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An opinion you haven’t heard yet: The Disney-DeSantis debacle is a dumpster fire on both sides. And the stench is horrific.

Disney has lost its conglomerate, corporate mind lately, and public, “official” responses voiced by C-level Walt Disney Company executives rather than the voices behind those responses can be likened to preschool tantrums that ensue when playtime is over, the cookie jar is empty, and everybody is called on to help clean up so we can all go home.

Credit: Canva

Burbank, California-based Disney has about as much business sticking its head up over the fence around Florida’s backyard and telling Floridians what they should be doing as that neighbor three doors down has in ringing your doorbell to offer unsolicited parenting suggestions while her own children blaze down the street barefoot, half-dressed, yelling obscenities at the top of their lungs.

It’s just not her call. And it’s not Disney’s.

Disney’s brazenness in crossing the line into Florida politics is, in a word, obnoxious. A different scenario would manifest itself if the legislation in question had to do with business practices or taxation. After all, some of Disney’s most lucrative business ventures make their home in the Sunshine State.

At that point, Disney would be bound to take a stand and to take productive measures for or against such legislation, much like your neighbor has every right to show up on your front porch and see that you get your kids off her lawn, as they are spray-painting her rose bushes and mudding up her walkways.

But the fact that The Walt Disney Company has danced into Florida’s educational legislation waters makes Disney look even more like the fools in the whole culture war/cancel culture Disney-DeSantis Debacle.

Ron DeSantis

Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law is (shocker) an education law, and Disney’s boldness in digging its heels in the ground on a law related to parents’ rights as they pertain to certain aspects of their children’s education and the curriculum upon which classroom instruction is based is nauseating, embarrassing, and irritating.

Disney very obviously has little to no experience in staying in its proverbial lane. No other out-of-state corporate conglomerate would even consider showing up at another state’s front door and handing down edicts about how things should be run and done–not when they have NOTHING to do with business practices or taxation that would clearly affect the aforementioned conglomerate.

And no other out-of-state corporate conglomerate would be permitted to do so. They’d never even be afforded the limelight with which Disney has been drenched since Disney CEO Bob Chapek made his SECOND “official” statement on behalf of The Walt Disney Company in response to Florida’s education curriculum legislation.

Yes, that was his second statement.

Consider that Chapek did make a response in the very beginning, though he was accused of remaining silent. The embattled Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek made a statement when Florida’s House Bill 1557 wasn’t yet law, but mainstream media didn’t report on that fully.

In what may have been his most sound business decision since taking the helm at The Walt Disney Company from veteran Bob Iger in February 2020, as Florida’s bill began to gain traction in the Florida legislature, Bob Chapek told Walt Disney Company employees that Disney would not take a stance as a company one way or the other.

Bob Chapek

Credit: Disney

“As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds,” Chapek wrote to employees. “Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.”

Chapek knew that taking a public stance as a company would only create division, rather than creating positive change. Perhaps he also realized Disney had no business creating a campaign against legislation that affects parents of school-aged children and their school-aged children.

Again, it was perhaps the most sound decision Chapek has made during his entire tenure as the head of Walt’s company.

But what’s reported is that Chapek was silent on the bill. The truth is that the University of Michigan MBA grad made a statement to his employees about the frivolity of taking a stance against the bill, as he clearly felt there were better ways to pursue change. He wasn’t aloof, and he never asked his employees to be aloof. It is his job to make decisions that afford the company the best outcomes. (Don’t get us started on all the price increases in the parks.)

Cinderella Castle at Night

Credit: Disney

But his decision wasn’t met with approval from some who then proceeded to put the pressure on Chapek to not only make a statement but to make the statement they wanted to be made. According to a Cast Member with Disney who is currently running for office, the majority of Disney employees weren’t inflamed by the Parental Rights in Education law, but the company caved to the demands of some while ignoring the majority completely.

Days later, the same Disney CEO who said it was unwise for the company to take a stance, as it would prove divisive and hinder positive change, took a stance against the bill, suddenly calling Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law “a challenge to basic human rights.”

And sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The embarrassment only grows in those rare moments when the dust settles briefly, the monotonous sounds of the hum-drum and the riff-raff fade intermittently, and the truth about Florida’s new law becomes glaringly real: the “Don’t Say Gay” bill doesn’t mention the word “gay” in its language even once, nor does the bill have anything under the sun to do with “not saying the word ‘gay'”.

But because corporate America, big business, and the federal government are awarded the role of content manager for almost every single news outlet in the country, many would never know that. Some have even taken things so far as to that the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is a legislative measure aimed at making the use of LGBTQ terminology a punishable offense.

The very idea of such a measure is preposterous. It’s idiotic.

And it’s irritating to the point of inflammation: an inflammation that only grows and spreads as the realization takes hold that the majority of those preaching opposition to Florida’s law to protect the rights of parents of school-aged children have never read a single line of the seven-page bill.

According to Poynter.org, claims about Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law that falsify points about the law can be attributed to its nickname, the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which was coined by a group called Equality Florida, a group that calls itself “the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community” on its Facebook page.

But the moniker is a misnomer.

Florida’s new legislation does not prohibit the use of the word “gay” in any way. It prohibits classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity which, by the way, also encompasses classroom instruction about heterosexuality. And it applies to Kindergartners, first graders, second graders, and third graders. (That means we’re talking about children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old.)

I would be infuriated if my 6-year-old were being taught ANYTHING related to sex. First, that’s far too young. And second, that’s my role as a parent. Period.

But there’s another piece to the whole Disney-DeSantis debacle that’s equally as ridiculous as Disney’s sense of entitlement, and that is Governor DeSantis‘s attempts to retaliate against Disney for its stance. While it’s true that Disney has no place in Florida’s education legislation, it’s also true that the company is entitled to its opinions and its statements.

But the moment DeSantis met with Disney’s disapproval, plans for retaliation began. The proposal to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District magically manifested almost instantly, and from that moment on, it was full steam ahead.

Governor DeSantis is right. Corporations and companies do not run the state of Florida. But neither should government officials who have the thought of using their positions to impose retaliatory measures against those who oppose their decisions, let alone those who push forward (and with great haste) in bringing about those measures.

Ron DeSantis

Credit: ABC

Then again, some now believe that DeSantis’s decision to retaliate against Disney had little to do with his stance against corporations trying to dictate to states how they should conduct business and more to do with a 2024 Presidential bid for DeSantis. Taking on Disney, some ascertain, allegedly allows Governor DeSantis to prove his prowess, his abilities, and his willingness in taking on big business.

If so, it only adds to the despicable nature of the entire Disney-DeSantis debacle dumpster fire, the flames from which can only be put out by true leaders on both sides who are unafraid to stand up and work together to find a commonality that will make their partnerships much stronger and much more effective than their differences.

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!