Disney, as many media conglomerates do, has a problem with telling diverse stories, particularly those that showcase the experiences of LGBTQ individuals. And yet, Disney’s new animated show, “The Owl House,” focuses heavily on the budding relationship between two girls, Amity and Luz — the latter of which has been confirmed to be bisexual by the show’s creator.
While nothing as explicit as a kiss has happened between the two characters yet, the plot so far suggests an inevitable buildup of their relationship: In a prom-themed episode, for example, the characters dance together and viewers learn that Amity wanted to ask Luz to the prom, further implying her crush on her. By the end of the first season, all signs point to their relationship blossoming into romance as the series continues, a remarkable step for queer representation in Disney’s animated shows.
Outside of the series itself, creator Dana Terrace has since confirmed the romantic direction of Amity and Luz’s relationship, stating on Twitter that she modeled Luz after her own experience as a bisexual woman. While this confirmation is incredibly historic, wholly remarkable and worth celebrating, it is important to note that one show with queer characters does not absolve Disney of its past unsuccessful attempts at representation. Complimenting the show’s “explicitly queer animated main characters” on Twitter, “Gravity Falls” creator Alex Hirsch stated that Disney executives “forbade” him from including gay characters in his own show. And when queerness was shown in past Disney shows, it was often referenced in passing or shoehorned in, as it was with “Gravity Falls,” which revealed a romantic relationship between two male cops in the show’s final episode.
Disney is no stranger to performative acts of allyship, such as claiming the praise for same-sex relationships despite denying creative freedom to creators such as Hirsch. As long as the aforementioned representation is able to be edited out and international profits are maintained, Disney has appeared to be fine with providing queer people with minuscule background moments that if you blinked, you’d miss. Whether it’s in their movies — such as “Onward,” the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” and “Finding Dory” — or in their television shows — “Andi Mack,” the aforementioned “Gravity Falls,” or “Star vs. the Forces of Evil,” Disney has received publicity and praise for historic “firsts” in queer representation many times over, even if LGBTQ people themselves remain unsatisfied.
But let’s be clear: Disney probably hasn’t changed their policies in the spirit of sticking up for queer people; more likely, they’ve only realized that the LGBTQ community is a marketable demographic. Other animated shows with queer representation, including Netflix’s “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” and “Steven Universe,” have amassed somewhat cult followings even outside their intended child audiences — people of any age can watch these shows and wish that they existed when they were young. Additionally, the majority of Americans have expressed no problem with gay marriage, with 63% of the country morally approving of gay relationships as of 2019, making representation less and less of a controversial choice with each passing year.
This is not to say that explicit on-screen queerness is unnecessary or unappreciated. Queer representation, however, has seemed to come in spite of Disney executives, rather than because of them, and should not be treated as such.
Instead, we should view these developments as products of show creators who insist to see themselves reflected on the screen, queerness and all. Therefore, it is imperative that the praise falls not on the shoulders of Disney, a corporation that finally caved after most of America already has, but rather the creators and writers — not just for “The Owl House,” but also for previous shows that have fought for queer representation and failed.