Tuesday, March 5, 2024
Opinion

Let’s rank the ‘openly gay’ Disney characters

Disney seemingly has a lot of gay characters. But if someone asked me what I thought of Disney’s first openly gay character, I’d only have one thing to say: which one? ZING!

Disney is very fond of giving themselves a pat on the back for including the LGBTQ+ community in scenes of its major blockbusters. It’s become something of a meme in online spaces, particularly among queer TV/Film fans, who much like myself are unable to resist poking the billionaire company and it’s abysmal care when it comes to telling queer stories.

There’s an argument to be made that in reality queer fans shouldn’t care about Disney’s shit LGBTQ+ representation, and truly I understand it. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that no matter how much you point and shove people towards smaller ‘indie’ LGBTQ+ creators, it won’t stop them from wanting better from the billionaire company they are ride-or-die for. It sucks, but that’s just how it is.

To further bully Disney in the hope of actually producing another movie that actually has great queer representation (hello Strange World), I’ve compiled a list to rate Disney’s various ‘openly gay characters’ from a scale of ‘okay’ to ‘god-awful-holy-hell-what-were-they-thinking’. Not every single instance is there (nor is this list strictly in order of release) because, to be frank, some are so insulting that there’s only so many times I can say ‘oh get lost’.

Lefou Disney gay
Image Source: Disney+
Lefou (Beauty and The Beast, 2017)

Frankly it’s hard to imagine what was running through Josh Gad’s head when he thought ‘you know what I’d like to do, make Gaston’s evil henchman a gay man who does everything for him because he loves him’ and leave it at that. On paper it sounds somewhat interesting, but this story isn’t about Lefou and his unrequited love for Gaston, is it? This story is about Belle embracing that she’s a furry and only being marginally disappointed when The Beast turns back to being human. A tale as old as time, that.

Gad has said that he does have regrets about the role and that they didn’t do ‘enough’ with it. That’s putting it mildly, but hey, at least Lefou ended up dancing with a hot man at the end and nobody threw rocks at him. We’ll count that as a marginal-but-not-really win.

Rank: Technically Josh Gad’s fault, but I’m still going to point and laugh at Disney anyway because whew, this blows.


Gay Grieving Man Disney
Image Source: Marvel
Gay Grieving Man (Who Might Be Called Bob) (Avengers: Endgame, 2019)

When I was making this list I asked a handful of friends which is the funniest ‘first exclusively gay character’ that Disney has ever done and they all gave very good answers. None topped Gay Grieving Man, though. Mostly because there were several discussions on whether this man even had a name or not, and after some research I discovered that it might just be Bob? Which is, okay? Fine, I guess?

What makes Gay Grieving Man a classic is that not only is he played by the movie’s director Joe Russo, but that this moment just feels like it was included solely for Disney to give a big thumbs up to your TV screen. “See!” This scene screams. “We’re all for equality! Did you know that gay people have loved ones too? That they also died when Thanos snapped his fingers? I bet you didn’t know that, did you? What other piece of media is giving you this, huh? God, we’re really changing the world out here.”

The fact that this man doesn’t even have a name (unless it’s Bob, but I digress), but his husband was still killed off screen really just says it all doesn’t it?

Rank: Disney accomplished ‘Bury Your Gays‘ in record time. Let’s clap?


Rise of Skywalker lesbian kiss
Image Source: Disney+
Larma D’Acy and Wrobie Tyce (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, 2019)

There are plenty of reasons to despise Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker without even touching on the downright cowardly teasing director J.J Abrams did about the film having a same-sex kiss in there. Hopeful fans that were banking on Poe and Finn being the lucky couple were left lost, confused and pretty angry to instead find out that the ‘historic’ kiss was actually between two minor characters.

Now, no shade at Ms Larma and Wrobie, they are a very cute couple in the 2 seconds that we saw them together, but are we actually going to lie to ourselves and say that this kiss changed Star Wars history? Be for real. It was the very first same-sex kiss for live-action Star Wars, I’ll give them that, but their impact after it? It’s been nearly 4 years and what do we have to show for it? Nothing.

(This isn’t a dig at you Cinta and Vel, you two are perfect and I love you.)

Rank: This kiss kicked off the Live Slug Reaction meme, so it could be a whole lot worse.


Zootopia gay
Image Source: Disney+
Bucky Oryx-Antlerson and Pronk Oryx-Antlerson (Zootopia, 2016)

If someone had told me that two antelopes from Zootropolis would be Disney’s first ever gay couple shown on screen, I’d have probably believed you but with the doubt of someone who sincerely doesn’t want to think you’re telling the truth.

So I can’t even say anything at finding out that isn’t a lie at all. These two, stupid, idiotic antelopes are apparently the ‘first ever’ gay couple to appear in a Disney film. The worst thing about them, though? They at least have names. And this came out in 2016! 3 years before Avengers: Endgame!

