Emma Stone’s ‘Cruella’ features Disney’s “first” gay character—for at least the seventh time.
Disney’s upcoming Cruella, a live-action origin story for the iconic antagonist of 101 Dalmatians, is being praised for featuring Disney’s first gay character.
It’s a familiar milestone for the company, as Disney has pioneered their “first” gay character at least 7 times, give or take; Onward, Beauty and the Beast, Jungle Cruise, The Rise of Skywalker, Zootopia, Toy Story 4, and Avengers: Endgame all feature minor characters who make exceedingly subtle references hinting at same-sex attraction.
Conveniently, these minuscule slivers of LGBTQ representation are so brief, so utterly irrelevant to the plot of these films, that they can be easily edited out for socially conservative audiences, as was the case with the quick lesbian kiss from The Rise Of Skywalker.
Pro-LGBTQ press outlets, starved for representation, will either cheer Disney’s cautious baby steps towards inclusion, or criticize the company’s cynicism.
None of these queer background characters really stick around in collective memory long enough to make an impression, hence, each time Disney pulls the same trick, it is heralded as the “first.”
Arguably, Disney has never made enough commitment to representation to even justify the word; even Cruella’s alleged LGBTQ representation appears to be more of a tease, rather than a commitment.
John McCrea at the 2018 Olivier Awards confirmed that his ‘Cruella’ character is gay.
Actor John McCrea, who plays Cruella’s “fashion-obsessed” friend Artie, stated: “It depends on who you’re asking I suppose—but for me, yes, it’s official: he’s queer. But we don’t see him falling in love; there’s no social aspect to the character. It’s not beating you on the head with a stick.”
It seems odd that, in 2021, Disney is still attempting to have their cake and eat it when it comes to LGBTQ representation, especially when other animated children’s media, such as Steven Universe, Adventure Time, The Owl House and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, feature openly queer characters.
However, even Disney’s tepid attempts at representation have managed to spark fury in the heart of the intolerant, attracting boycotts and aggressive censorship. And Disney, like every other media institution, seeks to avoid controversy that threatens profit.
The question is, when will Disney feel confident enough to truly commit? The LGBT community can’t celebrate Disney’s “firsts” forever, and the half-hearted representation shown thus far is only fueling frustration.
Surely, another culture war is on the horizon, and Disney, the hulking behemoth of the entertainment world, is going to be viewed as an important battleground.
On the plus side, Kevin Feige has promised that The Eternals and Thor 4 will feature LGBTQ representation, so there are at least two more “firsts” to look forward to.
I’m fascinated by all forms of storytelling; movies, television, mythology, fairy tales, and urban legends.