Over the past few years, Disney has been in the spotlight when it comes to queer representation, but it’s not always for the right reasons. Often when we talk about LGBTQ+ representation in Disney projects, it’s about how lacking it is. From characters with one line, to characters who don’t even have a name, and to others who were more of a joke than anything else, Disney has really dropped the ball on a lot of LGBTQ+ characters.
There were even reports earlier this year from Pixar employees that alleged that Disney corporate execs demanded they cut “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection...regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar.”
Still, there are some that we really love, and Disney+ actually has a lot of great LGBTQ+ content on it now (unlike when it started). It even has some truly groundbreaking shows when it comes to LGBTQ+ characters like we’ve never seen before.
Here are some of our favorite LGBTQ+ TV shows, movies, and shorts that you can watch on the streamer, as well as some examples of queer representation we’re...not so sure about. Each one will be labeled as 'Love It' or 'Leave It,' for your easy browsing.
As terrible as Glee can often be, there’s no denying the huge cultural impact characters like Kurt Hummel, Santana Lopez, Blaine, and Brittany had on queers around the world. Not since Will and Grace did a show have this big of an impact on mainstream American attitudes about gay people.
Disney tried to hype up this character so much, calling her “Pixar’s first gay character.” What we really got though was a cyclops cop who’s barely in the movie and actually says the gay catchphrase “it gets better” as one of her few lines. Seriously, the lesbian cop has become a trope at this point, and it's one that we want to see end asap.
Dana Terrace’s animated series has the first bisexual protagonist in a Disney Channel show. Luz Noceda is a human girl who finds herself in a world of witches and demons, where she falls in love with the lesbian witch Lumity. It’s an adorable show that also features other queer characters like Eda the Owl Lady and the nonbinary witch Raine.
For much of Gravity Falls’ run, the town’s two cops, Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland were basically a walking joke, as the two incompetent cops were portrayed as simpletons and yokels. Alex Hirsch, the show’s creator, confirmed the characters were gay off-screen, but for queer fans, two foolish cops being confirmed as gay on social media doesn’t count as good representation.
This documentary explores the music and indelible impact of Howard Ashman. Ashman, who was gay, was the lyricist behind Disney classics like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid. You wouldn’t have the Disney Renaissance without him, and this documentary is a fitting tribute.
Tim Federle’s gay-AF series about a group of drama kids features so many queer actors and characters it's hard to count! The show has an adorable gay couple in Carlos and Seb, and its third season features queer Gen Z icon JoJo Siwa as a guest star! The show features a ton of queer actors including Joshua Bassett, Larry Saperstein, Julia Lester, Frankie A. Rodriguez, and Joe Serafini.
Touted as “the MCU’s first lesbian superhero,” America’s queerness was pretty much entirely erased from the film. Thankfully her two moms were shown, but America’s own queerness was reduced to a couple of rainbow-colored Pride pins and patches on her jacket. This is not the America we want.
This new update of the classic Disney channel cartoon features a lot of queer characters, including two dads played by Billy Porter and Zachary Quinto, and a new friend for Penny played by EJ Johnson. Others like Lil Nas X, Lizzo, Jane Lynch, and Lena Waithe also appeared as voice actors.
Again, Disney tried to get credit for introducing queerness into one of its major franchises, but barely did the work. In one scene of The Rise of Skywalker, this rebel (and side character with only a few lines) kisses her girlfriend, becoming the first canonically queer character in a Star Wars movie. It’s another blink-and-you’ll miss it moment for characters that barely have lines.
This adorable short film is about two young Chinese kids who become friends on the bus. Rob meets 7-year-old Gabriel, who loves ballet and acts feminine, and the two become close friends, even as Rob’s dad is reluctant about their closeness. It'll warm your heart and is a great balm in these times when queer and trans youth are under attack.