Disney has openly encouraged the acceptance of minorities, especially sexual minorities, in its entertainment activities for several years. An approach that provoked an outcry from conservative Catholic movements, particularly in Africa.
On March 28, 2022, Disney Group President Karey Burke expressed to her employees her wish to see more LGBTQ and racial minority characters in productions. “As the mother of two queer children, one transgender and one pansexual, I feel responsible to speak up for them,” she said. The businesswoman recalled on this occasion that, in Disney theme parks, the use of gendered pronouns had been removed. For example, employees no longer say “Hello ladies and gentlemen, but hello everyone or hello friends”.
The California-based company is thus part of the “culture war” which is in full swing in the United States between radical conservatism and a social reform movement referred to as “wokism”. Disney has thus openly committed to repealing a Florida law passed in March 2022 banning teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.
Radical conservatism versus “Wokism”
Disney’s latest film productions seem to reflect this new cultural activism. The animated movie Avalonia, the strange journey (Strange World-2022) depicts a love story between two homosexual teenagers. The feature film Buzz Lightning (Lightyear-2022) features a kiss between two female characters. Series Andi Mackwhich ended in 2019, was the first Disney program to feature a gay character.
New aspects in mainstream cinema, received very differently depending on the environment and the country. Lightyear has notably been banned in 14 countries in the Middle East and Asia. In 2017, the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) banned the broadcast ofAndi Mack explaining that the series contained “subtle messages seeking to normalize homosexuality for young people”. In June 2022, the influential Cairo University of Al-Azhar criticized Disney for introducing gay characters into its films. The Sunni institution spoke of a “systematic diabolical plan to normalize the immoral crime of homosexuality in Muslim societies”.
Contrasting Catholic reactions
In the Catholic world, reactions have been mixed. The film Avalonia, the strange journey was deemed “recommendable” by the National Commission for the Evaluation of Films (CNVF) of the Italian Episcopal Conference. In its assessment, the Catholic body focused mainly on the film’s ecological message, seen as “a convincing metaphor for current society”, whose “red thread is ecological commitment, the defense and protection of Common house, recalling the words of Pope Francis in the encyclical Laudato si’ “. The CNVF simply notes, “In approaching the theme of family, Disney chooses to tell the story in the broadest sense of inclusion, thereby encompassing issues of identity, social, cultural, racial, and LGBTQ+.”
A position strongly castigated by several conservative Catholic media. The Italian newspaper Nuova Bussola Daily considered in particular, in an article of December 2, that “we really are in a strange world if an animated film which aims to indoctrinate children, by presenting homosexual relations as normal and good, is shown in parish cinemas and recommended by an official Catholic body, whose duty would be to propose a moral evaluation in conformity with the Magisterium of the Church”.
Africa more critical
The “anti-Disney” movement has taken a more intense turn in Africa, where homosexuality remains a strong taboo. Members of CitizensGo Africa, the African branch of the conservative Catholic activist organization CitizenGo – founded in Spain in 2013 – have launched a petition against the injection of LGBTQ+ ideas into children’s content, the American site reports on December 5. Crux. The approach is addressed to Robert Iger, the new CEO of the company, appointed last November. They urge him to “bring (the company) back to family values, instead of being the ruinous LGBTQ+ indoctrination factory it is now.” They castigate the role of former boss Bob Chapek, seen as “one of the main crusaders for Disney’s turn towards wokism”.
“In recent years, society (Disney) has alienated the interests of families, and has completely ignored the voices of parents, turning completely to the side of the LGBT lobby,” adds the organization.
Some observers have indeed established a link between Disney’s current financial difficulties and its approach to inclusiveness. Shares of the company have fallen 40% since 2021, when Bob Chapek took over the reins. The latest productions from the Californian studio, including Avalonia and Buzz Lightning, also recorded results below expectations. Note that the drop in performance affects the entire film industry, mainly because of the effects of the Covid pandemic and competition from streaming platforms. (cath.ch/crux/ag/arch/rz)
© Catholic Media Center Cath-Info, 08.12.2022
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Catholic groups criticize Disney’s ‘pro-LGBT’ turn – Swiss Catholic Portal
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