We were heartened by the news that the Disney Channel profiled the son of a same-sex couple for one of its social-outreach campaigns. But we were bummed the kids network buried the lead by barely mentioning that 14-year-old “Ben” has two moms.
In a promo for Disney’s “Make Your Mark” campaign, which encourages kids to pursue their passions, we meet Ben, an aspiring filmmaker with some serious skills. The clip goes into detail about Ben’s big project, a video he wrote, directed and edited about the bullying he and his friends experienced at school. Ben discusses bullying at length—even explaining how seeing fellow students enact scenes of harassment has impacted other kids at his school.
But the fact that Ben is part of a same-sex household is glossed over, save for a quick mention at the 0:12 mark.
If this was a video about a kid with a passion for astronomy, maybe it wouldn’t matter. But since it’s about bullying—and the likelihood is that Ben was bullied for having two moms—downplaying the reality of his family seems disingenuous.
Maybe we’re overreacting. (We do that sometimes.) But the Disney Channel—which airs tween-centric programs about pop stars, gamers, nannies and teen wizards—has never had an out character on one of its original series, even though many deal with adolescent growing pains and important life lessons. “There have been characters on Disney Channel who I think people have thought were gay,” President Gary Marsh said in 2008. “That’s for the audience to interpret.”
We have to believe Disney, a corporation with a long history of supporting the LGBT community, can do better.