TV News

Disney+ Removes Queer Romance Because It Isn't "Family-friendly"

The show's so-called 'adult themes'—such as alcohol use and sexual exploration—proliferate on Disney+ in movies and TV with the same rating. The only difference is a queer protagonist.

It seems that Disney still has mixed feelings about gay people.

It's not surprising considering Walt Disney's history. From being founded by a man who, at the very least, reflected his generation's prejudiced attitudes against women, Jews, and homosexuals to allegedly firing their non-heterosexual stars and filling a vault with twentieth century racist cartoons, Disney has a lot of problematic history to atone for before it can be deemed "progressive."

At least all Disney did this week was announce that its queer teen romance TV series, Love, Victor, has been moved from Disney+ to Hulu (also DIsney-owned) after it was deemed not "family-friendly" enough for the original platform. Ricky Strauss, head of content and marketing at Disney+, said in a press release, "All of us at Disney+ are incredibly proud of Love, Victor and know the series will be a perfect addition to Hulu's strong slate of young adult programming." But as Variety reported, "Sources also note that Disney felt many issues explored on the show, including alcohol use and sexual exploration, would not fit in with the family-friendly content on Disney Plus."

Love, Victor is a spinoff series from the 2018 film Love, Simon, which was lauded as the first major Hollywood studio film to feature a gay teenage romance. The PG-13 film doesn't take too many risks, and was mostly rated for its language (including homophobic slurs) and some discussion of sexual acts (like "how slippery everything gets"), plus an award-winning kiss between a same-sex couple. By all accounts, Love, Victor is slated to be the same. According to the synopsis, the series introduces a new star on a "journey of self-discovery, facing challenges at home, adjusting to a new city, and struggling with his sexual orientation."

As netizens soon pointed out, the show's so-called "adult themes"—such as alcohol use and sexual exploration—proliferate on Disney+ in movies and TV shows with the same rating. The teen movie 10 Things I Hate About You, for instance, features heavy underage drinking and gaudy sex jokes. The Mandalorian depicts explicit violence. Also, The Simpsons airs on Disney+, despite never having been deemed "family-friendly" on account of being The Simpsons.

The only difference is that those productions don't feature a queer protagonist.

Amidst Twitter backlash against Disney's inconsistent ideas about what constitutes "family-friendly" content, Becky Albertalli, the author of the book on which Love, Simon is based, defended the corporation. "There's been speculation as for the cause of the platform switch. For what it's worth, it's not based on the show featuring a gay teen love story," she posted. "Disney knew what it was when they got it. There are mature themes such as teen drinking, etc. that led to the switch."

She added, "That said, I completely get why many of us are wary of phrases like 'mature content' and 'adult themes.' They're so often used as homophobic dog whistles, and these concerns are so valid."


While media representation of LGBTQIA+ characters has slowly been expanding in recent years, that progress has come in the form of sidekicks and background characters. Disney-Pixar animation is being lauded for including its first openly gay character in Onward, a feature about two teenage brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. Lena Waithe will voice Officer Specter, a lesbian character who will...also be in the movie for probably a few scenes. Meanwhile, on TV there are still few series that include queer characters, let alone one whose star is grappling with his non-heterosexuality.

As Quartz's Adam Epstein wrote, "So perhaps what Disney really means by 'family-friendly' is not content that simply resonates with families, but rather content that asks nothing of them, content that will not turn away its most narrow-minded viewers…" Sadly, as "the world's most dominant purveyor of culture," Disney is one of the last corporations willing to take a major step forward, as they've shown that inclusivity and diversity are afterthoughts to the bottom line.

With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.

Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.

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CULTURE

"Death Note" Manga Returns with a One-Shot Chapter to Wreck Donald Trump

"Death Note" never explicitly names the American president, but he's very clearly drawn as Donald Trump.

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*MILD SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE NEW DEATH NOTE ONE-SHOT*

In an incredible surprise release, the acclaimed supernatural-thriller manga Death Note has returned with a Special One-Shot chapter (which you can read for free on Viz.com).
For those unfamiliar, Death Note is the story of Light Yagami, a genius high schooler who gets gifted a supernatural notebook by a bored shinigami (a god of death in Japan) named Ryuk. The titular Death Note gives its owner the power to kill anyone whose name they write inside, along with the ability to map out the circumstances of their death. Light decides to use the Death Note to rid the world of crime and shape society as he sees fit, adopting the pseudonym "Kira" and positioning himself as a God. His actions attract the attention of "L," the world's best detective, who views Kira as a serial killer and intends to take him down. What proceeds is a life-or-death game of cat-and-mouse wherein Light and L attempt to figure out each other's real identities in order to bring the other down.

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Death Note is considered by many to be one of the best manga series ever made, with an adaptation that's often used as a "gateway anime" due to its accessibility even to people who are unfamiliar with or don't like the medium. It's a relatively short series, at only 108 chapters, with a clean narrative arc that ends definitively in every way. So a brand new one-shot chapter from the original creative team (writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata) is the best of kind of news for manga fans.

But perhaps even more surprising than the launch, Ohba and Obata wove a brutal takedown of American president Donald Trump into the chapter.

Without spoiling too much of the main plot, the One-Shot follows Ryuk the shinigami in the modern day as he, once again, uses his Death Note to create some havoc. One of the plot points involves the Death Note going up for auction and a bidding war breaking out between the United States of America and the People's Republic of China. The American president, who's never explicitly named but is very clearly drawn as Donald Trump, wins with a two trillion dollar bid and promises to never use it in order to ensure world peace.

Death Note one shot Shueisha

But before giving the notebook to "Mr. President," Ryuk decides on a new rule: "A human who buys or sells the Death Note in the human world will die. The seller will die when they receive the money, and the buyer will die when they receive the Death Note." Ryuk taunts Mr. President, explaining that he "paid all that money, just to die," alongside the caveat that if Mr. President refuses to take the notebook, he'll consider the sale null. Of course, Mr. President still won't get his money back.

Donald Trump Death Note Shueisha

Just look at that weird-lipped mug.

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Ryuk expands on the conundrum he's presenting Mr. President: "If you take the notebook, you'll die, but it will remain here. So someone high and mighty in this country will get it, right? You'll die, but it'll belong to your nation."

Mr. President, of course, backs out. To which Ryuk responds: "Got it. You value your life over your country." Mr. President tells Ryuk that he still plans to lie about having it, and his refusal to use it will make him "look like a saint."

"Very shrewd, Mr. President," says Ryuk.

Trump Death Note Shueisha

Manga isn't known for being particularly political, even regarding Japan's own politics, so when manga artists (and other Japanese celebrities, too) use their medium to make political statements, it's a big deal. For instance, Yu-Gi-Oh creator Kazuki Takahashi later apologized after making a political post on Instagram criticizing the right-wing Abe administration and depicting the Dark Magician saying, "The future for despotic politicians is the Dark Dimension!"

"It seems I caused a commotion," said Takahashi in response to the situation, while being careful not to retract his own political views. "I've considered the various points of view, and I deeply apologize to all of the series' fans for having the characters make political statements."

So for Ohba and Obata's political commentary to pass through the Shonen Jump editorial cycle in an official capacity...Well, it goes to show that Donald Trump's overwhelming disapproval rating isn't just limited to the United States.