As so often seems to happen with Hollywood, as it takes a step forward it also seems to be taking a step back. It’s been revealed that Disney is including its first openly gay major character in the upcoming, The Jungle Cruise, starring Dwayne Johnson.
However, there has been criticism of the fact that the person cast to pay the role is straight British comedian, Jack Whitehall. There was also dismay at reports in The Sun that the character will be, ‘hugely effete, very camp and very funny.’
Many on social media have taken umbrage at Whitehall playing the role, feeling that it should have gone to a gay actor. Many have drawn perhaps dubious comparisons to the recent anger at Scarlett Johansson briefly being cast as a transgender character, suggesting it’s a missed chance to true representation. It’s also been seen as another example of Hollywood ‘gayface’, which allows a movie to ‘play gay’ while ensuring the audience knows it’s not real, as it’s actually a straight person playing the role.
Others have been more annoyed at the news that the character will be effete and very camp, suggesting it’s once more, as Omar Sharif Jr, has put it, that is falls back on “tired stereotypes used as devices to make us laugh so we’re comfortable with otherness”. Although others have riled at this suggestion, feeling that it’s gay people ‘camp shaming’, it is perhaps more accurate that the worry is this will once more feed into Hollywood’s long history of using camp men as the punchline, and of laughing at them rather than with them.
It should also be noted that while Whtehall is straight, he is quite camp (something that he’s referenced numerous times in his stand-up), so he may not actually be playing a character too far from him own personality.
As so often with these moments of social media outrage, it’s people getting angry based on little information and before we’ve actually been able to see the movie (Jungle Cruise isn’t due in cinemas until October 2019). As things stand, Disney hasn’t even confirmed Whitehall’s character is gay, let alone that he will be immensely camp and/or used as a homophobic/misogynistic joke. As previous LGBT inclusion in Disney films, such as the ‘exclusively gay moment’ in last year’s Beauty And The Beast, turned out to be damp squibs, this may turn out to be a storm in a teacup.