Love, Victor: Disney's Gay Step-Child
In April in 2019, Disney made a big, splashy announcement for their new streaming service, Disney+; where you’d get to watch everything (well almost everything) that Disney owns! Marvel! Star Wars! Pixar! Princesses! National Geographic. And Jeff Goldblum!
They were also very excited to announce that Love, Simon (the sleeper hit movie from Fox about a gay teen) would be turned into a streaming series. Gay Twitter and the gay press went wild with the news that Disney would finally be throwing some real LGBT representation out there. Not just two men dancing in Beauty and the Beast… or two (potentially) lesbian moms in Finding Dory… Or a quick mention in a Marvel movie (that could easily be edited out for foreign audiences). A real, honest to goodness, Disney-produced TV show about a gay teenager.
The show was nowhere to be seen when Disney+ launched this past fall. Of course, there wasn’t a whole lot to be seen in general besides The Mandalorian and some Disney movies we’d all seen a hundred times.
No, the real meat would come later. But they made sure to advertise as much content as possible upfront to lock in as many people as possible. Unlike competitors such as Netflix, you could sign up for Disney+ on an annual basis. And they pushed that particular subscription. Hard. Disney could make a year's worth of Subscriber money… without all the hassle of turning out regular content.
And a lot of people signed up for that annual subscription. A lot of queer people too; particularly excited for the Love, Simon show and other LGBT content that Disney+ would surely provide.
Well, it’s been a few months. Disney+ has been in a bit of a slump since The Mandalorian ended, and many people who chose the month-to-month subscription model have unsubscribed until Disney+ comes out with something worth paying for.
And now, almost a year later, we finally have some news about the Love, Simon show! First of all, it’s called Love, Victor (Different main character. That’s cool). And there’s a planned release date of sometime in June. Pride month!
It’s won’t be on Disney+. It will be on Hulu instead. Why? Well, Deadline reports that Disney likely decided the show "may not be appropriate for families to watch with their young kids." Because it includes “scenes involving alcohol, marital issues and sexual exploration.”
(I should remind you here that The Simpsons is still available on Disney+. With plenty of alcohol, marital issues, and sexual exploration)
So, once again, Disney has done the absolute least possible to appeal to the LGBT audience, make a buck off of doing it… and this time not even give us the scraps we’re used to. And it’s not even the first time they’ve done it! High Fidelity was a show also produced for Disney+ but only made available on Hulu. Also due to queer content.
Disney has always held its gay audience at arm's length. Whether it be the gay-baiting of Stucky, Finn & Poe, or Elsa... the barely-there representation of Beauty and the Beast, Avengers: Endgame, and Finding Dory (all either easily deniable or just a quick cut for foreign audiences)... or the obvious queer-coding of animated villains... Disney has kept its gay audience tagging along, hoping against hope for some real representation. Not just "Gay Days" at Disneyland, but real representation.
But now promoting a show with a queer lead when you first launch your streaming service, going through the writing and production phase... and only now deciding its not okay for Disney+? That rings of cowardice, if not full-on manipulation. Getting gay people who may not have been excited for Star Wars to sign up early for Disney+ by promising them a show, and then yanking the rug out from under them once you've got their money.
And one needs to ask... what would it have meant for a generation of queer kids to see a show representing them... on a Disney platform? You don't get much more mainstream than Disney! That might have given hope to queer kids who are held down by their homophobic family or community. And while many queer youth avoided Love, Simon in theatres for fear of being spotted seeing a "gay movie"... this TV sequel could have allowed them to take in a cute, gay teen comedy from the comfort of their own laptop or phone. But not now.
Families across the continent signed up for Disney+ so; Love, Victor would have been available to potentially hundreds of thousands of queer kids. But Hulu isn't in nearly as many homes. Isn't nearly as mainstream. Disney had the opportunity to say to those gay kids: "Your stories are as good as anyone else's". But now, by shafting it over to Hulu, The Mouse has unequivocably said: "You don't belong here."