Disney recently came under fire when they cast Jack Whitehall in the studio's first openly gay role, which will appear in next year's Jungle Cruise. Being that Whitehall is a straight actor, many LGBTQ fans took issue with this decision. It doesn't help that the role is described as "hugely effete, very camp, and very funny," which to many sounds like a giant walking stereotype.
But many are fine with this casting choice. Fellow straight, British actor, Idris Elba recently came to Whitehall's defense in an interview with Time Out London.
"Artistic licence is artistic licence," Elba said. "If an actor has the attributes to do something, they should be able to do it. They're acting. You don't necessarily have to be gay to play a gay character. Though you do have to be black to play a black character."
Although this issue can't directly be compared to an issue like blackface, straight actors have long been portraying gay characters as punchlines and stereotypes. Until big studios like Disney stop relying on those ignorant portrayals, many LGBTQ people aren't going to see a casting decision like this as a win for inclusivity. Most openly gay actors are still passed over for straight roles, while gay roles like this are few and far in between - although that doesn't stop people from arguing the false equivalency that straight actors playing gay are the same as gay playing straight.
Many iconic queer roles have been straightwashed in the past, but Disney's recent casting decision has earned a bit more scrutiny, given their track record of erasure and stereotypes. In 2017's live-action Beauty and the Beast, it was the villainous sidekick LeFou whose subtle gay moment was intended more for laughs. And let's not forget when Thor: Ragnarok ultimately cut the scene that confirmed Valkyrie's bisexuality.
Disney has a long way to go with their inclusion of queer characters and queer actors. And having another straight actor like Elba throw in his support isn't going to change many minds.