Disney is under fire after casting a straight male comedian to play a “hugely effete, very camp” gay character in upcoming film Jungle Cruise.
Britain’s The Sun quotes an anonymous source saying that British actor and comedian Jack Whitehall is “playing a gay man — one who is hugely effete, very camp and very funny.”
The source noted that the film is set in the nineteenth century “at a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable to be gay,” and called the script a “significant turning point.”
Whitehall posted on Instagram saying he was “honoured” to star in the film — due to release in fall next year — alongside Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.
“I’m so honoured to be part of this epic adventure,” Whitehall wrote. “Filming is underway and I am having the time of my life with my amazing co stars [sic]. 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.”
I’m so honoured to be part of this epic adventure – @disneysjunglecruise. 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… #junglecruise
However, Whitehall’s casting has generated backlash on social media, with many calling out Disney for choosing to cast a straight man in its first major gay role.
Omar Sharif Jr. tweeted: “Really @Disney #JungleCruise? Your first significant gay role will be played by a straight white man perpetuating stereotypes? Fail! This ship should sink.”
In a follow-up tweet, he added that he thinks Whitehall will do a “terrific job,” but that Disney as a “a global company that speaks primarily to youth…had an opportunity to give queer kids an authentic reflection of themselves to see on TV and role model to look up to in real life.”
For the record, I think Jack Whitehall will do a terrific job…MY POINT: For a global company that speaks primarily to youth, Disney had an opportunity to give queer kids an authentic reflection of themselves to see on TV and role model to look up to in real life.
— Omar Sharif Jr. (@OmarSharifJr) August 13, 2018
Eil Sanza tweeted: “I’m not saying straight people shouldn’t be allowed to play gay people, but Disney should have known there would be backlash,” adding that it was a “wasted opportunity to be historic.”
Another Twitter user noted that he was “really excited” for Jungle Cruise, which is inspired by the Disney theme park ride, but “hearing that [Jack Whitehall] will be doing the usual straight-man-plays-camp-gay-man act has put me off big time.”
Some also drew comparisons with the recent backlash over Scarlett Johansson’s casting as a transgender man in upcoming film Rub & Tug. Many questioned why a cisgender woman was cast in the role, and Johansson ultimately pulled out due to criticism over both the casting and her initial response to the controversy.
Many have also come to Whitehall’s defense, arguing that the best actor for the role should be cast, regardless of sexuality.
One Instagram user responded to Whitehall’s post noting that “gay people play straight role,” and “why is it that when a straight man plays a gay man everyone loses their mind?”
And on Twitter, one user called the controversy “all a bit ludicrous.”
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