Disney’s Charm Greatly Tarnished Over Increased Political Activism, Critics Say

The entertainment giant is facing criticism due to its increasingly politicized presence.

Tourists walk through Disney Springs at Walt Disney World on March 22, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.
Tourists walk through Disney Springs at Walt Disney World on March 22, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (photo: Octavio Jones / AFP/Getty)

Disney’s quintessential fairy tales have charmed decades of families — but its increased institutional political activism has soured many.  

While the simplicity of the entertainment company’s renaissance era contributed to its beauty and narrative mastery, capturing the hearts of families with movies like the record-breaking Beauty and the Beast, parents are beginning to reject Disney’s media due to its increasingly politicized presence. 

Disney President Karey Burke recently released a video statement announcing her support for having “many, many, many LGBTQIA characters in our stories,” with the goal of a minimum 50% of characters being of an “LGBT” orientation and racial minority. 

After backlash from political progressives because of what was deemed an insufficient response against Florida’s new Bill 1557 “Parent Rights in Education,” Disney announced the establishment of an “LGBTQ+ task force,” led by Walt Disney Studios’ Senior Vice President of Communications Paul Roeder and Disney Parks’ Experiences and Products Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Lisa Becket. The task force will “enlist the help of experts to develop a concrete plan to ensure Disney is ‘a force for good’ for LGBTQ+ communities, especially children and family.” 

Bill 1557, which has been inaccurately disparaged by progressive critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is intended “to reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”  

“Look, I love @Disney. The wokeness is just too much. My wife and I are out. Most of our friends are out too. We don’t want our kids exposed to any of what’s going on before they’re even teens,” wrote a concerned parent. “#DisneyDoBetter you’re better than all of this. Stay G Rated. Stop with the woke.” 

 

Polarizing Content 

The communication of ideas through media targeted specifically toward children, softening its delivery through hilarity and animation, has become a growing concern for parents, as well as blatant partisanship and activism by corporations whose main audience is children.  

Sue Domen, a Catholic mother to three daughters, isn’t looking forward to telling her youngest that she plans to cancel their family’s subscription to the company’s premium video-streaming service, Disney+. 

“It saddens my heart because so many memories of all three girls were of singing Disney songs, and we all loved seeing those classic tales and going to the parks,” Domen told the Register. “But actively promoting confusion is absolutely unacceptable. Confusing one about their own identity, I think, is such a diabolic and damaging ideology.”  

Disney is projecting particular ideologies onto viewers through a history of trust, Domen said. From a faithful Catholic perspective, she finds it to be nefarious and damaging to young people and their development. 

“As a corporation that has built its home empire upon the magic and innocence of childhood, it’s all the more grievous,” Domen added. “So many families do not want this content from Disney.” 

 

Disney Takes a Political Side 

Disney’s recent attacks against Florida’s new legislation were prompted by criticism of its earlier decision not to engage with the heated national debate the bill has engendered. 

The major highlights of the parental-rights-in-education bill include requiring procedures that notify students’ parents of changes in services provided to the students or their mental, emotional, physical health or well-being, as well as the school’s “ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student.” 

“Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” the bill states. 

The bill does not prohibit any form of casual discussion within the classroom.  

Disney CEO Bob Chapek, when addressing the negative response the company originally received after not specifically addressing Bill 1557, initially tried to sidestep the issue. 

“As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds, he said in a March 7 memo to Disney staff. “Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.” 

But later that month, following intensified criticism from “LGBT” activists, the corporation released a statement explicitly denouncing the bill, stating that it “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.” 

“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that,” the statement said. “We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.” 

 

Employees Push Back 

Opposed to the attitude of executives, in an open letter released a few days before the statement, anonymous Disney employees described how the company’s political stance has caused the alienation of some workers. They called Disney “an increasingly uncomfortable place to work” for those “whose political and religious views are not explicitly progressive.” 

“Our work contributes to a fountain of wonder that inspires joy, awe, and delight in guests and audiences of all ages,” the letter began. “We love our jobs because we get to share the wonder of life and human experience with millions of people worldwide.” 

The employees chronicled how they watch quietly as their employer attacks their beliefs and how those who speak up become villains. Their progressive colleagues aggressively insist the company announce its strong opinions on legislation, as well as demanding employees who disagree face consequences. 

“Our more conservative customers will feel similarly unwanted. You can only preach at or vilify your audience for so long before they decide to spend their money elsewhere,” they continued. “Disney shouldn’t be a vehicle for one demographic’s political activism.” 

Disney employee Jose Castillo, currently a Republican candidate for Florida’s Congress, spoke to Fox News about the existence of a “silent majority” hidden within Disney that supports Bill 1557. 

“There is immense pressure to toe the company line. However, the reality is that those drawing attention to this issue are in the minority,” Castillo said. “The Disney cast members who support the parental rights defended by H.B. 1557 far outnumber those who are protesting against it." 

 

‘Terrible Miscalculation’ 

Castillo described Disney’s disapproving statement as a “terrible miscalculation.”  

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, identified that Disney’s actions have offended people of all faiths. 

“Walt Disney must be flipping over in his grave,” Donohue told the Register. “He founded Disney so that it would be a great entertainment mega-structure for children and families. Now, they’ve taken the line of a minority of well-organized people on the left who have their own political agenda, and they’re succumbing to that.” 

The company should go back to making kids happy, he said, and remain uninvolved in laws on either side of the political aisle. 

“We never thought the day would come when the corporations would turn against us,” Donohue said. “It has long been the case that you see anti-Catholicism in the media, in the artistic community, amongst activist groups and nonprofit organizations.” 

“What is new is that you now have the Fortune 500 signing on, along with the military and the health profession,” Donohue explained. “Corporations would never, ever go against traditional moral values, but now because they’re afraid of being boycotted, maligned or intimidated, they’re succumbing. They know better, but they’re succumbing.” 

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