Disney's a BUSINESS decision to 'target' Gen. Z with LGBTQ content

Disney’s head of content says Gen. Z is 30-40% ‘QUEERER’ than previous generations and it’s a business decision to ‘target’ them, kids of staff are offered info on ‘gender affirmation procedures’ and CEO Bob Chapek apologizes again in leaked Zoom

  • Disney executives have spoken at an internal ‘Reimagine Tomorrow’ forum – part of an initiative begun in September to increase representation on screen
  • Karey Burke, head of entertainment, said that it made commercial sense for Disney to show more gay and non-binary characters
  • She told the virtual assembly her son had told her: ‘Gen-Z is 30-40 percent queerer than other generations Mom, so Disney better get with it’ 
  • Bob Chapek, the CEO, told the forum he ‘pledged to be a better ally for the LGBTQ+ community’ and ‘apologized for not being the ally you needed me to be’
  • Chapek, who has been strongly criticized for his handling of Disney’s policy on LGBTQ issues, said he learnt from the experience and felt their ‘pain’ 

A Disney executive has admitted that the company is seeking to increase diversity within the company because it is good for business, as the embattled CEO apologized to the LGBTQ community ‘for not being the ally you needed me to be’.

Karey Burke, head of entertainment, said that her son had told her: ‘Gen-Z is 30-40 percent queerer than other generations Mom, so Disney better get with it.’ 

Bob Chapek, the CEO, meanwhile, begged forgiveness from the LGBTQ community.

‘I want you to know that your words have made a real impact on me,’ he said.

‘I understand that we have made mistakes, and the pain that those mistakes have caused.’

The leaders of the entertainment giant were speaking at one of Disney’s ‘Reimagine Tomorrow’ forums, which since September has worked to serve as ‘our way of amplifying underrepresented voices and untold stories as well as championing the importance of accurate representation in media and entertainment.’

It vows that 50 percent of characters and content would be from underrepresented groups by 2022. 

Burke, president of Disney’s General Entertainment Content, said in a clip from a session – obtained by journalist Christopher Rufo, who specializes in culture wars – that there was a commercial reason for increasing the number of LGBTQ characters.

Karey Burke, president of Disney’s General Entertainment Content, told a Disney forum on increasing diversity that her son told her: ‘Gen-Z is 30-40 percent queerer than other generations Mom, so Disney better get with it’

Disney’s tepid response to the controversial bill led to protests and worker walkouts  

She told how, when she headed Disney’s cable channel Freeform, she realized it made business sense.

‘It was very much in the brand ethos of Freeform to be the tip of the spear when it comes to inclusion,’ she said.

HB 1557 was introduced by two Republican members of the Florida Legislature – Representative Joe Harding and Senator Dennis Baxley.

They say the bill’s aim is to ’empower parents’ in their children’s education, and make teachers recognize the distinction between ‘instruction’ and ‘discussion.’

‘What we’re prohibiting is instructing them in a specific direction,’ Baxley said about how teachers lead students in a classroom. 

‘Students can talk about whatever they want to bring up, but sometimes the right answer is, ”You really ought to talk to your parents about that.”’

The bill applies to children in kindergarten through third grade.

It states that ‘classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur.’

It also requires districts to ‘adopt procedures for notifying a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being,’ something LGBTQ advocates argue could lead to students being outed to their parents without the student’s knowledge or consent.

It was passed on March 8 in a 22-17 vote. The state House had approved the bill late last month. DeSantis signed it into law on March 28 and it will come into effect on July 1.

‘And we jumped up and down, we celebrated that, nobody stopped us, and it felt great.

‘In part, I think, nobody stopped us because we were targeting Gen-Z and Millennials.’

Generation Z refers to those born between 1997 and 2012, now aged 10-25.

Millennials are born between 1981 and 1996, ranging in age from 26 to 41.

‘We were targeting a younger, I think more open minded…’ Burke continued.

‘And now we know, as my son texted me this morning: ‘Gen-Z is 30-40 percent queerer than other generations Mom, so Disney better get with it.’

Her comments came as the CEO of Disney, Bob Chapek, apologized for not being more sympathetic to the challenges confronting the LGBTQ community.

Chapek, who took over in February 2020, has been dogged by questions as to why Disney did not speak out publicly against Florida’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which bans discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools among young children.

Chapek said that his team discussed the issues with Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, behind the scenes.

Disney employees walked out of the company headquarters last week to protest the slow response to the Florida law.

