Disney cast a straight man to play their first openly gay character, and people are rightfully upset
Production on the highly anticipated Disney film Jungle Cruise has only just begun, but it’s already sparked a bit of controversy. The Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt-led film, which is based on the legendary Disney Parks attraction, won’t hit theaters until October 2019. But one of the casting choices has already led to some backlash.
British comedian Jack Whitehall, who was cast in the film back in March, has been the subject of controversy over his character. U.K. newspaper The Sun reports that Whitehall will be playing the gay brother of Blunt’s character, describing the role as “very camp” and “hugely effete.”
Whitehall’s character will be the first major—sorry, LeFou—LGBTQ character to ever appear in a Disney movie. While fans are thrilled that Disney is finally including a major LGBTQ character in one of its films, many worry that he will be reduced to a stereotype. Additionally, Twitter users are expressing frustration that the character will be played by a straight man when there are so many gay actors who could easily play the part.
Comedian James Barr tweeted about his mixed emotions about the casting: “When so many gay actor friends of mine are turned down for straight roles because there’s a ‘whiff of gay’, it’s frustrating to cast NonGay people in gay roles,” Barr wrote. “It’s not that it’s a problem to cast a fantastic straight ally to play a gay role, it’s that there are so many gay actors that are under represented in all sorts of roles across the board…and so I think that this is, fantastic, but also a bit sad.”
Others weighed in as well with similar thoughts.
The Jungle Cruise representation controversy comes on the heels of outrage surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s casting as a trans man in Rub and Tug.
Rub and Tug is about Dante “Tex” Gill, a real transgender kingpin who operated during the ’70s and ’80s. The Avengers actress later dropped out of the project after being the subject of intense (and deserved) scrutiny.
We wholly understand the frustration and concern about Whitehall’s Jungle Cruise character. Whitehall and Disney haven’t commented on the backlash yet, but we hope they address it soon.