In a story published by the Tallahassee Democrat, it was reported that a Florida teacher is under investigation by the state Department of Education after what she believes is a targeted attack by a school board member who took issue with a Disney movie shown in her classroom.
The animated movie, called "Strange World," was released in November. It's the first Disney movie featuring an out-gay character named Ethan Clade, played by gay comedian Jaboukie Young-White. Clade’s storyline includes having a crush on another male character named Diazo.
What did movie reviewers say about "Strange World?" Below are 11 excerpts from media websites and the different takes critics had on the gay character, Ethan.
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USA TODAY calls 'Strange World' 'extremely modern'
"Fans of pulpy 1930s and ’40s heroes such as Doc Savage and Flash Gordon will dig the over-the-top action vibe, yet “Strange World” is extremely modern in its themes. It taps into real-world issues of conservation and sustainability of natural resources, and there’s a strong sense of inclusion – Ethan’s a biracial gay teen, Legend makes up for a missing leg with boundless energy – and the most welcome aspect is that it's all pretty normal. "
New York Times cites 'different kinds of masculinity' in 'Strange World'
"The screenwriter Qui Nguyen thoughtfully integrates a diverse cast, strong female characters and different kinds of masculinity. (Ethan takes after gramps in the adventuring department, but he’s also sensitive and openly gay in a way that has never been more explicit in a Disney movie.) But these elements aren’t the main point.
The takeaway is the difficulty of collaboration in the face of entrenched beliefs and ways of navigating the world that, ultimately, must be questioned — if not entirely dismantled — if any one of us expects to stick around."
Indie Wire: 'First ever gay character ... feels timid'
"Ethan is the studio’s bajillionth 'first ever gay character' (and his family is one of a few interracial families in all of Disney), but as progressive as it is, even that feels timid: His crush appears in one scene at the beginning of the movie, and apart from a short conversation is not mentioned again — easily cut to appease the international censors that provide Disney with so much of its revenue. (I don’t blame the filmmakers for this necessarily; Disney animation employees have publicly and repeatedly called out the studio’s aversion to queer representation in the past.)"
Vulture: 'Ethan is Black and unmistakably queer'
"That Strange World’s secondary hero, Ethan, is Black and unmistakably queer (no “exclusively gay moments” here — he does some sweetly awkward flirting with his crush in one of his earlier scenes) is noteworthy. But that development is subordinate to the film’s primary story about how the complete and immediate eradication of fossil fuels is the only way for human life to continue."
The Guardian: 'Wokeness' and avocado toast
"Ethan is Disney’s first openly gay teenager and, predictably, rightwing activists have called for a boycott. Though for others, the fact that "Strange World" is so triggering for the religious right might be its biggest treat. In addition to Ethan being gay, it has that environmental message and – oh, the wokeness – a scene in which avocado on toast is served."
Los Angeles Times: Queer teens exist, 'and it's not a big deal'
"Although he is much more than a representational milestone, it’s noteworthy that Ethan is the first biracial queer teenage main character in an animated Disney film. Disney has (rightly) been called out for years for its lack of meaningful LGBTQ representation in its films. In response, these last few years have seen the studio attempt to tout various first “gay moments” and queer characters that for the most part were underwhelming.
So it’s a pleasant surprise that Ethan and his obvious crush on his friend Diazo arrive with minimal fanfare (especially compared with “Lightyear” and some Marvel installments). Even more so that although Ethan’s crush is a recurring motif, his story does not revolve around his identity, or coming out, and that him being queer is not a big deal to his family and friends (and hopefully the entirety of Avalonia). Because despite what some right-wing politicians and activists would like people to believe, queer teenagers do in fact exist and it’s not a big deal. It’s about time Disney noticed."
AIPT: Glad 'Strange World' teen isn't stereotypical, snarky jerk
"They have a teenage son in the film that’s voiced by Jaboukie Young-White. I’m not familiar with Young-White’s work, but I must say that I was impressed by his very expressive voice work here. I’m so glad they didn’t write this character in a stereotypical annoying way. I can’t stand teenage boys in films that are just snarky jerks the whole time. Young-White’s role is really quite sweet and endearing.
This character is responsible for most of the diversity too. He is gay and has a crush on another boy he goes to school with. I just couldn’t help but smile at the couple scenes that cover this. Their nervous teenage flirtation is so heartwarming and it’s fantastic to see LGBTQ youth in a family film. That’s incredibly important!"
AP: 'Strange World' plot is more than a 'gay moment'
"There’s also the not-insignificant fact that Ethan has a same-sex crush. This has led some to call the film the first Disney animated gay teen romance. That’s a bit of a stretch, because this budding romance is a side plot, referred to by a number of characters, but by no means a major topic of discussion.
But maybe that’s the point — if it’s not a major plot point, nor is it a sneeze-and-you-miss it moment like, for example, that quick glance in “Beauty and the Beast” in 2017 that was heralded as the first Disney “gay moment.” It’s just a given that when Ethan talks about his crush, he’s talking about Diazo, a boy, and nobody, not his parents nor his crusty old granddad, bats an eyelid. It’s also refreshing that the Clades are a biracial family, and that too, is not discussed."
Variety: 'Everyone is cool' with boy crushing on a boy
"By far the most overdue of these innovations is the way Ethan has a crush on a boy named Diazo (Jonathan Melo) … and everyone is cool with it. The only drama that subplot generates is whether Ethan will find the nerve to tell Diazo how he feels — although it’s pretty clear Diazo already knows, and shares Ethan’s feelings. Sure, some countries will lose their minds over there being a gay character in a Disney movie, which makes it all the more courageous that producer Roy Conli deemed it time to expand the studio’s “Someday My Prince Will Come” idea of romance. It’s normal that some kids should feel as Ethan does, just as it’s normal that his mom is also a pilot. It’s those who think otherwise who are living in a strange world."
Hollywood Reporter: 'Strange World' character's sexuality is a fact of life
"A particularly tender sequence in which Searcher meets Ethan’s crush, Diazo (Jonathan Melo), sets up, with little fanfare, a historic moment for the conservative studio: Ethan is the first out gay teenager in a Disney animated film.
Hall and Nguyen treat Ethan’s sexuality as a fact of life instead of a battleground on which he must seek familial acceptance, a move that relieves Ethan of the banality of being an avatar. The character’s source of tension is his relationship to his father, who wants him to become a farmer. Ethan, with his insatiable curiosity for the natural world and intuitive sense of his surroundings, would prefer to explore territories beyond Avalonia — much like his grandfather. The character’s dimensionality makes him more relatable."
Deadline lists among 'Biggest Bombs' of 2022
"Some might say Disney’s embrace of a gay character in the film turned off red-state audiences, while critics found the fantasy pic to be clunky and incomprehensible, and the animation retro and stale. Disney nonetheless supported the movie with a full theatrical release and dated it during their traditional five-day Thanksgiving launchpad, where it saw a record-low start for a Disney Animation title during that frame with $18.8M. Disney knew the goods were soured and had Strange World on Disney+ a month later, by December 23."
This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: USA TODAY, New York Times review 'Strange World,' gay Disney character