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Disney’s hypersexualisation of children, woke politics, and overindulgence in gender identity of kids: Here’s why the House of Mouse has been caught in its own trap

Streaming platform Disney+ has drawn severe social media outrage for its Marvel content with parents observing that the platform is "no more safe for kids"

Disney is going downhill financially and also in the quality of its content. For one, it has none to very few takers online for its streaming platform Disney+, the same goes for its amusement parks and related experiences section. Disney’s TV business is reeling under intense competition to the extent that CEO Bob Iger has announced that it “may sell some of its networks.” In a recent interview, Iger said, “They (TV channels) may not be core to Disney.”

“After coming back, I realised the company is facing a lot of challenges, some of them self-inflicted,” Iger added. The company is also mulling a partial pullout from its India digital and TV business or taking up partners to salvage the same. In India, local rivals, mainly Reliance, are overpowering the brand which is finding it difficult to maintain the relevance of its content.

The footfall at Orlando Disneyland and Disney Adventure Park in California declined sharply this summer. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has blamed Disney’s “wokeism” for the same. This happened at a time when Disney is embroiled in a lawsuit and the case surrounding this lawsuit reflects everything that is wrong with The Walt Disney Company.

In 2022, Disney criticised the Florida Education Board’s “Parental Rights in Education Act” which was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis. The criticism was against the law restricting teachers from indulging the students in issues pertaining to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. The bill read, “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 then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek is reportedly said to have called Florida Governor DeSantis “to express our disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary, and transgender kids and families.” Disney reportedly vowed that “its goal was to get the law repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.”

A window in the 1977 movie The Rescuers shows a woman exposing her breasts as the two mice pass by. (Source: Cosmopolitan)

This statement by the entertainment giant exposes its overindulgence in policy matters in the United States. The reason it should trouble Disney consumers across the world is the content it seems to promote in the name of gender identity in kids. To think that generations have grown up watching Disney content and still are, raises serious concerns about the impact of such content on children’s psychology and the acceptance it gives to borderline perversion and vulgarity.

The more recent developments reveal why Disney is, and deserves to be a decaying brand. Sexual innuendos, sexualisation of children’s content, stereotyping of women, obscene and vulgar content, and glorifying tyrants are only some of the nature of heaps of content being produced by the brand.

The Indian government recently pulled up Netflix and Disney for obscene and vulgar content running on their platforms. Officials from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on 20th June met with streaming giants Netflix, Disney, and others to convey the message that content on the platforms must adhere to a code of ethics.

This goes for not only streaming platforms but also Disney’s content for kids including movies and series. A recently-released movie titled “Elemental” shows a “non-binary” character with “they/them” pronouns, and lesbians flirting around. Disney too seems to have become breeding grounds for everything that has to do with sexual exploration in the name of gender identity. Such content, when a child should be taught values, healthy humor, arts, and culture, sports, adventures, and creativity, is almost manipulative.

Disney’s re-imagined “Snow White” is due to be released next year but has already been in the soup for being overtly politically correct with its all-gender representation.

Another Disney movie titled “Strange World”, which made losses amounting to about $147 million, features the first openly LGBTQ+ teenaged Disney character, who discusses his crush in the movie. There is nothing wrong with the representation, but a basic question that arises is why use kids’ entertainment as a means to an end? The debate around LGBTQ+ rights is prevalent in both India and the US social life quite prominently. Can we leave the kids out of it and let them discover such matters in their own time?

Yet, brand Disney and the like seem too desperate and this is leading to an imposition on parents and society. Last year, some employees of Disney had reportedly written a letter to their colleagues at Pixar and other partners alleging that the corporate layer of the company censors same-sex affection in their movies. That a bunch of adults want to sexualise any kind and amount of kids’ content is disturbing, to say the least.

