Disney has received a boatload of criticism for casting a straight actor, Jack Whitehall, in a gay role in Jungle Cruise.
A source confirmed to The Sun that the 30-year-old actor landed "a dream role" in the part, a character described as "hugely effete, very camp and very funny." As the first clearly gay role in a Disney film, it is also historic.
Many queer people in the entertainment industry took to Twitter to express exasperation in response to the news of the "dream role," which many felt should have gone to a gay or bi actor.
"I know we are supposed to be happy about this but the second outreach to the LGBTQ community is another camp character played by a straight guy," wrote Mean Girls actor Daniel Franzese. "Why must we always take our spoonful of sugar with a lemon?"
"How about an openly gay actor/comedian playing the first openly gay “very Camp” character in a Disney film. Baby steps I guess. FUCK BABY STEPS. THIS IS BULLSHIT," stated Sex and the City actor Mario Cantone.
"Really @Disney #JungleCruise? Your first significant gay role will be played by a straight white man perpetuating stereotypes? Fail! This ship should sink," said The Secret Scripture's Omar Sharif Jr.
The level of outrage to the news is notable, and it may mark a turning point for acceptable practices in the entertainment industry. Casting straight actors in queer roles is routine in Hollywood. In fact, nearly 60 straight actors have received Oscar nominations for "gayface," including this year's Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) and Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water). In contrast, an openly gay man has never won Best Actor for any part.
"Transface" — the casting of cisgender actors in transgender roles — was also routine until fairly recently, when a public outcry from the trans community convinced Scarlett Johansson to step away from a trans part in Rub & Tug.
Neither Whitehall nor Disney has responded to the casting controversy.
A perception that Hollywood casting directors are biased against out actors still exists in Hollywood, the rationale being that straight actors are more marketable to a mainstream audience.
However, actress Rita Moreno proposed another theory last month at the Outfest Film Festival. In recounting how a queer actor lost a role on the Broadway hit The Ritz, Moreno posited that straight actors may be better at portraying flamboyant characters because they never had to contend with internalized shame. It was an observation that resonated with gay actor Drew Droege.
"[Moreno's] insight was spot on," Droege told The Advocate. "And it still happens today when we get these roles that we go out for that are like, these flaming gay guy roles that we all are ashamed of. We go, 'Oh, God, I don't want to play it too broad [or] over-the-top.' And then our straight friends walk in it go 'zomp' and tap into it, and it becomes more authentic and loose and fun."