Disney+ content demonstrates similar trends in poor LGBTQ+ representation

The 2018 romantic comedy Love, Simon will be developed into a television series for Disney’s upcoming streaming service Disney+, according to Pride. The film, adapted from Becky Albertalli’s young adult novel, was momentous for its generally positive representation of young gay men. 

While it is dire to have helpful LGBTQ+ visibility like this in the media, the next step is to make this representation intersectional and even more inclusive. Instead of remaking the same story over and over again, Disney+ and other platforms should be interested in telling new, original stories about LGBTQ+ people. 

Love, Simon does impressive things, no doubt, and it is an important story to tell. Between featuring a gay male character of color and steering clear of the tragedy that is stereotypical of films involving LGBTQ+ characters, the story works to normalize and destigmatize same-sex romances.

Clearly, this is the kind of story today’s youth are hungry for. Love, Simon earned over $57 million worldwide on a production budget barely a third of that number, according to The Daily Beast. The argument that LGBTQ+ stories won’t sell no longer justifies the homophobia of major studios, as Love, Simon proves.  

That being said, there are a plethora of other stories featuring LGBTQ+ characters that deserve to be shared. Love, Simon has already done its work and seen its success. Disney+ needs to be investing their time elsewhere.

In a 2017 study, GLAAD found that LGBTQ+ representation in films by major studios was particularly poor, according to The Daily Beast. That’s part of why Love, Simon was so momentous; it was the first studio movie focused on a teen gay romance, according to Indie Wire.

“If Hollywood wants to remain relevant with these audiences and keep them buying tickets, they must create stories that are reflective of the world LGBTQ people and our friends and family know,” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis told The Daily Beast. “This needs to take place in the major studios that play in wide release all over the country … as well as in the indie films that have long been home to stand-out queer and trans stories.”

Two years later and, although there are now films like Love, Simon to point to, there are still not nearly enough.

Disney, a major company with a long, complex history of shady LGBTQ+ representation, is taking a serious step forward by enthusiastically adapting a story with an unquestionably gay romance at the forefront. There’s no doubt that this is positive, however, this doesn’t mean that the work is done.

For some reason, likely due to society’s deeply-rooted misogyny and sexism, people are most comfortable with same-sex romances between two men. Therefore, these are the stories that get told more often than any other LGBTQ+ group. 

In recent findings, gay men remain the most represented in film with 64% of LGBTQ+ inclusive films featuring gay male characters, as reported by GLAAD. In comparison, they found that there were zero transgender inclusive films from major studios in 2017. 

Perhaps the first thing major studios should realize is that LGBTQ+ experiences are not universal to everyone in the community. They cannot continue to make films solely about gay men, slap the inclusive label over it and think that they’re done. 

The Love, Simon television series will work toward inclusivity and, if the film is any indication, will be successful at it. Nevertheless, it is crucial for Disney and other major studios to continue thinking critically about LGBTQ+ representation and fund other inclusive stories, hopefully featuring characters other than just gay men.