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Year in Review: Staff Picks

Howard Ashman and creative team Alan Menken

Screenshot: Disney+

By Sabina Graves

Florida’s controversial anti-LGBTQ “Don’t Say Gay” bill has passed the state senate, heading to the desk of governor Ron DeSantis, all but guaranteeing its entry into state law—and one of the state’s biggest businesses, the Walt Disney Company, has largely chosen to remain silent.

Instead of turning its attention towards supporting LGBTQ youth and their families, Disney focused its efforts on a different situation making headlines in Florida: its latest luxury vacation venture aboard the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser. Yesterday, however, Disney CEO Bob Chapek finally addressed the issue. Sort of.

In Chapek’s refusal to outright denounce the Florida bill as part of an email sent to Disney staff, a particular part of his statement (you can read the full memo at the Hollywood Reporter) has made waves: his belief that Disney is doing what it can to promote tolerance and equality through its content. “Encanto, Black Panther, Pose, Reservation Dogs, Coco, Soul, Modern Family, Shang-Chi, Summer of Soul, [and] Love, Victor,” the statement listed as influential, diverse works from the company.These and all of our diverse stories are our corporate statements—and they are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort.” But for all its dancing around the power of content rather than Disney’s actual vast capital power, power that it has used to financially support backers of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, probably the most insulting thing about Chapek’s stance is his failure to consider the impact one legendary gay figure in particular has had on Disney: Howard Ashman, who, like the legions of queer employees at Disney since his time, is left ignored by Chapek’s cowardice.

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