Yes, Disney Should Have A Queer Princess
Sometimes people make fun of my pal Film Crit Hulk for including so many caveats in his articles. It can seem like he's pre-apologizing for a lot of stuff that he isn't even saying. But the longer I write online the more I understand that Hulk knows what he's doing: anything that can be read wrong will be read wrong.
Last night I published a piece called "Fandom is Broken" and went to bed. I woke up this morning to find it trending on Twitter, to see tons of creatives retweeting and agreeing with it and to find a lot of people mad at me. The essay has taken on a life of its own, either wholly separate from me and my past stated beliefs or being invalidated by those who don't like me based on my past behavior. I can't do anything about the second point - when you're attacking the messenger you're clearly saying you have no grounds upon which to attack the message - but I want to address the first. A lot of people who are reacting to this piece seem to think that I am somehow against inclusion or diversity in entertainment. That simply isn't true.
Over the years I have written extensively - and with passion - about the need for more representation in our media. About the need for more actors of color in our films, about the need for more queer characters in our stories, about the need for more perspectives behind the scenes to better represent the great diversity of people who love the pop culture we all love. Nothing has changed for me. I still feel that way.
I believe that people should let the decision-makers know that they want more stories featuring underrepresented groups. I believe that the only way to get more representation is to let the suits and the bean counters know that there's an audience for this stuff, to loudly proclaim your willingness to buy tickets or comic books (and then follow up on it by actually buying tickets and comic books). Everyone should let the companies behind the stories we love know that they would like to be included in them.
But the line is crossed when you go from "Disney, I would really like to have a queer princess in one of your cartoons" to "I demand that the writers and directors of Frozen 2 make Elsa canonically queer." You can - and should! - let the higher ups know the kinds of stories you want told. You should not demand that storytellers tell their stories in the ways that you want.
I know that for some people this delineation makes no sense; this goes back to my original point about fans treating stories like orders at a restaurant, and about them not truly respecting the creators of the current work. You see this a lot with people dismissing the contributions of directors and writers on big superhero movies, people who somehow believe that James Gunn or Joe and Anthony Russo are simply carrying out the demands of Disney. I don't buy that line - I have talked to enough comic creators and blockbuster directors to know that, while there is a huge level of compromise involved in working with someone else's intellectual property, they are often telling the stories they want to tell.
Please, keep fighting for the corporations that produce our entertainment to be more diverse and inclusive. I look at the new Star Wars films and Marvel's upcoming Phase Three and I see that the voices of the fans have been heard, and that things are changing. That's positive. But throwing a fit if a storyteller doesn't tell the story you want told, featuring the kinds of people you want included, is not positive. Separate the creators from the IP owners in your heads.
One last thing: I'm a film critic. It's how I pay my rent. I would assume that my status as a film critic would let people know that I believe criticizing and analyzing and talking about the entertainment they consume is a-okay. You don't have to like every story. You don't have to quietly take the bad story. But you shouldn't be a total asshole to the creators about it either.
I know this won't reach even a fraction of the people the original article reached (and nobody was more surprised by that than I was), but I just wanted to get this all on the record.