News & Opinion
Disney Goes Gay/Gay Goes Disney
A brief note about rainbow-wielding Mickey Mouse.
May 31 2013 1:10 PM EST
February 05 2015 9:27 PM EST
Of all the absurd anti-gay causes conservatives have latched onto over the decades, the "reclaim the rainbow" movement remains the most ridiculous. Its few adherents argue that LGBT people are trying to steal the rainbow, a natural phenomenon whose appearance in the sky and in the Bible they say indicates a closeness to God.
ReclaimTheRainbow.com greets visitors with a cheer, "God Pride!", and the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," but not the Judy version lest they intrigue the gays. Entering brings a litany of Biblical quotes that "prove" the rainbow's connection to a Christian creator. But that's sunshine and lollipops when compared to the protestations at a like-minded related site derivatively entitled Jesus is Savior, where a writer named David J. Stewart spews, "I am always deeply grieved (as I know the Holy Spirit of God is) when I see the rainbow desecrated by some godless Sodomites." That's quite a dreary outlook for someone who claims to love the rainbow, and one can only imagine what Stewart has to say about the estimated 170,000 rainbow-wielding LGBT people who will descend on Orlando for the 23rd Annual Disney Gay Days this weekend.
Disney, the world's quintessential family friendly corporation, has never officially endorsed Gay Days, an annual event in which LGBT people and their allies have a good old time in a place that purports to be the happiest on earth. But the company has gone along with it since 1991, when a few random LGBT people decided to go together, wearing red so they would stand out to strangers met in community chat rooms. Disney was at the time debating whether or not to extend domestic benefits to same-sex partners, a debate that revealed anti-gay attitudes in the court room, and it couldn't afford a big stink. Conservatives tried to claim that Disney's timid approach was tacit approval, and it probably was because Disney World's stance, though still technically neutral, has become increasingly inclusive over the past two decades. No doubt revenue stream, both for the company and for surrounding hotels that sponsor the event, had as much to do with their decision as public opinion. Thus, Disney World's stocking up on rainbow adorned Mickey Mouse wares ahead of this weekend's festivities.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that the iconic rodent sports rainbows on everything from wallets to mugs to vinyl figurines known as Vinylmations. Most of these are in red, the color of Gay Days. Disney won't admit this is official gay gear; a representative only said, "We offer a wide range of merchandise items that appeal to guests of diverse backgrounds," but it's clearly an unadulterated push for sweet, sweet gay dollars.
Some of the rainbow products have been available for a few years, but regular attendees told the paper that red rainbow shirts are a new addition, and Disney's clearly made a concerted to erect new displays for the gay weekend: "Red tank tops with rainbow-colored Mickey Mouse heads began arriving in shops along Main Street USA a few days ago. They were paired in store displays with other rainbow items usually found in the parks year-round, such as rainbow pins and antenna toppers."
Conservative rainbow crusaders would go ashen at the sight. And they wouldn't be alone. Activists on the far left side of the LGBT political spectrum will read corporate big-wig Mickey's ever-strengthening embrace of the rainbow in the reverse: as the ultimate symbol of the LGBT community's integration into the American mainstream. Consider them lucky, though: unlike the rainbow, irony goes with everything.