Tessa van Westerop’s MA thesis on queer representation in recent Disney films (Utrecht University, 2023).
This research investigates and decodes Disney’s representation of queerness in four of its recent animated and live-action films, namely Cruella (2021), Jungle Cruise (2021), Lightyear (2022) and Strange World (2022). It uses queer theory, imagology, and stereotypical tropes (twelve in total, divided into seven categories) to conduct a qualitative visual discourse analysis and close viewing of the films. It aimed to conclude how Disney represents queerness in its recent feature-length films but found that there is no one way of describing Disney’s queer representation in its recent films. It did, however, observe some
patterns. Most notably, it found that Disney is no longer using queer characters as its villains in any of their recent films, which is a significant change from its older films. Moreover, it found that there is a noticeable difference between Disney’s animated films and its liveaction films. The animated films portray a more fluid and inclusive image of queerness by including, for example, non-white queer characters and not making use of rigid stereotypes. These portrayals, however, do often border on a sense of tokenism, and leave the queer characters relatively one-dimensional. The live-action films, on the other hand, make more use of the stereotypical tropes, which results in a more rigid, limited and often subservient representation of queerness. However, on the other hand, these representations also touch upon some more ‘realistic’ aspects of queerness, and the characters’ queerness often influences their storylines.