included two prominent characters who are bisexual and gay respectively in the Marvel source comics: Valkyrie and Korg.

“However, this film disappointingly did not include any references to their identities or love interests, and as such, audiences would have no clue they were seeing queer characters unless they had read outside press or the source material stories.”

“Valkyrie actor Tessa Thompson has told press that she played her character as queer and believed that her warrior sister who is killed in front of her in a flashback was Valkyrie’s lover, thus explaining her deep drinking and grief. However, none of this is actually made canon in the film.

“[The filmmakers] filmed a scene in which a woman was seen coming out of Valkyrie’s bedroom, but ultimately the scene was cut so as not to ‘distract from the scene’s vital exposition.’

“While Thompson deserves praise for fighting for the inclusion of Valkyrie’s bi identity – particularly as a new face to the MCU and in a position where she was presumably taking a risk as she could have been replaced – it is disappointing that Marvel chose to not explore Valkyrie’s story or Korg’s history.”

HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 10: Actor Tessa Thompson at The World Premiere of Marvel Studios' "Thor: Ragnarok" at the El Capitan Theatre on October 10, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney)

Thor actress Tessa Thompson (Getty)

Its analysis of Star Wars: The Last Jedi adds: “Several online outlets pointed out a moment between two male Porgs, Puffin-like creatures that live on an island in the film.

“The moment itself is a brief nuzzle, and is not an indication of the sexuality of these animals.

“The amount of coverage this moment garnered and the continued fervour around queer relationships by fans – and the other, more serious calls for this franchise to become more inclusive of diversity on all levels – shows how much hunger there is on the part of Star Wars fans to see themselves in this universe they love so much.

“It is not enough to limit these stories to the pages of expository novels that many fans will not find, LGBTQ stories deserve to be included on the big screen as well.”

GLAAD added: “With the upcoming Marvel slate, there are plenty of opportunities to introduce LGBTQ characters into the films that are queer in the comics.

“The upcoming Captain Marvel could be an introduction to lesbian Latina superhero America Chavez who works closely with Captain Marvel in certain comics as teammates on the A-Force and Ultimates. This would be the perfect opportunity to get her story out to a mass audience.

“The likely Black Panther sequel should include the romantic relationship between Dora Milaje members Ayo and Aneka.

“Their story was explored in [comic book] World of Wakanda and the two – alongside Dora Milaje leader Okoye – are set for a summer three-issue miniseries.

“Hopefully this increased focus on them in Marvel pages will translate to the big screen.”

The only film to save Disney from a zero score was live-action remake Beauty and the Beast, which was banned in several markets after the director stated in pre-film inteviews that character LeFou was gay.

The film itself did not explicitly confirm that LeFou was gay, though he was shown briefly dancing with a man.

GLAAD noted: “Kids see LGBTQ couples and families in their everyday lives — their moms and dads, their teachers and neighbors, their uncles, aunts, and beloved grandparents.

“Disney’s decision to reflect that reality and bring this remake into the present day by including a gay character is a welcome (if small) sign of progress.

“We hope to see more studios take the same step – and explore further – in future.”

Overall, of the 109 releases from major studios in 2017, only 14 (12.8%) of them included characters that are LGBTQ.

This represents a significant decrease from the previous year’s report (18.4%, 23 out of 125), and the lowest percentage of LGBTQ-inclusive major studio releases since GLAAD began tracking in 2012.

Not one of the 109 releases included a transgender character.