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Let’s Be Honest: Disney Has Been Sexualizing Characters for a Long Time

Ever since Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon told Attitude magazine that the highly-anticipated Disney remake would feature an “exclusively gay moment,” Christian pundits and parents have been up in arms. Pastor Franklin Graham called for Christians to “watch out!” and “say no to Disney.” LifeSiteNews is sponsoring a petition to tell Disney “that children’s entertainment is no place to promote a harmful sexual political agenda.” This Red State columnist wonders why Disney can’t just keep its “hands off” children’s entertainment. Many people are rallying their Twitter followers to #BoycottDisney.

The list goes on.

For Christians who believe the homosexual lifestyle is something to be delivered from and not celebrated, it is disappointing to see the push for homosexual acceptance reaching into the realm of children’s entertainment. But let’s be honest with ourselves. Disney has long been in the business of sexualizing its movies and characters. They just now expanded their sexualization to include a gay character.


Disney and the Sexualized Princess

Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane.

For years, Disney’s female characters (and especially Disney princesses) were hyper-sexualized (tiny waists, big busts, heavy make-up), from their animation to their look-alike toy products. Disney’s original princess movies also centered nearly exclusively around romance and marriage, even though all of the princesses are only in their teens. Perhaps parents should think about the message it sends their little girls that when they are 16, a man they don’t know will save them with a kiss on the lips (Sleeping Beauty), or that it’s okay to run off with a prince on a magic carpet when they are only 15 (Aladdin), or that they should be the “fairest of them all” when they are only 14 (Snow White). (Speaking of Beauty and the Beast, Belle is only 17.)

To be clear, I don’t think Disney princesses are inherently evil, but I do think that parents should be wary of the message their daughters are receiving when they constantly watch portrayals of teen girls who are hyper-sexualized and focused on Prince Charming.

That’s not to say that many parents haven’t been wary. Many have been complaining about these traditional Disney princess traits for years, with feminists and liberals often leading the way.

A New Kind of Princess

Disney eventually got the message, creating some new Disney princesses that weren’t focused solely on romance, like Merida in Brave and Elsa in Frozen. These movies were a huge breath of fresh air for girls like me, who preferred dressing up as Frodo and conquering Mount Doom to dressing up as Cinderella and going to the ball.

When I saw Brave in 2012 and Frozen in 2013, I can’t tell you how much I wished I’d had those movies — focused on adventure and familial love instead of romance — as a little girl.

Merida would have been my hero with her horse, her weapons and her independent spirit. Even though Frozen contains a romantic subplot, it’s much more realistic; Anna’s infatuation with a prince she just met proves to be unwise and misguided, unlike other Disney movies where young couples jump directly from meeting into happily ever after. In the end Anna falls for a faithful male friend in a sweet, not-in-your-face sort of way.

Bringing Back Romance — With a Twist

LGBTQ pride is currently at the forefront of secular culture. Disney is a secular company. So of course they’re starting to featuring gay characters. This really shouldn’t surprise us.

What should be more concerning is that Disney is willing (or so it seems, from recent events) to swing the spotlight back on romance just so they can celebrate homosexuality on screen. For instance, many liberals have asked Disney to #GiveElsaAGirlfriend in the upcoming sequel, since some thought Elsa’s story in Frozen represented coming out of the closet (I didn’t see it this way, but whatever).

Aside from the fact that putting little girls’ favorite princess in a lesbian relationship would be troubling to Christian parents, what bothers me about #GiveElsaAGirlfriend is that people want to insert main-plot romance into a movie franchise that was perfectly fine without it! Why not make Frozen 2 about Elsa’s adventures as the independent ruler of her kingdom, or another story on the virtues of sibling love and working together? Why make her fall in love at all?

As for Beauty and the Beast, it’s already a romance, and a rather complicated one. There is no need to add another layer, except to have, as the director said, a Disney movie’s first “exclusively gay moment.”

A Better Boycott

Boycotting or petitioning Disney over the presence of gay characters will be largely ineffective. The only way to really change culture is by fulfilling the Great Commission and introducing sinners to Jesus, which must be a neighbor-out, not corporation-down initiative. Franklin Graham suggested that Walt Disney “would be shocked at what has happened to the company that he started.” But Disney has hardly been a paragon of Christian morality in the past, from their hyper-sexualized teenage cartoons to the child actors they’ve graduated into rehab. Collective actions can sometimes make a difference (as it may have with Target) but in general we can’t use boycotts to browbeat secular entities into following our Christian code of conduct when they lack the very foundation for that conduct.

So like it or not, it’s probably best to get used to more gay Disney characters in the near future. I suspect that some (if not much) of the homosexuality portrayed in upcoming Disney films may go over little children’s heads anyway, just like the numerous sexual innuendos placed in Disney films throughout the years (some have supposedly been debunked).

That said, I think there is a better boycott or petition that Christian and non-Christian parents alike can join in when it comes to Disney films. Why not ask Disney to focus less on romance and more on innocent adventures that kids will enjoy? Love, romance and sexuality are delicate subjects that parents themselves should be responsible for broaching with their kids at the right time.

Entertainment shouldn’t be feeding young kids the message that love, sex and romance are what defines them, whether that message comes from a hyper-sexualized 16-year-old princess or a gay man exploring his attractions. (For more from the author of “Let’s Be Honest: Disney Has Been Sexualizing Characters for a Long Time” please click HERE)

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