Spectrum: #BoycottDisney isn’t going away anytime soon

Disney’s sponsoring of “Don’t Say Gay” in Florida may have shot the Mouse in the foot

(Kristen Frier)

If you were a kid growing up anywhere in North America, you probably grew up with Disney.

The House of Mouse has entertained many children over the years, from the early days of Snow White to its 1990s renaissance era to the modern CGI that will become staples of current children’s imaginations. Even adults will feel a hint of nostalgia upon hearing “When You Wish Upon a Star” and be reduced to tears by the death of Mufasa. And if you’re a young adult, you probably still get a good chuckle from hearing London Tipton refer to the gear shift as “the PRNDL.”

But for many in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, Disney’s magic has started to fade in recent weeks, perhaps beyond repair. 

On Feb. 25, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Disney had donated to every single sponsor of Florida’s dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill does exactly what it sounds like: forbidding instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten to third grade. 

The bill had already inspired mass protests and student walkouts across the state by the time the Sentinel story broke. But when Disney was revealed to have donated over $300,000 to the bill’s sponsors — most notably Dennis Baxley, who famously compared children of same-sex couples to children of alcoholics and abusers — the hashtag #BoycottDisney trended within a couple of days. 

The response from Disney CEO Bob Chapek has been tepid at best. Last week, Chapek said in a memo to staff that they would not be releasing a corporate statement, as they felt the “inspiring content” Disney produced would be more suited to affecting change. This did not go down well with the company’s 2SLGBTQ+ employees, including many from Pixar who accused Disney of cutting “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection” from their films.

After that went down in flames, Chapek attempted another apology in a shareholder meeting early in March, pledging to donate $5 million to the Human Rights Campaign and other 2SLGBTQ+ organizations. 

Of course, the campaign’s interim president Joni Madison gave this attempted peace offering the ultimate middle finger by declining the donation and refusing to accept further donations “until we see them build on their public commitment” and the assurance that they would not support those who try to pass similar bills.

Finally, in the saga’s most recent development, Chapek attempted a third apology and announced that the company would be pausing all further political donations in Florida and reviewing its position on future advocacy. 

Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. The House of Representatives in Florida passed the bill, and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has stood by his support of the bill, is expected to sign it into law. Disney’s reputation has taken some critical damage with calls for a boycott having not died down the entire week. 

I will be among those going nowhere near Disney or their affiliates anytime soon. It’s sad since the companies under the Disney umbrella have employed some truly gifted storytellers over the years, and I was greatly looking forward to enjoying some of their work. Instead, I will be actively avoiding anything remotely associated with the Mouse.

For myself, and many 2SLGBTQ+ people, Disney has effectively killed a part of our childhoods and the magic that came with it.