You know something, I watched this movie after finding this out and these antelopes aren’t even in a good marriage. They scream at one another all the time. You couldn’t even make these gay antelopes happy, Disney?

Rank: What the ever-loving f*ck am I supposed to do with this, really?


Onward gay cop
Image Source: Disney Studios
Officer Specter (Onward, 2020)

Sometimes I don’t want to be represented. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so, because there is no way anyone looked at Officer Specter in Disney’s Onward and was like ‘yes, now this is a gay character the LGBTQ+ community will love.’ A cop? A lesbian cop? On one hand, there are certainly lesbian cops in the force and uh, I’m glad they may have found something in this chararacter. On the other hand…ACAB.

The one good thing Disney did do with this role is get Lena Waithe, an actual lesbian woman, to voice Officer Specter. And hey, at least this character seems to be in a loving relationship with her wife (who we never meet, by the way), already putting it miles ahead of Zootropolis.

Rank: Somehow this feels like a hate crime.


McGregor Houghton gay
Image Source: Disney+
McGregor Houghton (Jungle Cruise, 2021)

Yet another nothing character that Disney went out of their way to hype up about being a ‘major gay character’ before release. Disney has done this so many times that I’m starting to struggle on how many witty ways I can call them idiots over it.

As for the movie itself, Jungle Cruise is a fun and campy ride, but it is a bare-faced lie on Disney’s part to say that this character has a coming out scene. A quick aside about how his ‘interests’ have left him being disowned by everyone but his sister, and that’s it. Incredibly bad and embarrassing.

Rank: This is bad and everyone who had something to do with it should feel bad.


Image Source: Disney+
Phastos (Marvel’s Eternals, 2021)

Perhaps the first time I’ve felt a little conflicted in including a character. On one hand Phastos is actually a very interesting character who’s queerness isn’t treated like some terrible secret; he has a loving husband and a 13-year-old son who he clearly adores. Hell, Phastos even shares a kiss with his husband. A kiss that unfortunately got censored in a few countries, but one that happened all the same.

On the other, how do I feel that Marvel’s first gay superhero was also the one who created the atomic bomb? I mean, it feels a bit… icky, not going to lie. There is no representation in the world that’ll be perfect, and war crimes do not negate a character’s queerness, but still. I feel iffy about it!

Rank: What if we made our gay character a war criminal? Nobody’s done that before.


Lightyear gay
Image Source: Disney/Pixar
Alisha Hawthorne (Lightyear, 2022)

I refuse to give praise to Disney for this character, but do raise my hat to the incredible Pixar employees who raised complaints and threatened to walk-out after being told to get rid of a same-sex kiss for character Alisha Hawthorne.

Outside of her rocky beginnings, Hawthorne is not only an important character, but her legacy (which includes her wife, Kiki) is the heart of what pushes Buzz to be the hero he was always meant to be. She also does share a kiss with her wife, which effectively got the movie banned in countries like Egypt and Iraq.

Still, I have to hand this to the Pixar folks. Hawthorne is a great character and one that I can’t find complaint in. As for the heads of Disney… Grow a spine, eh?

Rank: Hawthorne deserves her own spin-off animated series and it is homophobic that it’ll never happen.


ethan clade gay
Image Source: Disney Studios
Ethan Clade (Strange World, 2022)

Probably one of the best gay characters that Disney has ever done (for its films, anyhow), which makes it very frustrating that Strange World completely bombed at the box office. It probably would have helped if Disney had promoted it more, but if they did that then it might have done well and then they couldn’t point at Strange World and say ‘but look, it lost us money!’

Alright, I’m taking off my foil hat, but I’m absolutely correct all the same.

Strange World may not be groundbreaking, but there’s something nice to see a love story between a gay teenager and his crush that doesn’t make it weird because it’s gay. If Disney continues to create characters like Ethan Clade, I may actually start not being mean about them all the time. Only most of the time, instead.

Rank: Ethan Clade, my beloved gay son.


vel cinta gay
Image Source: Andor/Disney+
Cinta and Vel (Andor, 2022)

Do you like trauma in your lesbian relationships? If so, then you’ll absolutely love Cinta and Vel, Andor’s best couple and one that miraculously survived a season of a Star Wars show, despite not being heterosexual. Hurray!

I will admit to being very biased for this one. While Cinta and Vel do not share a smooch – and while they definitely should have – there’s no denying that their relationship plays a significant role in both of their character arcs. The longing, the distance, the hand-holding… The Rise of Skywalker representation can do one, these two are where it’s at.

Rank: I will forgive One (1) Disney Crime if they do not die in Season 2 and, in fact, kiss.

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart is Editor-in-Chief of Gayming Magazine. She specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.