Who is the queerest of them all?
In my family, being a Disney fan is a dominant trait, like green eyes and brown hair. I’m not complaining because I love losing myself in an animated fairytale as much as the next person, but in my teens (and even now) there was something that bothered me a lot about the House of Mouse. Its portrayal (or lack thereof) of queer characters.
Disney and Queer-coding
As you probably know, Disney doesn’t really have that many openly LGBTQ+ characters in any of its properties. (Even counting the 2010s alone, canonly straight characters far outnumber the small number of queer characters.) They do have an awful lot of queer-coded characters though.
You can see this a lot in the Disney villains whose traits were ripped from harmful stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people (i.e. Captain Hook, the lisping dandy who quite literally preys on young boys). This implied to an impressionable audience that it was not only the character’s actions that made them bad but also their subversion of gender norms. This can lead to straight children seeing their queer classmates or family members as “evil” or lead queer children to think that something is wrong with them. I don’t think I’m the only queer person who has felt isolated from Disney by that.
And yes, this still goes on. Just look at the main antagonist from Wreck-It Ralph. King Candy is flamboyance personified and Ralph even calls an old-fashioned slur for gay men. FFS! But it’s not all bad and I have hope that Disney is getting better.
Disney has also used queer-coding for good characters, albeit in slightly less well-known films or smaller roles.
Take, for instance, Ferdinand the Bull, which won Disney Best Animated Short at the 1939 Oscars’ ceremony. Ferdinand, unlike his counterparts, does not want to take part in bullfighting and prefers to sit quietly and “smell the flowers”. Even when forced into the ring, he refuses to fight. This can easily be read as refusing to conform to traditional expectations of masculinity, especially with Ferdinand ‘s long eyelashes and other effeminate behaviours. This isn’t necessarily gay but it certainly reads as queer.
Some have even argued that every Disney movie is actually “pro-gay” because most of the protagonists have something a little different about them, which makes the target of ridicule or isolation, from Dumbo learning to fly to Aladdin’s “street rat” status.
There’s possibly some truth in this. In fact, I read most of the Disney Renaissance princesses as queer because they eschewed the relationships or gender presentation that their families approved of and risked everything to show the world who they were inside.
And anyone can tell you that Disney still creates a huge number of films and TV shows with queer-coded heroes – give Elsa a girlfriend, anyone?
In recent years, Disney has made efforts to reach out the LGBTQ+ community and increase inclusivity in its films and TV programming. But canonly queer characters are generally only given minor roles (i.e. the two moms in “Good Luck, Charlie” who drop their child off for a play date) or their sexuality is confirmed outside of the media, but only hinted at within (i.e. LeFou in the live-action “Beauty and the Beast”), which is frankly disappointing.
Queer kids deserve to see themselves represented in a media outlet that is frankly synonymous with childhood in the Western world. We deserve to see queer Disney heroes without reading between the lines or relying on subtext.
Later this year, we will see Disney’s first openly gay main character in Jungle Cruise and I hope with every cell in my green-eyed, Disney-loving DNA that he will be portrayed in a positive light. Seriously, it’s #20BiTeen guys! Until then, we will have to console ourselves with the canon and fanon queer characters that Disney already provides.
That’s why I wanted to list my favourite Disney characters that are at least a little bit gay and mostly good.
The best LGBTQ+ Disney Main Characters
Let It Go is widely heralded as a coming out anthem, with Elsa being unable to hide her
love for women magical powers anymore and basically saying “to hell with it”. It has taken her most of her life to come to terms with who she is, but in the end, it makes her more powerful.
Cyrus (Andi Mack)
Cyrus has a flair for the dramatic and he’s a bit of a gossip, but he also has an open mind, a wicked sense of humour, and is friendly to a tee. Even when his best friend is dating the guy he has a crush on (yes, this is canon), he still wants them to be happy.
She refused to agree to an arranged marriage to one of the sons of the noble families in medieval Scotland, which led many to speculate that she is gay or even asexual.
Timon and Pumbaa (The Lion King)
So they adopted a little kid, raised him to be good, taught him not to worry so much, and helped him realize his full potential. Seems like some kickass same-sex parenting to me.
LeFou (Beauty and the Beast)
LeFou is not really a villain. He’s just kind of going along with what his love interest wants, even though he knows that nothing romantic will come of it, but he changes sides when things go too far. I can relate; I let a cute girl copy my answers in math class when I was 14.
Well, that’s it from me on queer Disney, but I’m interested to know your thoughts on queer-coding and the best LGBTQ+ characters in Disney. Let me know in the comments section.