Disney+ is censoring its original content, and Hilary Duff isn't happy
Earlier this week, Variety reported that Disney+ wouldn’t be moving forward with its planned Love, Simon series. Sources said Disney execs felt the issues explored in the series, like alcohol use and sexual exploration, weren’t a good fit for the “family-friendly” streamer.
This isn’t the end of the road for Love, Simon — now titled Love, Victor after its new protagonist. The show was shifted to Hulu, which is owned by Disney but not as closely tied to its kid-friendly brand, where it’s slated to debut in June during Pride Month. Love, Victor isn’t the first original series Disney+ has shelved or shuffled to another service. The reboot of High Fidelity starring Zoe Kravitz was also originally slated for Disney+ and moved to Hulu.
Earlier this year, the streamer broke the hearts of millennials everywhere by putting the planned reboot of Lizzie McGuire on hold. While the original Lizzie McGuire was geared toward tweens and focused on the dramas that consume kids of that age (like asking your mom for your first bra), the reboot caught up with Lizzie as a 30-year-old living and working in New York City, presumably navigating the PG-13 trials of adulthood. No plans to restart production or shift to another service have been announced, and Lizzie McGuire star Hilary Duff had thus far stayed mum on the topic. But after the news about Love, Victor broke, Duff posted a screenshot of an article about it on her Instagram story. She drew a circle around the headline and commented simply, “Sounds familiar…”
The press and the public haven’t gotten a look at either series (though fans of the O.G. Lizzie McGuire would probably kill to see the two episodes of the reboot that Terri Minsky filmed before stepping down as showrunner). So we can’t know for sure what made Disney decide Lizzie McGuire and Love, Victor were too risqué for the platform’s target demographic.
But without knowing specifics, cancelling a show that explores a young protagonist’s sexual identity seems a heck of a lot like a dog whistle, implying that queerness is somehow inappropriate for young audiences. Disney+ does have a few shows featuring LGBTQ+ themes in its library, including High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and a recent episode of Marvel’s Hero Project. But queer representation in the Disney catalogue otherwise has been practically nonexistent. The new Pixar flick Onward is the first film in the Mouse’s nearly 100-year-long history to feature a transparently LGBTQ+ character, voiced by actor Lena Waithe.
It is ultimately Disney’s prerogative to produce and distribute whatever sort of content it wants. But there’s something suspect about a platform that gives subscribers unfettered access to its problematic back-catalogue (the Disney Vault is full of vintage racism) and then censors new work exploring contemporary social issues. The Mouse’s calculus doesn’t quite add up.