Rethinking Disney, Chapter Five: Gay Days at the Disney Theme Parks

I never really gave much thought about the gay community or society’s tolerance level for the gay community in the 1970s and 80s, but it was a little appalling to read about how Disney went to such prejudiced lengths to deter gays from crashing Disneyland, and “prepared for the worst”. While I don’t exactly agree with the way that that first “Gay Day” in 1976 was handled by either side—because it sounds like those attending were just as obnoxious as those who worked there—it’s still disconcerting that “courtesy was optional” for the employees. It stands out in my mind as something that would not be tolerated today.

In relation to this, as I read the article, I thought at first that Disney coming from freaking out in the 70s, to holding AIDS charity balls and then moving into the 90s and today by having nice, safe frequent “Gay Days” was a sign of the changing times and the way gays are more accepted in today’s culture versus the 70s… But then that last line of the chapter—nope. “But what did matter—at least to Disney—was that the couple and the child had paid to enter the park”. They’re still a business. If Gay Days are one of the busiest of the year, they are certainly not going to turn away people’s money. And while I do think that the shift in public attitude towards acceptance does have a bit to do with why they won’t say no to any more Gay Days (because then there would be a huge backlash of people calling them anti-gay) in the end, they are still a business, and money is money, regardless of the sexual orientation of the person giving it to them.

Also, it’s interesting that Disney is know for placing such high value on and promoting traditional family values- heterosexual, nuclear families…. But then just about every Disney princess—at least at the time of the first “Gay Day” in 1976, came from a broken family… Snow White was an orphan with and evil stepmother; Cinderella was the same deal (and the prince in that movie as well only has a father, no mother); Aurora has 2 parents, but she isn’t raised by them, but by three “aunts” instead… (and again, Prince Philip has no mother, just a father.) I’m not entirely sure what to make of this in relation to Disney’s relationship with the gay community, but I do think it’s an interesting ting to consider. Perhaps it makes the company a bit hypocritical?

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