Although the Disney corporation may have its faults, it seems the magical kingdom and the LGBT community are seemingly on the same page, with the company being the first to extend healthcare benefits to homosexual couples, as well as hosting regular gay pride events throughout Disney World. In fact, Disney is so open to LGBT audiences, that a number of queer theorists have used the Disney canon as a way of queer reading characters. Derived from deconstructing texts from the straight way of life, queer theory allows audiences to see their favorite characters in a slightly different way, with Disney movies a perfect example of such readings. Plus, with such a large selection to choose from, it seems only obvious, especially with regards to the number of interesting and complex characters that are churned out each year by the Disney corporation. However, although it could be seen as a positive, Disney is still reinforcing stereotypes that the LGBT community has been trying to get rid of for years, with foppish overtly camp men, and butch crew-cut tomboys regularly making the rounds throughout the Disney canon. Nevertheless, with some of these flamboyant and radiant characters now cementing themselves as ‘gay icons’ as such, it can also be seen as a positive for those youngsters who may be in need of a role model or two.
So, to celebrate diversity in a time in which it is most desperately needed, here are 15 hidden LGBT characters in Disney films.
Probably one of the most bizarre Disney films to date, I mean she’s basically hooking up with a buffalo, Beauty And The Beast remains a firm favorite for fans all over the world. Displaying the first of its kind with regards to animation, the movie is also famed for its long line of colorful characters. That’s right, from the sexually flexible French candlestick, Lumiere, to the stereotypical English teapot, Mrs. Potts, and her questionable American son Chip, Beauty And The Beast is as eccentric as it is magical. Yet, it was the camp and sturdy, Cogsworth, that certainly raised a few eyebrows with regards to his sexuality, if not just for the phallic woodwork upon his timely body. Voiced by openly gay actor, David Ogden Stiers, it has also been suggested that Cogsworth and Lumiere are in fact lovers, although to be fair, Lumiere is probably at it with everybody else in that movie.
14. Timon And Pumbaa – The Lion King
Who says homosexual couples can’t live happily ever after? Probably one of the most popular characters ever in the Disney canon, Timon and Pumbaa certainly contributed to the success of The Lion King as well as the million dollars that it made at the box office. Funny, flamboyant, and certainly over the top, the pair often provide the majority of the comic relief in a film that has its fair share of depressing moments. Proving that gay couples can be parents too, Timon and Pumbaa touch upon issues such as gay adoption, and religion, as they save poor little Simba from almost certain death. Think about that haters. Plus, displaying such overt roles with regards to their sexuality, it is also suggested that the pair is happily married, with the stereotypical characteristics perfectly portrayed within the couple’s interactions. And, with Timon once again voiced by out gay actor, Nathan Lane, it seems this may have been the plan all along….
13. Ratcliffe – Pocahontas
In the same context as Scar, Pocahontas’ Governor Ratcliffe is as foppish as they get, and probably one of the most overtly gay characters ever portrayed in a Disney movie. Again, voiced by out gay actor David Ogden Stiers, the man behind Cogsworth, Ratcliffe is so blatantly homosexual, that he makes Scar look like a butch skinhead. Dressed head to toe in the most outlandish of clothing, Ratcliffe certainly knows what he wants, and how to go about getting it, proudly declaring, “my rivals back home, it’s not that I’m bitter, but think how they’ll squirm when they see how I glitter!”. In fact, Ratcliffe isn’t the only gay character in the village, with personal manservant Wiggins, acting as his own exclusive fluffer, and honorary gift basket maker. Complete with handbag and miniature dog, Ratcliffe is most definitely representing the gay community.
12. Pinocchio – Pinocchio
Ever think of what Pinocchio would look like if seen as a story about a young boy’s life struggling with his sexual identity? There are actually a lot of symbolic moments that could easily be transferred into a theory supporting this:
We have a character intent on becoming a “real boy” and not the homosexual he was so desperate not to be. Ashamed and guilt-ridden, Pinocchio becomes desperate for his father’s approval, deciding to embark on a quest for personal transformation. Pinocchio is sent to a camp for gay conversion therapy, ending up on an island full of other confused delinquents. That’s right, trying his hand at all things ‘manly’, Pinocchio engages in smoking and gambling, as well as getting flat out wasted. Finally realizing that it’s OK to be gay after all, as well as sporting a killer hangover, Pinocchio quickly enlists the help of his fairy godmother and best friend Jiminy Cricket to help him on his journey through self-discovery.
11. Scar – The Lion King
Probably one of the most evil villains to have come out of the Disney franchise, Scar shocked audiences worldwide after committing one of the worst acts ever seen in a cartoon. With gender stereotypes coming out all over the place, Scar is the epitome of a well refined British villain according to an American. Not used as comic relief, like the homosexual pairing of Timon and Pumbaa, Scar displays the other side of coded queer characters, that of the bad guy. That’s right, effeminate and well spoken, Scar is the black sheep of his family, quite literally, with a long well groomed black mane protruding in dark contrast to the lighter tones of his brothers and sisters. An example of a ‘coded gay’ character, Hollywood has been doing this for years, with characters that are so overtly gay that even without a same sex love interest, it becomes obvious just what side of the lion’s den this cat is eating.
