Disney’s latest innocuous attempt at LGBTQ+ representation once again sparks misplaced outrage. “Big Hero 6” spinoff “Baymax!” arrived on Disney+ on June 29, and an episode in the animated series depicts the titular character, a healthcare robot whose mission it is to help the people of San Fransokyo, in a convenience store shopping for sanitary products. The scene, which is under a minute, demonstrates the range of people who menstruate, much to the ire of the right.
The scene takes place in the third episode, titled “Sofia.” In it, a character gets her period for the first time and sends Baymax shopping for period products before her talent show starts. While at the store, Baymax seeks advice from several shoppers, among them a transmasculine or genderqueer-presenting character (it’s not explicitly stated) who is also wearing a T-shirt bearing the colors of the trans pride flag. “I always get the ones with wings,” the character says.
The right did not embrace this brief exchange and moment of inclusivity, and many transphobic trolls and right-wing politicians are claiming that Disney is imposing its “woke” agenda on children and indoctrinating them on gender — as opposed to, say, actually reflecting society and the variety of human experiences.
Disney has indeed ramped up its LGBTQ+ representation in recent years. Lena Waithe voiced Pixar’s first openly gay character in the film “Onward” in 2020. The protagonist of “The Owl House” is bisexual, and the Disney Channel series also recently introduced the character Raine Whispers, who is nonbinary. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe series “Loki” on Disney+, the titular character comes out as bisexual. Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki, said it was a “smell step,” but “definitely important to all of us.”
This inclusivity, however, is not always reflected at the corporate level. Following the introduction of the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this year, the Walt Disney Company, which has four theme parks in Florida, was slow to publicly condemn the bill, upsetting many employees. A Disney subsidiary has also been a significant donor to DeSantis’s campaign, according to Bloomberg.
At the “Cheaper by the Dozen” premiere shortly after the bill was passed, Gabrielle Union said she was beyond disappointed in Disney’s lack of a response. “We need to own that if you truly are taking stands against hate and oppression, you should not fund hate and oppression. Period. The damage is done,” she said. “There is no pushback, because no one in positions of power [or] corporations are taking a hard stance. Let’s look who’s donating to what and let’s call people out.”
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the company would be “reassessing” its approach at a shareholders meeting: “We chose not to take a public position on it because we thought we could be more effective working behind-the-scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle.”