A recent test screening for the upcoming Disney film The Jungle Cruise, revealed that Jack Whitehall’s character won’t mention that he’s gay.
Back in August, the internet blew a fuse when it found out that Jack Whitehall, a straight comedian, would play Disney’s first ever openly gay character.
Many twitter users worried over the fact that Whitehall is a straight man acting in a gay role, but now there’s even more for the internet to obsess over.
TMZ shares that there was a recent test screening of The Jungle Cruise. They report that Disney apparently avoids using the word “gay” throughout the film. That said, Whitehall’s character McGregor does have a coming out scene. McGregor opens up about his dating history to Dwayne Johnson’s character. McGregor does this by making it clear that he’s not interested in women.
As TMZ writes:
“McGregor explains to ‘Frank’ his family had tried arranging marriages for him with several women, but he didn't wanna marry any of them — or any woman, for that matter. He also says Emily Blunt's character, Lily (his sister in the movie), was the only one in his fam to accept him and support him regardless of the ‘person’ he loves.”
“We're told the scene was well-received by the audience, but the glaring omission of a pronoun to describe McGregor's love interest did not go unnoticed.”
Despite the public’s outrage when it was revealed Whitehall’s character is gay, we continue to assert that the real concern is with the character itself.
When Whitehall’s role was first described, McGregor was explained to be “hugely effete, very camp and very funny.”
Disney making it’s first openly gay character an effete (meaning incapable of acting or pretentious) and campy man is not the best choice. We want this character to be a part of the jokes and not the butt of them.
Now, this latest development raises even more concerns with the depiction of a gay character. But, we also have to acknowledge why Disney would choose something like this.
First off, The Jungle Cruise is supposedly set in the 1930s. At that time, the word gay was not used to define homosexuality. That said, TMZ did not specify if the scene and movie used a more era appropriate phrase.
At the start of this month, I argued that Marvel should give us gay romances to stand beside Marvel’s horribly written straight ones. In that piece, I accounted for why Hollywood is so hesitant to present gay characters and gay romance.
At the end of the day, the movie making business is still a business and money is king. If blockbuster films from companies like Marvel and Disney want to make the most money, they need to make films that are marketable to everyone. Unfortunately, the inclusion of gay characters/romance makes films less marketable in several regions of the world.
Not only would Disney lose out on money with Conservative America, but it would also lose money with anti-gay countries like Malaysia and China. This is especially important as China continues to grow into a box office juggernaut large enough to rival America.
Also remember that Disney’s last attempt at a gay character, LeFou from Beauty and the Beast who had a “gay moment” in the film, tried to market towards these countries. Malaysia wanted Disney to edit him out of the film, so Disney pulled Beauty and the Beast from Malaysian theaters. Then, China analyzed the film intensely before eventually allowing it to play.
In order to best satisfy everyone, Hollywood creatives and executives have settled on a formula of giving coded references to characters being gay. Characters in blockbuster films like Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Power Rangers, and now The Jungle Cruise, are depicted to be gay by giving vague speeches alluding to their sexualities or actions that have meaning only to those looking for them.
While this openly gay character may not specifically say the word “gay,” it isn’t necessarily an indication of misrepresentation. Instead, it’s a sign of calculated production. Whether you see that as evil, a necessary evil, or an act of heroism is up to you. No matter what, that’s the reality of The Jungle Cruise and gay characters in blockbuster films right now.
As the Jungle Cruise gets closer to release, LGBTQ film fans are waiting patiently to see how this McGregor character is presented. It seems he has become a symbol for gay representation in film at the current moment. Will that be a good thing or a bad thing? We’ll find out when The Jungle Cruise premieres on July 24, 2020.