Last week, streaming service Disney+ came under fire for pulling the spinoff series of “Love, Simon” off the air. On Feb. 24, Disney+ released a statement that the series would be renamed “Love, Victor” and appear on Hulu, another Disney-owned streaming franchise.
“Love, Simon,” released by 20th Century Fox in 2018, is the first film ever produced by a large cinema company to focus on a homosexual character and romance.
Starring Nick Robinson as the titular character, “Love, Simon” recounts the struggle of closeted gay high school student Simon Spier coming to terms with his sexuality and identity. The film received both popular and critical acclaim for its authentic narrative style and for its tender, sweet, and affecting disposition.
Audiences praised the film for its simple and charming portrayal of a gay romance as nothing more than just that. The film does make minimal references to alcohol use, teen partying, and gay sex, but there’s nothing in the movie that can’t be shown on television.
As a spinoff to the original film, “Love, Victor” follows a student named Victor (Michael Cimino) who transfers to Creekwood High School — the same school Simon attends in the film. As he struggles adjusting to the city and understanding his sexual orientation, he seeks counsel from Nick Robinson as Simon, returning from the first film to narrate and produce the series.
Sources claim that Disney+ moved “Love, Victor” to Hulu for its depictions of topics including alcohol use, marital issues, and sexual exploration, which would conflict with Disney+’s mission to be a “family friendly” service.
Upon the release of the streaming service, Disney+ executive Kevin Mayer emphasized their mission to make Disney+ an age-appropriate place.
“It’s all family friendly, but everyone can enjoy this product,” said Mayer in a briefing at Disney+’s headquarters in Burbank.
After Disney+’s announcement, Becky Albertalli addressed fans’ concerns over the show’s switch via Twitter. She claims that Disney did not choose to move the show for its exploration of queer identities, but for other matters relating to the show’s storyline.
“I completely get why many of us are wary of phrases like ‘mature content’ and ‘adult themes,’” said Albertalli in her tweet. “They’re so often used as homophobic dog whistles, and these concerns are so valid.”
Despite Albertalli’s support for the switch, fans still suspect that the reasons for the series’ move are still linked to homophobic anxieties. Though Disney has made progress with LGBTQ+ representation in recent years, their earlier track record with the community leaves some viewers skeptical.
Many viewers took to Twitter to challenge Albertalli’s statement. “They’re treating the show like it’s some after dark sex soap fit for HBO, not what it actually is,” said Twitter user @delibird444. “It’s heartbreaking to be treated like we’re not ‘family friendly’ again.”
While sources say that Disney+ attributed the switch for the “Love, Victor” series to themes of alcohol use, marital issues, and sexual exploration, inconsistencies do remain with other content streamed on the site.
The film “10 Things I Hate About You” is available on Disney+, yet it contains copious references to teen partying, alcohol, and sex. The difference between this movie and “Love, Victor” is the inclusion of a gay character.
Some argue that violence is far less “family-friendly” than themes like sexual exploration or alcohol use. In this case, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” the entire “Avengers” series, and the “Star Wars” chronicles would not fit the family-friendly Disney canon either.
Even if the show was taken off the air solely for these reasons, the fact that the show is one of the first to center LGBTQ+ exploration still stirs doubt among audiences. It could also be argued that even though sexual exploration is part of coming to terms with one’s orientation, the show most likely wouldn’t explicitly depict it.
Whether or not Disney+ pulled the show off their service for concerns linking “family-friendliness” and the portrayal of LGBTQ+ themes, this matter as a whole calls for a reconciliation of “family values” with the representation of homosexual relationships on television.
“Family values” should promote inclusion and openness rather than refuse to represent a certain demographic because it does not fit a status quo that describes what is “family friendly.” This incident calls not for the censorship/silencing of a minority’s narrative, but a new definition of family values.