10. Flower – Bambi
Apart from the obvious queer overtone of being called ‘Flower’, Flower gives off a number of vibes that could easily be mistaken for homosexual qualities or effeminate gender stereotypes. From nearly full on passing out as soon as he meets the super stud little deer that is Bambi, Flower shows a certain display of unrequited love almost immediately, especially when Bambi gives the cute little skunk a sneaky little compliment. Constantly seen blushing against his signature black and white fur, Flower can’t get it together, stuttering and falling over whenever he’s in Bambi’s presence. Ah don’t worry Flower, we’ve all been there. However, although marrying a female skunk by the end of the movie, it seems Flower might just be straight after all, with the pair seen running off into the distance. Yet, male skunks marry female skunks all the time, ever heard of a beard?
9. Ursula – The Little Mermaid
Surely Disney knew what they were doing with this one. Said to be based on the renowned, fantastic and influential drag queen, Divine, Ursula has gone down in history as one of the most prolific villains to have ever come out of cinema, let alone Disney. Almost identical to her alter ego, Divine sadly never got to see the famous creation, with friends of the legendary drag queen stating that he would have loved it. However, although displaying all the theatrical qualities of a drag queen and more, Ursula can also be seen as a lover of the ladies, represented through her stereotypical masculine haircut and hankering for the fairer sex. Full to the brim with gender bending stereotypes, Ursula apparently swims both ways, longing for the luscious Ariel, as well as lusting after Prince Eric’s pants.
8. Mulan – Mulan
Talk about gender bending narratives, portraying one of the most interesting character representations with regards to sexuality, Mulan has become subject to a number of queer theories, especially when dealing with trans issues and trans relationships. ‘Trapped’ in a female body, Mulan embarks on a mission to transform into a man in order to fight for her country. Aware of her own thoughts with regards to her sexuality, Mulan often refers to her own denial, stating, “look at me I may never pass for the perfect bride, or a perfect daughter”. Heard more prominently in the touching song, “Reflection”, Mulan basically confirms her intentions by claiming, “can it be, I’m not meant to play this part? Now I see, that if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart, who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me? Why is my reflection someone I don’t know? Somehow I cannot hide? Who I am, though I’ve tried…”. However, although Mulan may not be the perfect transgender narrative, it is certainly a start with regards to how Disney movies can now be read, especially with trans issues playing such a pivotal part in the LGBT community and the world as of late.
7. Merida – Brave
Ruffling feathers as soon as it was released, Brave instantly caught the eye of the LGBT community, especially with regards to its female and empowering lead. Set in the Scottish Highlands, Brave tells the story of a young princess named Merida, who, unlike past Disney princesses, expresses her disdain for marriage and behaving like a ‘real lady’. Being the first time that a Disney princess hasn’t gotten married, Merida became an immediate hit, garnering a huge feminist following. However, not actually out of the closet as such, I mean she is only 14 years old, it was still a huge and important milestone that a Disney princess expressed to young girls everywhere that marriage was and still is not the only option to sustain and fulfill a happy future.
6. Hades – Hercules
Extremely camp and wonderfully written, Hades is the highlight of the otherwise rather drab historical thriller, Hercules. Sassy, brassy, and there when you most definitely need a shoulder to cry on, Hades represents that gay best friend that every girl needs at some point in their life. However, displaying a much darker side, Hades is also a sadistic monster, intent on ruining Hercules’ life as well as taking over the world and changing Greek mythology forever. Often seen delicately swigging from a pink martini glass, as well as displaying a number of dramatic and over the top tantrums, Hades reads as a another flame-haired foppish villain, thought up from the minds of gender stereotypes and refined eccentric accents, “Zeusy, I’m home!”.
5. Elsa – Frozen
Probably the most obvious, as well as the most recent, Disney’s Frozen, quickly became one of the most popular Disney movies ever to be released, on par with classics such as The Jungle Book and The Lion King. Much like Pinocchio, Elsa was born slightly different when compared to the other boys and girls, so different in fact that her parents locked her away in fear that the world would reject her. Sound familiar? However, bursting out of the closet by accident, her parents’ worst fears are confirmed, as Elsa is chased away and deplored as a freak of nature. In fact, Elsa even has her own coming out song, with ‘Let It Go’, becoming a smash hit all over the globe. Singing, “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know. Well now they know”, Elsa is basically spelling it out with regards to her hiding her sexuality. With various campaigns now dedicated to finding Elsa a girlfriend, we can only wait and see what Disney has in store for our frozen princess next.
4. Genie – Aladdin
Giving us one of the best characters ever to come out of the Disney canon, Robin Williams stole the show as the hilarious yet conniving Genie in the lamp. By far one of the most recognizable of Disney’s creations, the Genie is not only hilarious, but also highly complex, something Williams managed to portray ever so cleverly. In fact, Williams was so good, that his work even earned himself a Golden Globe, proving that Williams was as much a part of the Genie as the Genie was to the film itself. Giving RuPaul a run for his money, the Genie was so open to drag, that he had a new costume for every occasion, regularly displaying a whole line of jewelry and elegant ballgowns. Showing much more sexual chemistry with the Genie than with Jasmine herself, Aladdin goes to extreme lengths in order to suffocate his feelings for the giant blue hunk. However, as always, the boy goes back to the girl, leaving the poor Genie to wander off in search of a new Arab prince.
The Genie: “I’m getting pretty fond of you, kid, not that I want to pick out curtains, or anything.”