There’s no debating that Disney faces issues when it comes to diversity. Little girls and boys who aren’t apart of the majority are routinely boxed out and don’t get the chance to see their own identities within these films.
Story by Sayuri Kolombege
Disney has made some strides within the last couple of years by creating characters, as well as appropriately casting these roles to minorities they’ve overlooked in the past. But they still have a long way to go in terms of creating a more diverse and inclusive productions.
Regardless, here are five times Disney took a step in the right direction.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2015
With female lead Daisy Ridley and prominent supporting roles from John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, who are both men of color a largely overlooked group in the Star Wars franchise), this movie shattered the usual casting routine of all the previous Star War films. Plus, with all the criticism it faced still managed to become a record-breaking box office hit.
While this movie didn’t exactly have a widely diverse cast, it’s arguable that it had themes that challenge the norms of society. It was a bold and unusual narrative taken by Disney that left a lot of us with raised eyebrows, but nonetheless, it was a positive message of interdependence and acceptance that we all embraced fondly.
The Jungle Book, 2016
The movie stars Neel Sethi, an Indian-American child actor. Kudos to Disney for casting Mowgli correctly, but for a movie set in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh and a cast of 23, you can only find three other actors of Indian descent. But thinking positively, Sethi was the only actor that didn’t have to be artificially created and had unparalleled screen time as he carried the banner that encompassed the essence of a familiar story told to us a long time ago.
The movie that took us all by storm. Moana managed to strike the hearts of millions as it featured a not-so-princess heroine of Hawaiian descent. Disney was praised for doing so well in incorporating and respecting the culture of it’s leading actress, Auli’i Cravalho, and creating a film that strayed away from the stereotypical protagonist.
We won’t fool ourselves into believing that Disney has become the face of diversity, but it’s important to note the advances made by the influential corporation that shapes the childhoods of many. Any and every addition of broadening the scope should be celebrated and we’re all ready for the day that every kid can idolize a Disney character who looks like them.
Beauty and the Beast, 2017
Okay, let’s just call a spade a spade and agree that Lefou’s implied gay character within the film is a pitiful attempt at representing the LGBTQ+ community. It’s not what full inclusion looks like, but for Disney, it’s a start. And we hope that this is a stepping stone to more characters that aren’t classified as heterosexual.