Disney slammed for falling short yet again with Jack Whitehall’s gay Jungle Cruise character

Disney’s Jungle Cruise is facing the ire of the LGBT+ community after it emerged that Jack Whitehall’s gay character McGregor Houghton never actually uses the word “gay”.

There was widespread frustration in 2018 when it emerged that Whitehall had been cast as an “effete, very camp” gay character in the film, which was inspired by a Disneyland ride of the same name.

While Jack Whitehall has been bigging up what could have been a momentous “coming out scene”, Variety revealed on Tuesday (27 July) that the word “gay” is never actually used in Jungle Cruise and McGregor only ever alludes to his sexuality.

In the coming out scene, Whitehall’s character tells Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character Frank that he broke off engagements with three separate women because his “interests happily lay elsewhere”.

He goes on to praise his sister Lily (played by Emily Blunt), saying she was the only family member who “stood by” him while the rest of his family shunned him because of who he “loved”.

Queer Disney fans aren’t happy that Jungle Cruise skirts around sexuality

Many LGBT+ Disney fans hit out at Jungle Cruise on social media following the revelation, which some questioning why Disney is so reluctant to depict unabashedly queer characters.

this description of jack whitehall’s “gay character” in Disney’s Jungle Cruise literally sounds like something written in 1932. pic.twitter.com/ZpBHgg4HmS

— Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (@Hello_Tailor) July 27, 2021

A scene that will either be a blink-&-you’ll-miss-it moment or will be cut out of the film entirely in order to please the Chinese government & homophobic Christian conservatives. Disney doesn’t care about genuine representation, & that has been proven time & time again. https://t.co/v3EkbLNQQ6

— Ethan Capps He/Him (Fully Moderna’d) (@EMC4478) July 26, 2021

Disney continually wants prizes for doing the bare minimum https://t.co/S2CZD6euwm

— Eli (@CallanCove) July 26, 2021

why is disney allowed to say “gay” in their kids shows but not in their theatrical films? make it make sense https://t.co/jZOnJwD7it

— rach (@superbatson) July 27, 2021

Disney execs are ‘Proud’ of how it can be removed from the film for foreign audiences without affecting the film https://t.co/zlq1o1bjAb

— Pokémon Snapped (@csmith03) July 26, 2021

Despite the criticism from LGBT+ fans, Jack Whitehall told Variety that he is “proud” of the ‘coming-out’ scene.

“I think it was a really well-written scene, and one that we certainly thought about and talked about,” Whitehall said.

“I hope that it’s a scene that audiences enjoy… I certainly felt at the time that I was proud of the work that we’d done.”

The actor told SlashFilm that he “totally understood the significance” of the scene, adding that he was “very nervous” about getting it right.

“We really talked about it so much,” Whitehall explained. “I love that you learn that about McGregor, and he has this interesting and rich backstory, and he’s a man in full, and he has this full realised character.”

Whitehall’s comments will do little to sooth the annoyance of Disney fans who were frustrated when he was cast as a gay character in Jungle Cruise in 2018. At the time, the actor faced significant backlash, with some suggesting the role should be played by a gay actor.

Others expressed discomfort about the idea of a straight actor playing a “camp” gay character, with some worried the film could end up pushing harmful stereotypes about gay people.