Disney thinks it’s off the hook on ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill because it tells ‘diverse stories’
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has faced stiff criticism from staff for refusing to condemn Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
In an internal memo, Chapek expressed his “unwavering commitment to the LGBTQ+ community” but refused to publicly oppose the bill, which would block discussion of LGBT+ identities in school.
Following weeks of criticism from Disney staff, writers and fans, Chapek argued that “diverse stories” are more impactful than a company statement against the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, SB 1834, also known as the Parental Rights in Education bill.
“As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds,” he wrote in the memo, published in full by the Los Angeles Times
“Instead, they are often weaponised by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. imply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.”
He went as far as to list these “diverse stories” – most of which feature no canonically LGBT+ characters.
“Encanto, Black Panther, Pose, Reservation Dogs, Coco, Soul, Modern Family, Shang-Chi, Summer of Soul, Love, Victor. These and all of our diverse stories are our corporate statements — and they are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort,” the Disney CEO wrote.
“I firmly believe that our ability to tell such stories — and have them received with open eyes, ears, and hearts — would be diminished if our company were to become a political football in any debate.”
Disney ‘both sides’ Don’t Say Gay politician donation criticism
Chapek said he had met with LGBT+ leaders within Disney who expressed their “disappointment” at the company’s silence.
As much as he found such concerns “meaningful, illuminating, and at times deeply moving,” Chapek did not commit to taking direct action against the bill.
Addressing the company’s controversial donations to every single Republican state legislator who has backed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Chapek once again stressed the importance of “both sides”.
“While we have not given money to any politician based on this issue, we have contributed to both Republican and Democrat legislators who have subsequently taken positions on both sides of the legislation,” he said.
He added that Geoff Morrell, the company’s chief corporate affairs officer, “will be reassessing our advocacy strategies around the world — including political giving — as he begins to integrate the communications, public policy, government relations and CSR teams”.
Chapek’s words echoed a previous Disney statement that stressed the importance of the “inspiring content” that Disney sells rather than publicly opposing cruel, dehumanising legislation.
Disney staff slam Bob Chapek for not taking a stand against ‘hateful’ bill
Employees were less than impressed by Chapek’s statement. Many expressed disappointment and frustration.
“I LOVED being a part of a Disney Channel show known for featuring gay characters AND storylines,” tweeted Andi Mack star Lilan Bowden.
“The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill will be DETRIMENTAL to LGBTQIA+ kids,” she said, adding: “Hoping the company or more ppl in the company take action against this hateful bill. #DisneySayGay.”
Brock Powell, a Mickey Mouse Funhouse voice actor, tweeted: “Never been quiet about my love of Disney over the years but being loud about my own identity as a queer human took YEARS.
“Breaks me in pieces that a company that literally pays me to speak is paying to keep me silent by funding puritanical Anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians. #DisneySayGay.”
Animation writer Benjamin Siemon in a video posted on Twitter: “[Disney is] starting to include more LGBT characters that let kids know that being gay is all right.
“But when they have donated to the sponsors and co-sponsors of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and they have made no position against this bill, and they are going to continue donating to these politicians, they are essentially saying that this bill is OK.”
— Benjamin Siemon (@BenjaminJS) March 6, 2022
“Disney was recently found out to be donating large sums of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars, to the sponsors and co-sponsors of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, a bill that effectively tells LGBT+ kids: ‘You don’t exist. You don’t deserve to exist. You shouldn’t even be talked about.'”
I'm fucking tired of making Disney look good so WHO'S READY FOR ANOTHER ✨CHARITY LIVESTREAM✨ MARCH 13th!!!
— Dana Terrace (@DanaTerrace) March 7, 2022