When I was a child I loved princess stories, but the one thing that really bugged me was that most of the princesses had blonde hair, while the villains were brunette. As a dark haired child, I worried that this meant I would grow up to become an evil stepmother. Of course, my mother was quick to point out that plenty of princesses had dark hair too, and as I grew up I got over this minor existential crisis. But the fact remains that fictional characters had the power to make me question my identity, while I should have been living vicariously through them.
That was just a question of hair color. Imagine what it's like to grow up and look for yourself mirrored in fiction, but to find no reflection. Or even worse, to see people like you as the villains of the piece. This is the problem facing many #LGBT children, who discover far too early that they're just not accepted by mainstream society. This is a pretty harsh lesson to learn when you just want to watch a Disney film.
GLAAD, a non-profit organization supporting LGBT representation in media, addressed this in their 2016 Studio Responsibility Index. The study had some pretty serious things to say about #Disney and how the studio's films are severely lacking in LGBT representation.
For the first time since beginning this report, GLAAD did not find any LGBT-inclusive content among Disney’s yearly slate of films. LGBT people are already part of families and communities around the world, and films of all genres should reflect that.
GLAAD used Steven Universe as an example of positive, yet subtle, queer representation in children's programming, proving that it's not impossible to provide support for LGBT kids while appeasing strict censors.
Except, what if Disney's recent films really did include LGBT characters? There's a chance that Disney could surprise us all by revealing that two of their most iconic characters were actually queer all along in the films' respective sequels. I am talking, of course, about Elsa from #Frozen and Poe Dameron from #TheForceAwakens.
Conceal, Don't Feel
Both Frozen and The Force Awakens provoked a hugely positive response from LGBT fans, which shouldn't really have been a surprise. Elsa's story in Frozen parallels many of the challenges faced by anyone who doesn't fulfill societal expectations. The film's show-stopping big number, "Let It Go," soon became an LGBT anthem: Many people identified with Elsa as she casts off the restrictions placed on her to finally become who she really is.
Poe Dameron's status as an LGBT icon stems mostly from his relationship with Finn, as the two quickly became close. Poe's reactions to Finn within The Force Awakens suggested to many people that the Resistance flyboy might be attracted to the daring ex-stormtrooper (and who would blame him, Finn's one hell of a catch). The fires of fan speculation were only fueled by Oscar Isaac alluding to a romance between these two characters when he appeared on The Ellen Show.
"You have to watch it a few times to catch all the little hints. But there was. At least I was playing romance. In the cockpit I was playing... there was a deep romance."
But beyond the romance itself, there's plenty of subtle coding in Poe's characterization that made people suspect he might identify as something other than straight.
This sets up the possibility that Disney could reveal Poe's sexuality (gay, bisexual, or otherwise) in Star Wars Episode VIII, and GLAAD is already calling on Disney to do so.
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.
But is this actually possible beyond speculation?
Test The Limits & Break Through
Although both Frozen and The Force Awakens have been at the center of many debates about LGBT representation in Hollywood, the discussion itself might be the closest we'll ever come to Disney actually realizing this potential.
It's not like Disney completely ignores LGBT people. The studio introduced their first lesbian couple in Good Luck Charlie in 2014, and a few months ago the finale of Gravity Falls confirmed that two male characters were in love. But so far LGBT characters in Disney properties have been confined to their TV shows, which is probably a marketing issue.
By providing LGBT representation in their blockbuster movies, Disney risks those films being banned in many countries around the world, not to mention the ire they would face from lobbyists in the US. It's a tricky issue, and I definitely do not envy the Disney and Lucasfilm execs who have to navigate this thorny debate.
And yet, Disney has the chance here to do something truly groundbreaking: By confirming that Poe and/or Elsa are gay, Disney could take a huge stride for LGBT representation, and possibly even save some lives in the process. Here's hoping, because as the storm of this discussion rages on, there are a lot of young LGBT fans who deserve to see themselves in their favorite movies, whether they want to be a princess, a pilot, or a Jedi.
Do you think Disney should include more LGBT characters?