A report by the American Psychological Association on “Sexualisation of Girls” states, “Others have noted that Disney’s female characters today (e.g.,The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas) have more cleavage, fewer clothes, and are depicted as “sexier” than those of yesteryear (e.g., Snow White, Cinderella) (Lacroix, 2004). And the currently popular and sexily clad Bratz dolls (discussed in the Products section of this report, pp. 13–15) are the subject of an animated cartoon. This product tie-in could reinforce the appeal of the cartoon Bratz dolls and their potential power to influence girls.”

The report further adds, “Studies do show that, with a few notable exceptions (e.g., Dora the Explorer), cartoons primarily portray girls as domestic, interested in boys, and concerned with their appearance (Thompson & Zerbinos, 1997), suggesting an overemphasis on the self as a romantic object, if not necessarily a sexual one.” Notably, Disney has a long history of stereotyping women characters in its movies and series alike.

Disney’s own stars have alleged that they were sexualized while working with the brand. In an incident she shared on a podcast, Bella Thorne recalled her agent and mother receiving a call from a casting director saying that the director felt that a 10-year-old Thorne was “flirting with him and it made him uncomfortable”. At 14, while working in another Disney production, Thorne said she almost got fired for wearing a two-piece at the beach, which is common beachwear across the West.

Streaming platform Disney+ has drawn severe social media outrage for its Marvel content with parents observing that the platform is “no more safe for kids”. Some parents in the US took to Twitter saying that they are unsubscribing to Disney+ as its content is “no more for children under 18”.

The backlash from parents shows that Disney has long lost its image of a family-friendly enterprise and is rather desperately inclined to be politically correct and irresponsibly inclusive. Not to mention that Marvel characters which once upon a time had a huge kids fanbase are now indulging in explicit sexual acts on Disney+. Last year, the Parents Television and Media Council (PTC) in the US wrote an open letter stating, “It seems wildly ‘off-brand’ for Disney+ to add TV-MA and R-rated programming to this platform, ostensibly to increase subscription revenue. So what comes next, adding live striptease performances in Fantasyland at Disney World?”

In April this year, the body had called on Disney’s board of directors to remove “sexually-themed content targeted at children in Disney entertainment and on Disney-owned platforms”. “A young female character performs a sex act on herself. A teacher and her minor student have an illicit, and illegal, sexual relationship that is romanticized. A female teen finds out her dad is the antichrist. All of these are scenes and/or themes from programs that currently air on Disney-owned platforms. All are targeted towards our youth,” said Melissa Henson, vice president of the Parents Television and Media Council.

Moreover, in 2022, four Disney employees were arrested in the human trafficking, prostitution, and child predators racket. One of the accused, Wilakson Fidele, 24, worked at Disney’s Orlando Park. Whether or not Disney does a background check on its staff, which it should as its services are mainly targeted at children, is another topic of research and discussion altogether. The aforementioned arrests, however, do raise serious concerns.

As if this was not enough, Disney has also reportedly glorified Turkish tyrant and dictator Kemal Ataturk. The founder of Turkey, Ataturk is known to have committed a genocide from 1916 to 1923 of at least 350,000 Pontian Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, and Christians; massacres of Greek cities; and forced exodus of Pontian Greeks. Disney is launching the series Ataturk in a tribute to the dictator on the 100th anniversary of Turkey.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has protested the same and called for Disney+ to cancel the series.

According to a report, half of US families with children subscribe to Disney content. In India, 42% of its viewers are in the 18-24 age group followed by the 25-34 age group (32.5%). Naturally, the scope of impact of Disney’s objectionable content is massive.

Disney with colourful characters, some inspired by nature and some by imagination, has gotten lost in a world of forced “inclusivity” and is slowly stripping off children of their innocence. While the US is grappling with intense and even destructive ideas of gender to the extent of perverted sexualisation of kids and teens, as Indians we must move on from the utopian Disney world and fall back on our basic morale-based entertainment resources.

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Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Journalist with a journey from print to TV to digital news. Multi-tasker. Unstoppable Type 1 Diabetic running on insulin.

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