Just a few weeks ago, we were all beyond excited for the long anticipated sequel to Disney’s 2003 film, Finding Nemo. This excitement was initially because of the nostalgia for our favorite childhood movie and characters, but it quickly grew into something even greater. All we had was a few seconds in a trailer for proof, but it seemed that Finding Dory was going to be the first Disney-Pixar movie to feature a lesbian couple.
LGBTQ+ fans—myself included—were immediately ecstatic. We’ve been failed time and time again by just about every form of media—literature, TV, and movies—and we finally thought that someone was going to get it right. Foolishly, I, myself, had my hopes a little too high. I was under the impression that the couple might be main characters, or at least a significant part of the movie. Clearly I had forgotten that this is Disney we’re talking about, the same Disney that had Good Luck Charlie canceled over complaints about a lesbian couple.
Opening weekend, Finding Dory made history as an animated film, bringing in $136.2 million domestically. Opening weekend, Finding Dory disappointed millions of LGBTQ+ fans. If you blinked, you missed it. In fact, I did. It wasn’t until the closing credits began to roll that I realized I didn’t even see a lesbian couple. After consulting my mom, she confirmed that they were there, but for two seconds, tops.
I was devastated, to say the least. You would think that we would be used to disappointment by now, but it seems that every time we are cheated out of a beloved queer character—whether it be their life, their queerness, or their screen time—it hurts even more than the last. So exiting the theater, I found myself wondering, was Disney queer baiting us with Finding Dory?
Queer baiting is when the media adds homoerotic tension between two characters to attract attention or views from the LGBTQ+ community, when in reality, the writers have no intention for the characters to end up together. This is a common tactic used in TV shows such as Supernatural and Sherlock, and now even Disney seems to be using it.
I think it’s fair to say that it is questionable whether or not the two women in the scene were actually a couple, as there were no indications of it, and no confirmation or denial by Disney themselves. However, these women and a little girl in a stroller were featured in one of the more recent Finding Dory trailers, leading many to believe that Disney was going to introduce its first lesbian couple—the possibility seemed even more likely with Ellen DeGeneres voicing the lead role, Dory! But re-watching the trailer now that I have seen the film, I strongly believe that the only reason the couple was featured in the trailer was to get our hopes up. To bait us into seeing Finding Dory.
With only a few seconds of screen time that did nothing to further the plot and no actual confirmation as to whether or not they were a couple, the two women believed to be a lesbian couple in Finding Dory seem to be almost irrelevant. Sure, it was nice of Disney to include a lesbian couple in the film, but in the trailer? What was the point, if not to try and attract the LGBTQ+ audience?
After the worldwide trend #GiveElsaAGirlfriend, Disney probably thought that they were doing something right by including a lesbian couple, no matter how little screen they received or how seemingly platonic their interactions were. Disney does seem to be notorious for the exclusion of LGBTQ+ representation, so they could have seen Finding Dory as the perfect opportunity to change that reputation. I think that it is very possible that these two characters were not intended to be lesbians, but someone noticed that one of them had a short hair cut and grabbed the other’s arm, so maybe if they tried hard enough, they could make it seem like that was the case.
Either way, I’m extremely disappointed in Disney, and I think I have every right to be. If the couple were not meant to be lesbians, Disney should have said something instead of letting the internet go crazy with excitement. They should have informed us instead of stringing us along and eventually profiting off our hope. And if the couple were meant to be lesbians, they could’ve and should’ve done a better job at representing the couple. It’s 2016, and the LGBTQ+ community still has little to no representation. When we are represented, it’s queer baiting. We are used to attract an audience and then killed off or made straight when there is no further use for us.
Disney is receiving a considerable amount of backlash for this incident, but we can only hope that it’s enough to open their eyes, and to earn us fair representation in future films and franchises.