By Mylo Fisherman
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek was called out on his inaction, but more specifically his financial support, of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill during the annual shareholders meeting. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill states that “sexual orientation and gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade three or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Chapek stated that he had plans to meet with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to discuss Disney’s opposition to the bill but didn’t give details on how he will pull funding away from homophobic politicians. He also pledged to donate five million dollars to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). However, HRC rejected the donation.
While Disney capitalizes on LGBTQIA+ people during pride, they do not put action behind the community they profit from.
Joni Madison, interim President of the HRC, stated, “The Human Rights Campaign will not accept this money from Disney until we see them build on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals, like Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill, don’t become dangerous laws.”
In an attempt to address the situation, Chapek sent an email to Disney employees titled “Our Unwavering Commitment to the LGBTQ+ Community.” He was met with counter statements in the form of a letter from the “LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar and their allies.”
The first claim that Chapek made in his email is that Disney has a long history of supporting the LGBTQIA+ Community. The Pixar letter states, “Disney Parks did not officially host Pride until 2019, in Paris alone.” They added, “Disney began capitalizing on Pride in 2018 with The Rainbow Mickey Collection (while de-emphasizing the terms like LGBTQ+ and not even featuring explicitly LGBTQIA+ pieces such as Pride flag pins until 2021).”
This shows how Disney executives feel fine profiting from the LGBTQIA+ community, but when it comes to actual support they take a step back.
The second claim Chapek made is that “corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds; instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame,” Chapek added. “Simply put, they can be [counterproductive,] undermining more effective ways to achieve change.”
In the Pixar letter, they have stated multiple instances that prove the contrary. One of which occurred in 2016, when Disney addressed the controversial Religious Liberty Bell by telling Georgia: “We will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.”
Walt Disney Statue.
This statement had a direct effect on the legislative outcome in Georgia, further emphasizing that Disney does have the power to spark change by making a corporate statement.
The final claim Chapek made is that representation is the solution, stating that the “biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce.”
According to the Pixar letter, this claim is far from the real experience Pixar employees had when attempting to create gay affection and get it approved by Disney executives.
“We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were,” the letter continues. “Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar. Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it. Beyond the “inspiring content” that we aren’t even allowed to create, we require action.”
The Disney family spoke out and took action against Chapek’s handling of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Roy P. Disney is the grand-nephew of Walt Disney. At the HRC annual gala in March, he and his wife took the stage to announce that their family will be matching donations up to $500,000. He stated, “My wife, Sheri, and I have been members of HRC for over 20 years.”
He added, “Equality matters deeply to us, especially because our child, Charlee, is transgender and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The Delphian spoke with a few Adelphi students to get their take on the story.
According to Brian Egan, a sophomore English major, “Companies and corporations are not obligated to comment on recent legislation. Nor should they. I don’t care about companies’ politics. I care whether or not I want to buy their product. Corporate statements and tweets are oftentimes empty and meaningless.”
Kennie Cervantes, a sophomore computer science major, shared a differing opinion. “I feel as though Chapek’s response to this bill was completely performative.”
Cervantes echoed the voices of Pixar employees when he added that Chapek donating five million to the HRC was “an attempt to cover up his inactivity.”
A company as big as Disney should put action behind its words. Throwing money at an issue isn’t going to solve the problem as they said. If they really care about creating diverse stories, they should allow creators to create them instead of just saying that it is important.