Straight actor Jack Whitehall is reportedly set to play one of Disney’s first ever openly LGBTQ characters in the upcoming film Jungle Cruise
The upcoming 19th-century-set film Jungle Cruise is based on the famous Disneyland theme park ride where a small riverboat takes a group of travellers through a jungle filled with dangerous beasts but with a spooky, supernatural twist, according to IMDB.
The 30-year-old comedian even excitedly shared a teaser for the film, due to be released in October 2019, on Instagram, adding: “I’m so honoured to be part of this epic adventure. Filming is underway and I am having the time of my life with my amazing co-stars. It’s so cool to be part of something of this scale and also as possibly one of the biggest Disney nerds on the planet so exciting to be working on a project with this much history.
“Watch to the end of this video and see the most incredible set I’ve ever seen. They built it from the ground up and walking onto it for the first time a month ago was like stepping back in time. Can’t wait for you to see this film.”
But all that initial excitement has soured a little with the revelation that Whitehall, who is straight, will be playing a “very camp” gay character.
A source reportedly told The Sun: “This is a huge gig for Jack and has landed him his biggest ever pay cheque. But, more excitingly, he is playing a gay man - one who is hugely effete, very camp and very funny.
“It’s a dream role. Disney’s always been incredibly supportive of the LGBTQ community.”
[Full disclosure: this final line made me audibly chuckle in the office considering Disney’s less-than-stellar track record]
If this character is indeed gay, it would make him one of the very, very, very few openly LGBTQ characters in Disney history.
But there has been plenty on backlash on Twitter from critics who are wondering why a gay actor wasn’t offered the chance to play this history-making role.
Super excited about this huge moment for the LGBTQ+ family, and @jackwhitehall is amazing https://t.co/FwH4d7BZqZ BUT when so many gay actor friends of mine are turned down for straight roles because there’s a “whiff of gay”, it’s frustrating to cast NonGay people in gay roles— James Barr 🏳️🌈 (@imjamesbarr) August 13, 2018
It’s not that it’s a problem to cast a fantastic straight ally to play a gay role, it’s that there are so many gay actors that are under represented in all sorts of roles across the board... and so I think that this is, fantastic, but also a bit sad 😔 #JungleCruise— James Barr 🏳️🌈 (@imjamesbarr) August 13, 2018
Straight actors please stop taking queer roles. Straight comics please stop acting gay for laughs. We’ve asked, now it just looks like you don’t give a shit.— David Morgan (@thisisdavid) August 13, 2018
Not everyone was offended though:
Have absolutely no idea why people are kicking off at Jack Whitehall playing a gay character... gay actors also play straight characters... it’s all a bit ludicrous— Tom (@tms96_) August 12, 2018
After the recent Dumbledore and Scarlett Johansson transgender debacles, the fact that Disney is open to showing LGBTQ characters onscreen is definitely a positive step but it proves there’s still a reaaallllyyyy long way to go until we get proper diversity in mainstream movies.
Disney and Jack’s reps have been contacted for comment.