- In recent years, many Disney movies and shows have featured characters who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.
- There have been plenty of LGBTQ+ characters and plotlines featured throughout Pixar and Marvel as well.
- June is Pride Month, celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.
Pride month is here! While the history of LGBTQ+ characters in movies, especially Disney films, has occasionally created controversy, we’re living in a time where there’s more representation than ever! While many characters in Disney’s past have been coded as gay, many more recent movies and TV shows have had characters that are openly members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Inspired by the 2018 film Love, Simon, the series Love, Victor explores teenage years and grappling with sexual orientation in a heartfelt teen drama. The show follows Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) a teen at a new school, who is struggling to come out as gay and navigate being a teenager. After the first season, it focuses on issues that Victor faces with his family and at school after coming out. Originally released on Hulu, the show was simultaneously released on Disney+ for its third season.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is sure to provide nostalgia for tons of fans who grew up on the original DCOM trilogy and welcome younger, new fans into the fold. It also introduced gay characters into the beloved franchise with Carlos (played by Frankie Rodriguez), Seb (Joe Serafini), and Maddox (Saylor Bella Curda), as well as bisexual characters Ashlyn (Julia Lester) and Big Red (Larry Saperstein).
Frankie opened up about how he was happy that the series focuses on gay characters without harping on tropes in a 2019 interview with Gay Times. “And what I love is that it’s not the focus of the character, you know? I think by allowing the character to be openly gay, it actually kinda adds more layers to be like, ‘Okay, he’s openly gay, but what are his dreams? What are his goals? What is he gonna do to get there?’ It became more about his aspirations for life rather than his sexuality,” he said.
Tom Hiddleston has long been one of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since making his debut as Loki in 2011’s Thor. Whether he’s featured in The Avengers, Thor: Ragnarok, or even his brief appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, Loki regularly steals the show. He got his moment to shine though in 2021 with Loki. While the MCU has had its share of LGBTQ+ characters over the years, Loki is the first bisexual lead. He confirmed in one line on the show.
Loki director Kate Herron later took to Twitter to also confirm that he was bisexual. “Tt was very important to me, and my goal, to acknowledge Loki was bisexual,” she wrote, according to USA Today.
Pixar’s Onward from 2020 is one of Disney’s most heart-warming movies of recent memory. The movie tells the story of two brother elfs (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) who are trying to find some magic to reunite with their father who has passed away. The pair run into a variety of different forms of trouble as they make their way on the journey, including running into a Lena Waithe-voiced character named Specter, who is a cyclops who happens to be a lesbian. The character’s sexuality is only mentioned in passing, but it is an exciting moment for Disney. Lena is also a lesbian, and Specter has been touted as Disney’s first openly gay character.
Unfortunately, the scene where it’s revealed that Specter is gay has led to some controversy. The movie was banned in some Middle Eastern markets because of the character. Some of the countries where the film wasn’t allowed to be screened, included Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar, per Deadline.
The Proud Family: Louder & Prouder
One of the many Disney Channel shows to get a reboot on Disney+ is The Proud Family: Louder And Prouder. Given the title of the show, it’s also a fitting pick for Pride Month! The revival of the series features the character Michael (voiced by EJ Johnson), who is openly gay and gender non-conforming. The show also features the interracial gay couple Barry and Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins (voiced by Zachary Quinto and Billy Porter, respectively).
When the reboot revealed that it would feature LGBTQ+ characters, GLAAD praised Disney for their inclusion. “Having recurring queer characters, and especially recurring black queer characters, in such a widely loved show is a ramifying achievement for accelerating the acceptance of LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people of color everywhere,” they said in a statement.
With the live-action spinoff about one of Disney’s most famous villains, Cruella also boasts the first gay character in a live-action Disney movie with Artie (John McCrea), per Pride. Inspired by David Bowie and Marc Bolan (both late rockers who were unafraid to challenge gender roles), Artie was one of the members of Cruella’s crew and had a large presence in the film, per Screen Rant.
While the film has received some criticism for stereotyping and not outright saying what Artie’s sexuality is, John has made a point to set the record straight on the character. “I think it’s important to say he is queer because obviously, lots of people were dressed like that at the time that weren’t necessarily queer, but in my head, he always was,” he told Gay Times. “Sometimes there’s a worry about LGBTQ+ characters being there for no reason, or being the butt of the joke. But, he really feels like he fits so perfectly into that world.”
Disney’s 2022 sci-fi animated feature Strange World is one of the first animated films to feature a gay lead protagonist with Ethan Clade (voiced by Jaboukie Young-White). While some of Disney’s other gay characters have been criticized for either queer-coded characters or poor examples of representation, Strange World received much praise for the portrayal of Ethan’s story, per Mashable.
One of Disney’s more recent films to include an LGBTQ+ lead character was the 2022 animated action film Lightyear. The movie came on the heels of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which banned teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. The movie features a kiss between Izzy (voiced by Keke Palmer) and her partner Kiko, which was reportedly cut but put back in as a result of the legislation, per Variety.
Chris Evans, who voiced the titular Buzz Lightyear, celebrated the decision to keep the scene in the movie, in an interview with Variety. “The goal is that we can get to a point where it is the norm, and that this doesn’t have to be some uncharted waters, that eventually this is just the way it is,” he told the outlet. “That representation across the board is how we make films.”