Letter to the Editor: In response to the article titled ‘Don’t blame Disney’

(GRAPHIC/ Kathleen Egbert)
This letter is in response to an opinion column by Sable Riley in the March 16 Tropolitan.
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Dear Editor:

You’re right—it is not Disney’s responsibility to attempt to uphold any certain moral values or ethical principles.

After all, this is America, and we are free to believe what we want and act accordingly whether it is perceived by others as right or wrong. Yet, Disney is being criticized for seeming to support an idea that is not popular with all people or religions.

Disney was not selling-out to society when it included a gay character in its new live-action adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” — it was being inclusive of a minority group that is not always portrayed on the big screen.

Over the years, the media has improved when it comes to representation of those who are anything other than heterosexual Caucasians; however, other races, cultures and sexual orientations are still underrepresented.

GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, released its 2016 Studio Responsibility Index report, which showed low representation numbers when it comes to those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Of all the films released in the U.S. in 2016, only 22 were deemed by the organization as inclusive of queer people, 16 of which limited their screen time to less than 10 minutes. These characters were also mostly found to be minor roles, sometimes only making brief appearances for the sake of punchlines, as well.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) also released its 2015 Theatrical Market Statistics report, which showed low representation percentages of racial groups who are not Caucasian, a group that has historically been exclusively represented in the media. The average film released in the U.S. in 2015 featured a cast that looked like the following: 53 percent Caucasian, 19 percent  Hispanic, 16 percent  African-American, 8 percent Asian and 4 percent  American Indian or Other.

In fact, the top five movies in the U.S. for the same year (“Furious 7,” “Inside Out,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Jurassic World”) featured casts that ranged from 40 percent to 61 percent Caucasian.

Even when these groups are represented, they are often misrepresented. For example, the entertainment industry often tends to overplay the sexuality of gay people, making them out to be overly sexual or flamboyant. They also tend to present gay characters in a way that is very demeaning and offensive, often for comedic reasons.

The only thing this accomplishes is furthering stigmas surrounding the gay community by portraying a distorted image of what gay people are actually like. Gay people, just like straight people, come in many different colors across the spectrum and do not all fall under one specific set of characteristics or personality traits.

As a gay man, it was a breath of fresh air to see a gay character behave in a way that was more appropriate and not completely formed out of social stigmas.

Disney’s healthy representation of a minority group that has been misunderstood and misrepresented for so long was a “W” in the win column for those of us who are tired of being seen in such a polarized way.

So no, I don’t blame Disney. I see a company that is attempting to be inclusive and represent all people no matter where they come from, what they believe in or who they love. We are already here, are going to continue to be here and need to be seen and heard, too — in a way that stays true to who we really are.

“Beauty and the Beast” is a reminder to us all to look past the surface and not judge others by what we see on the outside, but on the inside.

Sincerely,

Casey Richards