Disney would have you believe that they are a champion for free speech, human rights, and freedom of expression. That is evident by their political activism and outspoken participation in the culture war. They maintain the moral high ground and consistently champion for the marginalized, oppressed, and what they feel is right. Or do they?
At last week’s annual shareholders’ meeting, CEO Bob Iger made some bold statements aboutfreedom of speech applies to everyone, including businesses. Does he mean that, or is he just virtue signaling? His decision-making concerning international distribution certainly seems to point to the latter.
Disney claims to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, but do allies cover up their support for profit? Shouldn’t an ally be in your corner even when there is something to lose? On more than one occasion, Disney has covered up or removed LGBTQ+ messages from films in order to distribute them in the middle east. Most recently, Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania was edited to remove a Pride flag. Other movies, such as Lightyear, have seen entire scenes or characters cut.
Other films have been altered to suit the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese release of Doctor Strange was altered to reassign a character’s nationality because someone simply being Tibetan could be offensive. An article in the Harvard International Review stated that Disney actively censors itself before China officials get the chance. “[Disney is] normalizing pre-emptive self-censorship in anticipation of what the Beijing censor is looking for. This willingness to censor films creates a new precedent for movie making in the United States and beyond, “setting a standard for the rest of the world according to the Review. Minorities, LGBT characters, and positive references to enemies of China all end up on Disney’s cutting room floor, voluntarily, to appease the Communist Party.
How can Disney claim to be a champion for the marginalized if they are so willing to exclude them when financially prudent? The simple answer is they can’t. Disney’s concern is money. The problem lies in people expecting Disney to care. It doesn’t. It exists for only one reason: to turn a profit. To think otherwise is foolhardy. The only reason they appear to care in Western countries is because the loudest voices want them to. If that changed, so would Disney’s support.
The definition of performative is “activism that is done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause.” That is exactly what is happening with Disney’s so-called humanitarian activism and it has been incredibly successful. Don’t believe me? Just look at Disney’s response to the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” With so much uproar over the war with Governor Ron DeSantis its easy to forget that Disney’s first response was silence. It wasn’t until they feared bad press and loss of social capital that they bothered to respond at all.
Disney isn’t your hero. They aren’t your enemy either. They’re simply a corporation that wants your money and nothing more. Stop expecting anything else.