The news that Jack Whitehall will be playing an openly gay character in Disney’s Jungle Cruise has caused controversy, which might be confusing for some.
“Surely it’s a good thing that Disney is showing a commitment to diversity by creating this role?” They might say.
They’d be wrong.
Partly because Jack Whitehall’s a straight stand-up comedian with a reputation for using over-the-top camp to get chuckles, but also because Hollywood doesn’t have a great track record with this sort of thing.
Every year, GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) releases a report naming the films it has found most offensive. What follows are examples from some of the most popular movies of the past few years, all of which prove Hollywood still has a long way to go when it comes to LGBTQ inclusivity.
Deadpool could have been a forward-thinking superhero movie – especially as it’s comic-book canon that the lead character is pansexual. But GLAAD found fault with the film’s depiction of pegging – in the scene where Reynolds’ Wade Wilson is “pegged” (penetrated with a strap-on by his scene partner Morena Baccarin).
According to GLAAD, “the scene was played as a joke and as a painful moment that Wade himself was not actually wanting to engage in other than as a favour to his lover.”
Suicide Squad (2016)
GLAAD was also disappointed in the unfaithful portrayal of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. “If they follow the source comics, audiences can look forward to seeing some of the romantic relationship between Quinn and Ivy. This would be a huge moment for superhero films, which continue to leave out meaningful LGBTQ characters,” the study said.
“While Harley Quinn is bisexual in the pages of many DC Comics and continually veers between her love for fellow anti-hero Poison Ivy and returning to her abusive relationship with The Joker.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
At least Star Wars didn’t get its gay characters wrong… mainly because it didn’t have any. It’s a big universe, but we haven’t met any openly gay people in it – yet.
“As sci-fi projects have the special opportunity to create unique worlds whose advanced societies can serve as a commentary on our own, the most obvious place where Disney could include LGBT characters is in the upcoming eighth Star Wars film,” GLAAD said.
“2015’s The Force Awakens has introduced a new and diverse central trio, which allows the creators opportunity to tell fresh stories as they develop their backstory. Recent official novels in the franchise featured lesbian and gay characters that could also be easily written in to the story.”
Let’s hope IX has some representation.
There are hints that a same-sex couple lives next door to crime-fighting bunny Judy Hopps, but it’s all a bit in the background.
“While confirmed inclusion is a step forward for children’s films, we would like to see these characters be more forthrightly defined within the film itself going forward,” GLAAD said.
Central Intelligence (2016)
But Zootopia got off lightly compared to the hit buddy comedy Central Intelligence, starring Kevin Hart and The Rock, which GLAAD said was “a near two-hour gay panic joke that relies on the long-running homophobic ‘sissy’ stereotype for most of the film’s intended punchlines.”
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Batman, Superman, but no gay characters, in one of the biggest blockbusters of 2016.
“We continually hope that future superhero films will include substantial queer characters. While more out comic book characters are making the leap from the page to television, mainstream hero films are still cutting them from the big screen,” GLAAD said.
Zoolander 2 (2016)
With Zoolander 2 causing controversy over its portrayal of transexual people before the film was even released (critics took issue with a trailer appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch’s androgynous model named “All”), it should come as no surprise that GLAAD was disappointed in the final film.
“Comedy can be a powerful tool to hold a mirror up to society and challenge expectations, cheap jokes constructed without thought that use an already marginalised community as a punchline only reinforce ignorance and prejudice.”
“Further, positioning an LGBTQ identity as something which is inherently absurd and worthy of mocking does real harm to actual people who experience harassment and violence on a regular basis.”
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