Claiming a Place in the Magic Kingdom: A Queer Analysis of Disney Movies from 2010 to 2020

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Virginia Tech

Disney movies are a vehicle for American culture; however, Disney has lagged behind in representing queer people in their films as protagonists. For this reason, critical scholarship is necessary to understand Disney's role in building, replicating or changing culture. Although some critical work on Disney has focused on gender or race, queer theory is underutilized to understand Disney films, especially in the field of communication. Though much research exists on movies from the Disney Renaissance, relatively few have examined the films released in the past decade in a systematic way, focusing on how the movies may be relatable to queer experiences. This analysis combines a queer theory lens and a grounded theory approach to examine where queer people can find their experiences reflected in the most recent Disney movies, even without openly queer protagonists. The study resulted in the formation of six categories that describe instances of queering and queerness in Disney movies: queering of Disney logic, queering of "appropriate" through mature themes, queering of power and violence, villainous queerness, heroic queerness and queer acceptance. Previous literature and the new categories from this study as a whole suggest that the Walt Disney Company is taking small steps to offer more diverse narratives and subvert expectations in ways that allow queer people to read their experiences in the characters on screen.

Disney, queer, grounded theory, queer theory