I recently released a pack of Wizard of Oz themed postcards titled “Friends of Dorothy” based on the phrase “Friend of Dorothy”. I would write a post talking the term a bit more and the LGBTQ themes of Wizard of Oz.
Although there is some debate to where the term originated most attribute it to Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, an ally to anyone different. Dorothy is very accepting of all of the beings she comes across on her journey across the yellow brick road.
As the story goes… Dorothy is on her way to see the Wizard and encounters the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow and tin man on her journey. All three of her new found friends feel they are missing something which they believe the wizard will be able to give them. Lion wants courage, Scarecrow wants a brain and Tin Man wants a heart.
Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man are all outcasts who aren’t part of a group until they meet Dorothy. Their outcast status and trying to find acceptance has parallels with the struggles faced of many queer people, they can be easily read as an allegory for the LGBTQ community. Lion in the 1939 film is also “coded gay”, acting very much like a stereotypical gay man, reinforcing the LGBTQ themes.
Once Dorothy and Friends have defeated the Wicked Witch of The West and finally get to the Wizard, they find out he’s not so wonderful all along! The Wizard is just a man who doesn’t have any powers, meaning he cannot give them what they want. But all is ok when they find out that they already had everything the needed all along. In other words they didn’t need to change themselves to be happy.
It’s also no secret that Judy Garland who played Dorothy in the 1939 film was/is a gay icon due partly to playing this role, her talent and her personal struggles which many members of the LGBTQ community can relate to.
‘Over The Rainbow’ is not only a lovely song from Wizard of Oz (1939) but also a classic upbeat LGBTQ anthem, a dream of an idealistic world/ home for us all. And after all there’s no place like home!
After years of Princesses and Princes, isn’t it about time for a Prince and a Prince or a Princess and a Princess?
Disney films are very popular with many members of the LGBTQ Community, with their themes of love, acceptance and finding yourself resonating with many members of the LGBTQ crowd, but as of yet there is no major LGBTQ Disney character.
If Disney introuced a canonically LGBTQ character this would be a great win for representation, helping to create more acceptance and normalisation of the community. Growing up in the 90s I had very little in the way of gay role models, most gay characters represented in the media were 2-dimensional caricatures, often not taken seriously and most definitely not the hero/main character of the story! I feel that if I had, had a gay Disney character to relate to when I was growing up, I would not have struggled as much with accepting myself and internalised homophobia, I would love for the younger generation to have this character I never had growing up.
With campaigns on Twitter to give Elsa from Frozen a female love interest in the ‘Frozen 2’ (#GiveElsaAGirlfriend) trending, it does seem a large majority is on board for Disney to make an LGBTQ character a reality. Whether disney has the courage to make this decision is yet to be seen. I personally think that Elsa would make a great LGBTQ character as her storyline in the first film has parallels to how it feels growing up as person who is LGBTQ, having a secret that no one knows, fear of being seen as monster if people find out etc. Also ‘Let It Go’ has always seemed like a coming out anthem to me, whether intentionally or not.
Iconic characters such as Ursula, Jafar, Hades and Scar are all examples of ‘coded’ gay characters, this is where a character is not explicitly LGBTQ but is heavily implied to be from stereotypes eg they are ‘camp’. WAIT! what do all these characters have in common? Oh right, they are villains! Probably not the most positive LGBTQ representation, but hey! We do have ‘good guy’ coded-gay characters Timon and Pumbaa I guess, may I add Simba was raised by two Dad’s and he turned out fine!
There are positive and negatives to coded gay characters, like I’ve said they do often seem to be villains, which negatively impact the stereotypes they are based off. But then again these villainous characters are still great characters and do give some slight representation to the LGBTQ community. Ursula was based on real life drag queen ‘Divine’ which is a nice homage to the late Harris Glenn Millstead who portrayed her,
Disney do seem to be heading in the right direction to actually making a LGBTQ character reality, although I do feel they have made a few missteps along the way. If you have not heard them term “Exclusively Gay Moment” think yourself lucky! This term was brought to us in 2017 by director Bill Condon referring to a scene in the ‘Beauty and Beast’ live action remake, Condon mentioned the phrase in an interview and it then got picked up by various news outlets. At last it seemed we were going to get major LGBTQ representation in a disney film, the “Exclusively Gay Moment” was two male characters dancing together on screen for about 0.8 seconds! I mean it is a small step in the right direction but the way this scene was hyped up, you would have expected a bit more than this tiny moment before the credits roll, also not great that one of the characters in question’s name literally translates to “The Fool”!”
The film Avengers Endgame a Disney property recently received backlash for there first ‘gay’ character. They decided to make their first LGBTQ essentially a background character who is on screen for a minimal amount of time, with the vast amount of these films, its surprising that none of the main characters of the MCU so far are LGBTQ.
Like I said Disney are making some missteps in trying to achieve more inclusion, but I do appreciate that they are trying, although with how other studios are integrating LGBTQ characters seamlessly, it does feel like they are a couple of laps behind.
Disney Channel shows on the other hand have handled LGBTQ characters excellently from what I have seen, Good Luck Charlie did a good job of normalising the fact one of the secondary characters had two Mothers. Andi Mack another disney channel show did a great job covering main character ‘Cyrus’ coming out to his friend without using any labels, this was a heartwarming and very well executed scene. ‘Andi Mack’ later followed this up with Cyrus coming out casually to another character in the show, actually saying the words “I’m Gay’, something we wouldn’t have seen a decade ago on Disney Channel!
Disney’s animated shows Gravity Falls and Star vs The Forces Of Evil have also given us LGBTQ representation, with Gravity Falls confirming that two male characters where in fact a couple and The Forces of Evil had a scene featuring of various couples (including same-sex ones couples) kissing.
It does look hopeful that we will get a LGBTQ Disney character (in a feature film) in the not too distant future, with Disney showing more and more acceptance of the community. June 1st 2019, Disney will be holding its first official pride event at Disneyland Paris titled ‘Magical Pride’ which will feature a diversity parade and performances from Boy George, Years and Years and Corine. The Disney Store have also recently launched their pride collection including badges, t-shirts and a rainbow Mickey plush toy.
Gay playwright and Lyricist Howard Ashman was instrumental in writing songs for films such as Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin with composer Alan Menken. Ashman tragically passed away from AIDS in 1991, he had kept his diagnosis a secret and had been working on songs for Aladdin from his hospital bed. Ashman died before the release of Beauty and The Beast which featured an homage to Ashman in the credits “To our friend, Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and beast his soul, we will be forever grateful” Ashman’s story is a very sad one, in a time where an AIDS diagnosis was a life sentence and so stigmatised, that you would have to keep it a secret.
Howard Ashman wrote lyrics for many classic disney songs like ‘Beauty and The Beast’, ‘Belle’, ‘Under The Sea’, ‘Part of Your World’ and ‘Prince Ali’. As the end credits of Beauty and The Beast state he gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, it would be lovely if Disney returned the favour and created a gay character in tribute to Howard Ashman.