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Gorgeous Cakes and Marriage Equality: 2011 Disney Wedding Awards

13 Feb

Sometimes a girl needs a little boost on a Monday morning. And I must say I got choked up a bit looking at the nominees for the 2011 Disney Wedding Awards on the Disney Wedding Blog, and seeing a number of same-sex couples among the honorees. It doesn’t feel all that long ago that we were fighting for same-sex couples to have equal access to Disney Fairy Tale Weddings. I especially loved the series of engagement pictures for Joaquin and Ruben (the full set of photos is separate from the voting page).

And of course, I’m thrilled that my BFF’s nominated as well! Lisa and Trace are in the running for Best Wedding Cake, for their Haunted Mansion-themed grooms’ cake.

Anita Bryant and the Orange Bird

16 Feb
Orange Bird Vinylmation at D Street, WDW Downtown Disney

Orange Bird Vinylmation at D Street, WDW Downtown Disney

The Orange Bird’s been popping up lately in a lot of Walt Disney World merchandise, including the cute little Vinylmation above.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at the Orange Bird without thinking of Anita Bryant, with whom the little cute was originally associated. When I was at Walt Disney World last month, all the Orange Bird stuff was really bugging me. As a Northern California child in the 1970s, I remember boycotting orange juice to protest her stand against lesbian and gay rights. From glbtq.com:

The first glbtq boycott to receive considerable media attention took place in 1977 when Anita Bryant, a pop singer and former Miss Oklahoma then employed as a spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission, founded an organization called Save Our Children, which was dedicated not to the welfare of children but to the repeal of a Dade County, Florida ordinance that protected gay men and lesbians from discrimination in employment and housing.

(I love this sign I found on flickr — seems like old times!)

The boycott seems to have had some impact, freeing the Orange Bird from its homophobic associations. From WidenYourWorld:

From that point forward Bryant was irrevocably linked to the controversy and the Florida Citrus Commission opted not to continue their relationship with the singer.  The Orange Bird, having never expressed so much as one sunny thought about gay rights, emerged from this turbulence untarnished but without a vocal proponent of his stature.

I still can’t help but think of Anita Bryant when I see the Orange Bird; somehow I never heard that they’d broken up. But I must admit, he’s cute. And he did dump her, after all. So what the heck, I’ll go ahead and enjoy all that sunny Orange Bird merch that’s been showing up lately.

Gay Characters? Disney Channel Needs a Lesson from Buster Baxter

15 Feb

AfterElton has a fascinating interview with Disney Channel President Gary Marsh, on the topic of gay characters on Disney Channel shows. The topic is introduced by this quote from Marsh, from 2008:

“Well, just to speak sort of in the 30,000-foot level first, we don’t deal with sexuality on the Disney Channel in general. That’s just sort of not where our audience’s head’s at. They’re really a pre-sexual audience, for the most part, and so sexuality is not how we look to tell any kind of stories.”

I’ll echo AfterElton’s sentiment: It’s not meaningful to talk this way about same-sex couples. For example: How is it not sexual for a kid to know he has parents of opposite sexes, but somehow sexual for him to know that some other kid has parents of the same sex? And hey, why isn’t it sexual when Zack and Cody are ogling all those girls?

The article goes on to make it clear that Marsh is okay with characters on the Disney Channel being widely interpreted as gay, but that those characters won’t ever be coming out in any way.

We leave it up to our audience to interpret who these characters are and how they relate to them. It’s great that this child has interpreted [Shake It Up! character] Gunther [as gay] and that it speaks to him in a way that makes sense for his life. And that’s what we’re trying to do — create a diverse cross section of characters on television that kids can have different access points and entry points to connect with.

It’s like the Hays Production Code all over again: You can have gay characters, they just can’t be identified openly. (Of course, Disney’s moved quite a bit forward from Hays, in that gay characters don’t have to die horribly at the end of the story, or suffer in silence — they can go on to Julliard instead.)

I can’t imagine the Disney Channel budging on this issue anytime soon, due to what I’m sure they perceive as market pressure. So, is it better to have coded gay characters like Ryan Evans, who’s widely interpreted as gay but may convey the message that it’s not okay to be out? Or is it better to only have clearly heteronormative characters on kids shows? I’m not satisfied with either option.

When my home state began recognizing same-sex marriage, many people felt that the world would fall apart somehow. But as the years have rolled by, it seems like less and less of a big deal (except, of course, for those whose marriages are now recognized, for whom it is enormously important). If mainstream television networks like the Disney Channel had an openly gay character now and then, perhaps the social order wouldn’t really be rocked for all that long? After all, glee‘s been pretty darn successful (in some part because of a fabulous openly gay character), and many parents already shun Disney Channel for being a bad influence on their kids, and ban it from the living room (just look at these google search results).

Yeah, an openly gay character on the Disney Channel would probably make executives and stockholders a little nervous. But I can’t help but wonder if people were nervous when my grandfather was lobbying for Bill Cosby to be cast in a leading role in I Spy. Sometimes change makes you nervous. Too bad.

