Disney is currently under fire for its quietness and refusal to cooperate with its workers against Florida’s new bill “Don’t Say ‘Gay’.” The “Don’t say ‘Gay’” Bill restricts teachers from teaching their students about “sexual orientation or gender identity” in schools from kindergarten through third grade.
Many feel that the bill is a direct attack on the LGBTQ+ community and the social progress we as a society have made towards gay rights.
Many Floridians who work at Disney World called on the company to speak up against the bill. There are over 75,000 workers at Disney World, many who are native Floridians, so it is expected that the company would like to be in good standing with the state’s public.
The workers have protested peacefully by organizing walkouts during their 15 minute breaks and maintaining public order at all times.
Disney World is an economic powerhouse in Florida. Not only does it provide thousands of jobs, but brings in more tourism than any other company in the state of Florida. Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, stated for The Guardian, “You could argue that Disney has had a bigger impact on Florida… than any other company or group.” This has been economically and emotionally impactful as many fans develop a strong emotional attachment to Disney, and their memories at Disney World.
Unfortunately, Disney has refused to make any statements against the “Don’t Say ‘Gay’” bill. Bob Chapek, the CEO of Disney, recently gained the position in 2020 and refuses to be involved by stating he’s been working “behind the scenes” with politicians to achieve a better outcome, but without success.
Workers are currently forming strikes outside of Disney World because they do not feel represented by the company. They believe Bob Chapek, and the company as a whole, has turned their backs on their LGBTQ+ community when needed the most. If the bill comes to life in the classroom, it can lead to further censorship of the LGBTQ+ community and have a detrimental effect.
Nicholas Salcedo, a social work major who is also a very passionate Disney fan, stated, “Personally, I feel it is very disappointing to hear that Disney has turned their backs on the LGBQ+ community, and Floridians during such an important time. I would think that after all these movements toward Gay Rights they would take a more hands-on approach at standing up for the community, but it seems I was wrong. As a fan of Disney since I can remember, I am hurt and embarrassed by their public decision to stand back and let the Floridian government deny sexual orientation and gender identity education to young students in the classroom.”
The workers’ walkouts are a form of protest that is peaceful and efficient at making themselves be heard.
The workers essentially want a public statement of support from Disney, condeming the “Dont Say ‘Gay’” bill and one more thing: they are calling for Disney to stop making political donations to certain Floridian politicians— including Governor Rom DeSantis— who, according to NPR Business, continously pose problems for the LGBTQ+ community.
By projecting their voices to be heard, they create a state government that is held accountable by the public. Not only that, but it can also prevent future bills from attacking LGBTQ+ rights not only in Florida, but nationwide.
The bill has currently been passed by Florida’s Senate and House, only now needing Governor DeSantis’ signature to become law. Unfortunately, Governor DeSantis has been vocal about his support toward the bill.
The issue arises many questions for the public. How do we reconcile being fans of Disney, spending our money at Disney World, and enjoying their products when it is said money that funds the politicians who make legislations against our best interest?
And, most importantly, how can we manipulate our entertainment industry into funding programs that are beneficial (and for the best interest) of the public?
Hence, it is important to beware of where, what and why we consume the entertainment we do. Since the public creates demand, we also have a say in the impact our entertainment industry makes. Therefore, it is key that we support Floridians in their endeavor to protect LGBTQ+ rights in the Sunshine State. This can be done by sharing posts on social media that speak out about the bill or Disney’s support of Governor DeSantis against the worker’s interest. Bad publicity would likely shift the path in which both the Bill and Disney are taking.