Disney, Georgia, and a Changing Public Image

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If you are unfamiliar, Georgia was in the midst of passing a bill that would allow church groups to opt out of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage last year…sort of. With this new bill, Georgia churches could turn away from performing gay marriages as well as religious groups choosing to not hire or include those who they didn’t want based on religious beliefs. Basically this new bill would have been somewhat of a “loophole” in the Supreme Court decision, allowing religious views to overpower human rights deemed by the law. Disney, as well as many others like AMC’s The Walking Dead, who film television and movies (Marvel in particular) have threatened to pull out of Georgia and no longer film in the state if Governer Nathan Deal would have decided to turn this bill into Georgia law. Those in favor of the bill have said this is no place for companies like Disney to stick their nose. Those against the bill have stood up to applaud Disney for making a political move.

It’s very interesting that Disney, an entertainment company, has decided to get involved in such a polarizing mess. The possible threat of losing money over a statement like this has to have some executives worried. I’m sure not everyone sitting atop the company at a very nice board meeting desk are excited about this move. Disney did not have to say anything and nobody would have thought any different of them. Burbank is a long ways away from Atlanta and even though they have shot films in the state, most movie-goers would assume Disney is shooting on a sound stage rather than in the backwoods of the Deep South. There is nothing in it for Disney. I doubt there will be more tickets sold to upcoming movies and I don’t think there will be any extra vacations booked to any of the Disney destinations. In fact, Disney may see a decrease in tickets and vacations by those that were in favor of the “Religious Liberty” bill.

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This also comes right on the coattails of Zootopia, a movie I wrote about (read it here) because of it’s political stance. It’s not a secret that most of Hollywood is liberal and progressive, and California was one of the first states to come forward in the gay rights movement, but this is a totally different story. Disney has always been seen as family friendly. They’ve tried to hide their past in politics or social issues, like Song of the South or the propaganda films of World War II. If it was racy or could offend, Disney has tried to dismiss it for a more outgoing and fun everybody-gets-hugs-from-Mickey public image.

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So why now? Why has Disney, of all companies, pushed into social change, politics, and religion? It’s tough to say and we can only really speculate. If Disney continues to mingle in these issues, their public image could drastically change and there is a possibility of financial loss for the family friendly giant. This is, however, a way for those who see Disney as a corporate cash cow to change their opinion of the company. Change is always scary as their is much to risk whether it be a singular person, a company, or an entire nation. Disney reaching past their PG bubble and into the real world’s issues is a bold move. Looking back at history, major corporations have shaped our world, for better or worse, and Disney is no longer standing in the corner waiting for people to come say “hi” while others argue in the middle of the room. They are stepping into the argument, at least for now, and that could mean that we are seeing a major change to one of America’s largest entertainment companies.

Should Disney have gotten involved with Georgia’s political system? Should Disney be worried about being on the losing end? Does this affect your thoughts on the company as a whole? Leave your thoughts and keep the conversation moving forward

Josh Taylor
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Posted on April 2, 2016, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Jonathan Willis

    Disney isn’t the only company to voice it’s opinion on the anti-gay act. Home Depot, Coke, and Target were all in the same boat. That’s not to say that these companies will pack up and leave our state if this gets passed, but Disney is our biggest threat to loose.

    Disney Studios, ABC Studios, and other filming companies take high advantage of Georgia’s tax incentives making it much more cost effective to film in our state. Georgia benefits from the added jobs, press, and business that these companies provide. Not to mention the NFL threatening to never hold a Super Bowl in the state.

    Govenor Nathan Deal has vetoed the bill citing the Constitution, but I can’t think his decision wasn’t swayed by the threat of loose these powerful companies.

  2. The Disney company isn’t exactly a social warrior, but it is overall more progressive than people give it credit for. From the get go, people of all races where working for the studio because Walt Disney honestly didn’t care where you came from as long as you had talent. He recognized the talent of Mary Blair and made her style the centre of the 1950s movies. Disney had woman in leading positions earlier than anyone else, and while characters like Snow White or Cinderella look backwards for a lot of people nowadays, they were actually ahead of their time back then. As was having an African American lead in a movie, no matter what people think of Song of the South. And Disney might have hidden their propaganda movies but they actually had no reason to do so. I am German, and I am not offended by any I saw. I actually appreciated how shorts like “Education for dead” went to the heart of the issue.
    Years ago the gay community decided to “storm” the Disney park. Disney just shrugged and made it an official gay day.
    Let’s put it this way: 50 years ago, Disney would have risked a serious image damage by speaking up openly concerning such an issue, because “family friendly” doesn’t fit the back then dominant idea of the “depraved homosexual”. Behind the scenes, though, it was a different matter. Howard Ashman was HIV positive during a time a lot of people were still hiding that they had the illness because a lot of people saw it a punishment from good. Disney not only didn’t care, during the production of Beauty and the Beast they had to work around the fact that he was already too ill to work.
    Times have changed, though. Nowadays a more liberal world view is considered “family friendly”. Now Disney can step forward without damaging their image – quite the opposite in fact. In the end it boils down to company politics. What Disney is doing is at the end of the day a reflection of how far we have come as a society. Hopefully we will be able to do the last steps, too.

  3. Nice try but this is really an intellectually disingenuous defense of religion discrimination and says more about the person who wrote it than it does about the Walt Disney Company.

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