And hey, if you’re looking for an example of an excellent (and thoroughly non-sexual) portrayal of lesbians in a children’s television show, this clip from Postcards from Buster is for you:

“Boy, that’s a lot of Moms!”

More Thoughts on Fairytale Weddings for Same-Sex Couples

11 Apr

It’s been interesting to watch the conversations online responding to Disney’s decision to allow same-sex couples to purchase their Fairytale Weddings. It’s been great to watch people start to plan weddings they simply couldn’t have before.  And it’s been sad to watch others say hateful things in opposition to the change of policy.

Most interesting though is some of the social commentary, like this article by John Roberts. He writes:

Last week, the Walt Disney Co. changed its policies regarding their “Fairytale Weddings” program to allow gay couples the equal opportunity to hold their commitment ceremonies at locations previously accessible only to straight couples.

While I completely applaud this decision by such an influential company, I have to wonder about their motives for the change. Sure, Disney has always been “gay-friendly” by offering “health benefits to same-sex partners of employees” and “allowing ‘Gay Day’ celebrations at its theme parks…” (ABC News, April 6, 2007), so this policy change shouldn’t come as a shock. But then again, $8,000 is still quite a bit of money. That is the starting price for Disney’s fairytale wedding program.

I’ve seen similar comment in a number of places, reminding us quite appropriately that Disney is in fact a company, concerned primarily with continuing to function profitably.

Being a bit of a weathered queer activist, I find myself thinking of the hours I spent at the Massachusetts State House years ago, lobbying for the Gay Rights Act (it took 17 years, but eventually it did in fact become law). And I think, were we really fighting for the right to buying expensive wedding packages? Some would argue that this is the height of bourgeois conspicuous consumption.

And well, those people would be right.

But when we were walking the halls at the State House, we weren’t fighting for the right to be any smarter, better, or more stylish than your average citizen. We were lobbying for equal protection under the law.  Including, yes, the right to expensive, bourgeouis weddings if we plunk down the cash.

A Million More Dreams: Fairy Tale Weddings Open to Same-Sex Couples

5 Apr

Reuters reports that Disney has opened its Fairy Tale Weddings to same-sex couples:

The Walt Disney Co. has changed its policy to allow same-sex couples to participate in a popular Fairy Tale Wedding program it runs mainly at its two U.S. resorts and cruise line, a Disney spokesman said on Thursday.

Disney previously had allowed gay couples to organize their own weddings or commitment ceremonies at rented meeting rooms at the resorts, but had barred them from purchasing its Fairy Tale Wedding package and holding the event at locations at Disneyland and Walt Disney World that are set aside specifically for weddings.

The article mentions the excellent AfterElton.com article in March which brought this issue to so many people’s attention. The conversations within Disney must have been very interesting even before the article, given the number of Cast Members and Disney management who likely opposed the former policy.

I read some of my favorite message boards tonight, and I see the couples overjoyed to know they can start planning their dream wedding at Walt Disney World. As one poster said, this is truly the Year of a Million Dreams now.

Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
the dream that you wish will come true

More Concern About Year of a Million Dreams

8 Mar

In late February, many travel agents received emails about a special sweepstakes, for one lucky travel agent to win a night in Cinderella’s Castle, as part of the Year of a Million Dreams.

The problem with this? The thing that’s got some of us cynical and irritable? Well, the winner must take their night in the castle on June 2, 2007. And it just so happens that Magic Kingdom is “park of the day” for Gay Days at Walt Disney World.

Co-incidence? Maybe, maybe not. But for those of us feeling a little twitchy about not seeing any families headed by same-sex couples winning the big photo-op YOMD prizes, well, it makes us even a little more so. Is Disney trying to avoid awarding a night in Cinderella Castle to participants at Gay Day? I wish I could give them the benefit of the doubt here, but I’m still too sad about the fact that same-sex couples can’t use Disney wedding services to think that there’s not something amiss here.

Fairytale Weddings Not for Same-sex Couples

5 Mar

When you wish upon a star, does it matter who you are?

AfterElton.com reports on a story which has been on my mind lately too . . . Disney’s Magic Kingdom Closed to Same-Sex Weddings. From the article:

On the Feb. 20th episode of The View, well-known wedding planner David Tutera appeared on the talk show to promote his David Tutera Couture Wedding Collection at Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Fla. The collection allows the happy couple to choose between four elaborate wedding styles: classic elegance, simply chic, cocktail soiree and whimsical garden.

But are those weddings available if there are two brides or two grooms? Short answer: no. According to Walt Disney World spokesperson Jason DiPietre, Disney’s Florida property requires a valid Florida marriage license in order to offer their services.

But getting that answer was far from a straightforward task, as the Walt Disney World Weddings website and the Disney consultants at first gave confusing, often contradictory information to AfterElton.com’s questions.

The fact is, Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons offers wedding ceremonies, not marriage licenses. The two things are legally completely separate; no license is legally required or necessary for such a ceremony to take place.

Disneyland didn’t fare much better here, though they do offer a separate and unequal set of services for “commitment ceremonies” for domestic partners. Only opposite-sex couples are permitted access to the most coveted wedding location.

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