It’s getting close to Pride season — a joyous occasion for both the LGBTQ community and the corporations who hawk them crap they don’t need.
Crappy rainbow pens aside, some of this merchandise invariably has a positive cultural impact. This week, for example, Disney fans discovered that the company had introduced rainbow LGBTQ Pride Mickey Mouse ears to their collection.
It’s a positive step forward for the company, even though the brand’s films and shows lag behind in queer representation.
Called “Mickey Mouse Rainbow Love,” the ears will reportedly retail for $18 and will be available for purchase at Disneyland and Disney World. Fans can also buy a rainbow patch featuring two Mickey Mouse hands in the shape of a heart.
Before criticizing the company’s efforts and taking away whatever little joy you just experienced, it’s worth noting that Disney has always had a heavily gay fanbase. Don’t believe me? Look at so many internet listicles and Tumblr, 2007-present.
The Mickey Mouse ears will very likely reach queer kids in hiding. For us older Millennials and Gen-Xers, it’s downright radical to see Disney — the standard bearer for “traditional” American family values — embrace LGBTQ ones as well.
To the company’s credit, Disney was one of the first major entertainment companies to offer health coverage benefits to same-sex live-in partners in 1995.
I moved to Orlando in June 1991. That same week was the first Gay Day at Disney. In those days they had warning signs making it very clear the company had nothing to do with the event. I never dreamed I’d ever see official affirmation like this.
— James Walker (@DrJimmyandBOB) April 22, 2018
Still, critics couldn’t help but note that Disney has had a limited selection of openly gay characters. In October, the Disney Channel announced that character Cyrus Goodman would come out as gay on their popular children’s television show, Andi Mack. Last year, Disney introduced a very minor openly gay character for their live action Beauty and the Beast.
Most children won’t have access to Disney parks and resorts. They will, however, be able to interact the brand on television and through the internet, where representation is most lacking.
Critics have also highlighted concerns with the company’s employment practices.
A report commissioned by 11 unions in February found that more than one in 10 Disneyland employees experienced homelessness in the past two years. Almost three quarters reported not making enough income to meet their basic needs every month. Additionally, members of the LGBTQ community are disproportionately at risk of becoming homeless.
A Disneyland spokesperson called the report “inaccurate and unscientific” at the time, accusing it of being politically motivated by unions.
Anyways, enough raining on everyone’s parade. The road to equality is partially paved with cheesy merch.