Karey Burke, the President of Disney General Entertainment, has released a short video via Twitter stating that the Disney company will be making a big leap forward for representation of LGBTQ and minorities. In the two-minute video (accompanied by translation for the hearing impaired), Burke says that Disney is committed to at least 50% of characters in their content being LGBTQ or from an underrepresented community. While she does not give an exact timetable or specific plans (which fair enough, it is a very brief video and statement of intent), Burke states that changes to Disney LGBTQ representation should be apparent to audiences by the end of 2022. You can watch the video yourself here:
At the top of the video, Karey Burke takes time to mention that she herself is a parent of two LGBTQ individuals. She goes on to say that it was pointed out to her that Disney does not have significant representation of LGBTQ people as a whole, which she indicated in the video was a surprise to her. Burke goes on to claim that Disney has “many, many, many LGTQIA characters in [their] stories,” which is debatable, but that they have almost no leading characters and almost none whose sexual orientation is not the main focus of the character. This video was part of a company-wide Zoom call, and presumably goes into further detail, but the gist is Burke promising concrete action by Disney towards its LGBTQ representation.
Unsurprisingly, this video comes at a time when Disney is being heavily criticized for its stances on LGBTQ issues. The Disney Company recently experienced a massive walkout of employees in numerous locations due to the company’s lack of response to Florida’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill (HB 1557), also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The recently passed bill banned teachers from presenting lessons including examination of sexual orientation in students from Kindergarten to Grade Three; critics of the bill allege that it is designed with specifically vague language to effectively silence discussion and education of LGBTQ identity. Disney (which has massive business interests in the state of Florida) came under fire for its refusal to condemn the bill, despite their frequent attempts to claim support LGBTQ people. Disney has since vowed to try to help repeal the bill, after considerable pressure from the public and employees alike.
The fallout from this announcement by Disney on LGBTQ and minority representation will have to be seen in real time. A company as massively powerful as Disney can have an equally large effect on policy-making, as well as the need to avoid alienating its very wide customer base. This is also not the first time that Disney has publicly stated their commitment to LGBTQ rights, with critics saying that there was relatively little change in its actual representation on screen. In fact, Pixar (which is a Disney subsidiary) employees recently claimed that the company actively censors depictions of same-sex relationships on screen. We will update as we find out more information.