With early screenings revealing that the film contains a notably ‘queer’ character, journalists have begun to praise the character’s existence in Cruella as a prominent ‘first’ for gay representation in Disney films, despite several other movies in the past having been promoted with this same rhetoric.
As discovered by numerous critics, including Rooster Teeth content producer Grace Randolph, Cruella features the first ‘officially out and proud’ Disney character in the John McCrea portrayed Artie, a member of Cruella’s entourage.
“We have the 1st officially out and proud 🏳️🌈 #Disney character in her gang!” announced Randolph on Twitter. “It’s the character played by John McCrea – he has several scenes and plays a very important role, including saving another character!”
The narrative that this McCrea’s character was a prominent ‘first’ for gay representation was soon picked up by other outlets, including Metro Weekly, The Advocate, and Pride.
Yet, the character’s inclusion (and subsequently the praise lavished upon them by the media) stands as nothing more than a hollow marketing attempt by Disney, as this is far from the first time Disney has attempted to promote one of their films as a notable first for ‘gay representation’.
In 2016, Disney attempted to promote Zootopia as featuring their filmography’s first ‘married gay couple’, though this couple was merely a ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ background detail that ultimately served as little more than an easy marketing stunt by the entertainment conglomerate.
The next year, the company made headlines with the announcement that their live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast would feature Josh Gad’s LeFou as the company’s first openly gay character. This detail would likewise only be seen in a brief wink-at-the-camera scene at the film’s conclusion.
Ahead of Avengers: Endgame in 2019, Disney boasted that the blockbuster finale would feature the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first openly gay character. However, this ‘couple’ was ultimately relegated to one single line of dialogue in a nonessential scene which saw Captain America leading a therapy session for those who lost someone to the ‘snap’.
In what can only be assumed to be a last-ditch effort to revive interest in their Star Wars sequel trilogy, Disney claimed that that same year that The Rise of Skywalker would feature the franchise’s first on-screen same sex kiss, which amounted to a brief two-second cutaway scene that, again, had no real impact on the film.
“In the case of the LGBTQ community,” bragged J.J. Abrams to Variety“, “it was important to me that people who go to see this movie feel that they’re being represented in the film.”
Star Wars tried to pull the same gay representation card again that same year with the Star Wars Resistance series of animated shorts, touting the alien lovers Orka and Flix as the franchise’s first openly onscreen gay couple.
Furthermore on the TV front, 2019 also saw Disney lauding how Andi Mack’s Cyrus Goodman, portrayed by Joshua Rush, became their first Disney Channel Original series character to say the words “I’m gay” on screen.
Last year, Onward was promoted on the merits that it would feature the first LGBT character in a Pixar film in the form of Officer Specter. Unsurprisingly, like the aforementioned examples, this detail was also featured as nothing more than a brief mention during the character’s short on-screen appearance.
In June 2020, Pixar’s short “Out” was heralded for featuring the legendary animation studio’s first gay protagonist, as the short’s story followed a man’s attempt to come out to his parents, only to find himself mind swapped with his family dog in the process.
The bragging of Cruella’s ‘win’ for representation is clearly nothing more than the propagation of another Disney marketing talking point, one which rings highly disingenuous in light of the fact that not only is this far from the first time the company has made this claim regarding one of their films, but all the aforementioned examples were cut upon their film’s respective releases in foreign markets such as China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
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