Fire Island’s Joel Kim Booster ‘not happy’ queer rom-com is being released by Disney

Joel Kim Booster in Fire Island

Joel Kim Booster has admitted he’s unhappy that his Pride and Prejudice-inspired LGBT+ romantic comedy, Fire Island, is being released on Disney-owned Hulu.

Fire Island began life as a series on the short-lived streamer Quibi, but after being picked up by Disney’s Searchlight Pictures is now being released on Hulu on 3 June.

Its release comes shortly after Disney, which owns the streamer, faced heavy backlash over its financial donations to Republicans responsible for Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans the discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in primary schools.

Joel Kim Booster has admitted that the film, which features a majority LGBT+ cast, landing with Disney is “tough”.

He told Entertainment Weekly: “It’s something that weighs on me really heavily, the responsibility of making, first off, a good and honest movie and something that felt authentic and real to the gay experience, and then to know that it’s being produced through many pipelines to Disney.

“We live in a society and we have to make concessions in order to get things done. For me, I’m so grateful that this movie is going to be seen by so many people and, in that way, hopefully will help queer kids who see themselves in these characters to feel good and affirmed. I don’t know really what else to say. It’s not a great answer. I’m sort of waffling here, but it’s tough. It’s not something I’m happy about. I’ll say that.”

Disney faced criticism both for its political donations and for refusing at first to speak against the bill.

Amid backlash and employee walkouts, Disney changed tack. CEO Bob Chapek has paused political donations in the state and vowed to join efforts to fight the legislation.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has reacted with fury, and the Florida senate passed a bill on April 20 repealing a law allowing Walt Disney World to operate a private government over its properties in the state.

Joel Kim Booster wrote Fire Island about his own experiences visiting the destination with friend and SNL performer Bowen Yang.

Both men star in the film alongside Conrad Ricamora, Margaret Cho and other queer actors.

The story is a fresh take on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, and Booster told Vanity Fair: “I want people – especially gay men, especially queer people – to walk away from the movie happy that they’re gay.

“I think that there are so many movies about the gay experience that are fraught with people who are unsure if they’re happy being gay or struggling with coming out…

“I want people to come away from this movie feeling the joy of our experiences and that it’s not all tragic. There are many of us out here living our lives joyfully.”