The 12 Disney Characters You Had No Idea Were Gay
Think Disney is just about princes and princesses? Think again as GSN takes a look at the most ambiguous and explicit LGBT characters in the animation canon.
What is it about Disney movies that the LGBT community loves?
Is it the message of being yourself? The underdog and misfit lead characters? Or just the idea good will triumph over evil and there will be a happy ending?
Gay Day at Disneyland in Anaheim, California took place last 5 October, where thousands of LGBT people and their families wore red, having a good time and spreading visibility.
But while the movies are great (well, some of them), there has never been an explicitly gay, bi or trans character in an animated Disney children’s movie.
But there are some characters that Disney could have intended to be gay or characters that use gay stereotypes or even just has a large gay following.
So let’s take a look back on our childhoods and see exactly who are the 14 most ambiguously ‘gay’ Disney characters:
DISCLAIMER: This is all up for interpretation and in no way should be seen as a factual representation of what the filmmakers intended.
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Perhaps the most famous example of a direct tie to the LGBT community, Disney created the iconic villain Ursula the Sea Witch using the likeness and personality of drag queen Divine.
In The Little Mermaid, she seduces, she manipulates, she’s theatrical. And most of all she does it all while remembering the most important thing – body language.
Scar (The Lion King)
Why include Scar in this líst? Sure he’s effeminate, sardonic and at the end of the movie appears to not have had a relationship with any of the lionesses while Simba has run away, eats bugs and grows up. But that doesn’t make him gay, right?
Scar is an example of a ‘coded gay’. Referencing a time when being gay was depraved, filmmakers were able to imply a character’s sexuality by the behavior, demeanor, and dress. That way, audiences understood the character was meant to be queer even if there was no actual same-sex love interests.
This was far more common in Disney films than you might think but is perhaps best represented by…
Governor Ratcliffe (Pocahontas)
Disney villains come in all shapes and sizes, but the one they always come back to is the fop.
Back in 17th century England, the word ‘fop’ was used to negatively describe ‘fashionable’, effeminate, cowardly man. The modern gay male stereotype.
It’s an archetype used for decades in Hollywood cinema, with the contemporary fop often being effeminate, power-hungry and almost always played by a British actor or with a refined English accent.
Ratcliffe is also played by gay actor David Ogden Stiers. While this certainly does not mean gay actor = gay character, it adds an extra dimension. Why did the filmmakers want Stiers to play Ratcliffe as a fop, rather than the way he played Major Winchester in MAS*H?
But even before you see Ratcliffe calling the Native Americans savages, the audience already loathes him because of his ridiculously camp haircut.
Disney used this type of villain time and time again, with too many to put on this list. But for other examples, Disney fops include Jafar from Aladdin, Captain Hook from Peter Pan, Prince John from Robin Hood and several others.
Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Made clear from the outset the two are archenemies, movie critics suggested there could be sexual tension between the two. Ratigan’s ‘Goodbye So Soon’ is practically a love song.
Ratigan’s name could also be a tribute to 20th-century gay playwright Terrence Rattigan.
A more modern take on a US fop in this 1990s film, as Hades is like every girl’s sassy gay best friend.
For a good example, just take a look at this video below:
Timon and Pumbaa (The Lion King)
Coded gays don’t have to be villains, Lion King comic relief Timon and Pumbaa are flamboyant, fun and even make a pretty good argument for same-sex parenting.
Timon is voiced by gay actor Nathan Lane, and unlike Scar, it is exactly the gay stereotypes that make him and Pumba appealing to children.
Also, Hakuna Matata is a song about being free from your worries. Sounds like Pride.
One of Disney’s most iconic characters, the Genie knows more pop culture and cross-dresses more often than RuPaul.
‘I’m getting pretty fond of you, kid,’ he tells Aladdin after he saves him. ‘Not that I want to pick out curtains, or anything.’
Pleakley (Lilo and Stitch)
While Pleakley identifies as a male alien in the science fiction Hawaiian film, he is consistently seen dressing in women’s clothing. When out with humans, he is often in full drag.
Due to starring in a more recent film, the religious right were in an uproar over the idea this could be finally the gay character that would indoctrinate the nation’s children.
Actually, it was just another Disney flamboyant character.
What’s better is his partner in crime was Jumba, voiced by none other than Pocahontas’ David Ogden Stiers.
When Tarzan was released in 1999, some had no idea Terk was a girl. Never mind she was played by one of America’s most famous personalities and out lesbian Rosie O’Donnell.
In the film, Terk is a tomboy who hates dressing like a lady and has no interest in other males.
The tale of the Chinese woman who impersonates a man and takes her father’s place during a war has intrigued many queer theorists for years.
In the Disney version, the film has fun with gender identity and the possibility of same-sex romance. Shang shows an interest in the male Mulan, but it is only once she reveals herself that he makes his move.
Taking a look at Disney and its LGBT following, look no further than these rather ‘adult’ portraits by gay artist David Kawena that went viral last year.
Much like Pleakley, after Brave premiered there was a huge furor over the idea the next Disney princess was a lesbian.
They reasoned the only way a 14-year-old archer have no interest in getting married to suitors she had never met unless she was gay? While this was quickly disregarded as soon as they actually watched the movie, Merida still has a large gay and feminist following.
But while several of the aforementioned characters could potentially be LGBT, there is only two who have gone past the censors and are as close as possible to being official gay characters.
You probably won’t be happy about it, but they are…
Hugo and Djali (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Yes, a heap of rock and a goat.
While in the book the goat is female, the film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame makes it clear Djali is male.
Not only that, Hugo steps up his flirtations in the sequel, and Djali even reciprocates his affections in the end. A happy ending for the only Disney gay couple. Between a gargoyle and a goat.
As the US becomes more and more gay-friendly, it seems to be only a matter of time before there should be a gay Disney prince or princess.
But while the family friendly company may be scared to take that leap, LGBT people and those who love them will undoubtedly reward them for the risk.
Most of us grew up watching these foppish, evil, ‘gay’ villains, and who knows how that affected how the masses view the LGBT community?
Once we have a proper lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender character, it might be the time when we finally feel we’ve reached that happy ending.
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The 12 Disney Characters You Had No Idea Were Gay
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