Parents hit the company from the other side for what they said was pandering to liberal politics.

In the session, Chapek told the staff he would ‘be a better ally’, and said he had been profoundly moved by the stories his employees told.

‘By now, I hope you have all read my most recent note in which I pledged to be a better ally for the LGBTQ+ community; apologized for not being the ally you needed me to be; and committed to ensuring that our company lives up to its values,’ Chapek said.

‘I meant every word.

‘And that’s what we are here to talk about today.

‘I know we have work to do, and that work starts with listening.’

Bob Chapek, the CEO of Disney, apologized to LGBTQ staff for not being ‘an ally’

The 61-year-old CEO said he accepted he had handled the situation in recent months badly.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has faced a storm of criticism for his handling of LGBTQ issues

His predecessor, Bob Iger, dug the knife in last week, saying the issue was ‘about right and wrong’.

The two men are reportedly at loggerheads about the direction of Disney, and at the end of last month CNBC reported that many felt Chapek would not last long as CEO.

Iger held the position for 15 years before retiring as one of Hollywood’s most widely respected and liked CEOs.

Chapek, in the session, tried to quell the anger, and said he understood ‘the pain’.

‘I hope that you are as impacted as I’ve been by the voices I’ve heard over the past few weeks,’ said Chapek.

‘I’ve read many emails that have been sent; spoken with LGBTQ+ employees and their allies; met with advocacy groups; and convened my own leadership team.

‘I have been taken by the honesty, the openness and the urgency of their stories.

‘I want you to know that your words have made a real impact on me.

‘I understand that we have made mistakes, and the pain that those mistakes have caused.

‘And I know that our silence wasn’t just about the bill in Florida, but about every time an individual or institution that should have stood up for this community did not.

‘I and the leadership team are determined to use this moment as a catalyst for more meaningful and lasting change.’ 

Another speaker at the event outlined procedures that Disney had put in place to help people in Disney who were transgender, and their children.

He said that Disney’s benefits team would be able to provide information about what their healthcare policies included.

‘The other big area is gender identity and expression,’ he said.

‘So doing all of this work to ensure our employees and cast can express their gender here authentically and proudly at the company.

‘Coming up with guides to how to change your photo. Information about pronouns.

‘Working with our benefits team to give information about gender affirmation procedures.

‘Both for our employees who are transitioning and trans.

‘But also our employees who have kids who have transitioning.’ 

An unnamed man explained at the forum that the company was working to make Disney a more trans-friendly workplace

A demonstrator holding a sign takes part in a protest as Disney’s employees demonstrate on March 22 in Caliifornia

The animation and live-action movie company has already announced that it would increase the number of gay characters in its films. 

‘I have heard so much from so many of my colleagues over the past few weeks in open forums, through emails and phone conversations,’ Burke said in a previous forum. 

‘I feel a responsibility to speak not just for my self but also for [my kids].’

She defended 20th Century Fox as ‘the home of really incredible, groundbreaking LGBTQIA stories over the years.’

But she said that it hasn’t been inclusive enough. 

‘One of our execs stood up and said, ‘You know we only have a handful of queer leads in our content,’ Burke said. 

‘I went, ‘What? That can’t be true. And then I realized it is true.’

Disney expressed support for the demonstration in a Facebook post Tuesday morning

Disney has reportedly reinstated a gay kiss in its upcoming Toy Story spinoff amid the criticism. Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba), a character in the film Lightyear, has a relationship with another female character in the film

Scar from the Lion King has been speculated to be a queer character

Ursula of ‘The Little Mermaid’ has also said to be gender nonconforming

Disney said their sensitivity to nonbinary people is nothing new they are working on eliminating gendered pronouns in their theme parks.

‘Last summer we removed all gendered greetings in relationship to our live spiels,’ Diversity and Inclusion Vivian Ware said at the town hall.

‘We no longer say ‘Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,’ she said. ‘We’ve provided training to all our cast members so now they know it’s ‘Hello, everyone or hello, friends.’ 

Disney’s sudden sexual awakening may be a bit of rebranding.

The internet is awash with stories about gay characters in their animated films.

Governor Ratcliffe from ‘Pocahontas’, Ursula of ‘The Little Mermaid,’ and Scar from ‘The Lion King’ have all been speculated to be queer or queer-coded.

Le Fou, the bumbling sidekick in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is said to be the first openly gay character.

In 2021, Forbes complained in a headline ‘How Many Times Is Disney Going To Introduce Its ‘First’ Gay Character?’

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