Disney Just Cast a Straight White Man As Its First Openly Gay Character

Disney executives have apparently been collectively living under a rock.
August 14, 2018
4 mins read

Another day, another casting controversy. Throughout the past few months specifically, there have been more and more casting controversies as networks and studios try to improve representation in media. They might mean well, but many of their decisions, like when Scarlett Johansson was cast as a transgender man in the new film “Rub & Tug,” which caused so much backlash that she had to drop it, just aren’t going about it the right way.

But sometimes, the line between what is okay and what isn’t okay is unclear, such as in the upcoming Disney movie, “Jungle Cruise.”

Yesterday, the company announced that “Jungle Cruise” will contain Disney’s first openly gay character. This seemed like a huge step for Disney, as it’s one of the most acclaimed studios in the world and has a huge impact on many childhoods. But then they announced the casting. And, well, to say the least, people weren’t pleased.

Disney’s first openly gay character will be played by Jack Whitehall, who, while a talented actor, is a straight, white male. Disney immediately received backlash from the LGBTQ community, who argued that this is a perfect example of inaccurate representation.

The whole point of representation is to express different sexualities and races, so why wouldn’t they do it accurately and choose a gay actor to portray the role?

jungle cruise
Named after the theme park ride, “Jungle Cruise” follows a group of travelers as they journey into the jungle to find a tree with healing powers. (Image via Geek Tyrant)

Whitehall, who will star alongside Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in “Jungle Cruise,” is a British actor known for the show “The Bad Education,” but the problem is not with Whitehall himself, but with the principle behind the issue. As always, there are two sides to the controversy, and both have taken to Twitter to express their views.

One side argues that casting Whitehall, a straight man, as their first openly gay character takes LGBTQ representation a step backward, regardless of how good of an actor he is. As Omar Sharif Jr. said, “Your first significant gay role will be played by a straight white man perpetuating stereotypes?”

In addition to this, gay men are often turned away from being cast as straight men. As James Barr tweeted, “BUT when so many gay actors of mine are turned down for straight roles because there’s a “whiff of gay” it’s frustrating.”

On the flip side to this, people argue that the point of acting is to play something that you’re not. As Mark Wallace tweeted, “Imagine being angry at the discovery that acting involves actors pretending to be people they aren’t.”

While yes, acting is the art of becoming a different person, the real problem in this scenario is  the lack of representation in Hollywood. If there were equal opportunities for actors of all sexualities, and many did not face discrimination because of their own identities, then this wouldn’t be an issue.

Since the casting of “Jungle Cruise” involves the studio’s first openly gay character, it is a momentous occasion, and Disney really should have focused on making this one perfect. Come on Disney, you were supposed to be the good guys.

Rebecca Crosby, American University

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Rebecca Crosby

American University


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