Disney Executive Calls for ‘Many, Many’ LGBTQ Characters in Future Films

© AP Photo / Francois MoriThe logo of theme parks "Disney" Store is pictured on the Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris, France, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
The logo of theme parks Disney Store is pictured on the Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris, France, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.03.2022
Disney recently jumped into Florida politics by vowing to help repeal a new law nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay” by its critics, although the corporate media giant was revealed to have donated to the campaigns of every lawmaker who sponsored the bill.
Speaking on a company-wide Zoom call on Monday that was later made public, Karey Burke, president of Disney’s General Entertainment Content, said she supports “many, many” LGBTQ characters being included in future films produced by the company.
“I’m here as a mother of two queer children, actually,” Burke told coworkers. “One transgender child and one pansexual child, and also as a leader.”
The call was part of the “Reimagine Tomorrow” campaign, an effort “to establish inclusion standards across all Disney General Entertainment content,” the website says. Among their goals is to reach a threshold of 50% of characters in scripted Disney media coming from underrepresented groups, including women, LGBTQ people, disabled people, veterans, and nonwhite people.
Disney has been criticized in recent years for claiming to be introducing LGBTQ characters in its films, but doing so in a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” way.
Last year, GLAAD’s annual “Studio Responsibility Index” found that 22.7% of all US film releases had LGBTQ characters, although noting that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only a tiny fraction of the typical number of films for a given year were actually released. However, half of those characters got at least 10 minutes of screentime - a significant increase from the previous year, when none got more than 3 minutes on-screen.
Burke said on the call that she was dismayed to learn that Disney products only have a “handful” of LGBTQ lead characters.
“And I realized it actually is true. We have many, many, many LGBTQIA characters in our stories and yet we don’t have enough leads and narratives in which gay characters just get to be characters and not have to be about gay stories,” she added.
A poll published last month by Gallup found that 7.1% of American adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ), although another 6.6% had no opinion about whether they were straight or LGBTQ. The percentage among Generation Z is even higher, with 20.8% of those born between 1997 and 2003 identifying as LGBTQ.
While Disney’s policy of increased LGBTQ inclusivity is nothing new, the company has recently waded into the political spotlight by criticizing Florida’s HB 1557, the “Parental Rights in Education” act, better known as “Don’t Say Gay.” Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law earlier this week, banning the teaching of LGBTQ topics in schools to children between kindergarten and third grade. Disney pledged on Monday to support the law’s repeal.
Initially, the company hesitated to condemn the bill, despite having spoken out against other anti-LGBTQ bills in the past. Critics pointed out that Disney had donated to the campaigns of every single Florida lawmaker who sponsored HB 1557 - a situation the company said it would reexamine after bowing to public pressure and coming out against the bill.
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