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The hypocrisy of Disney+ content ratings and its treatment of LOVE, VICTOR

The hypocrisy of Disney+ content ratings and its treatment of LOVE, VICTOR

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Recently I went into my Disney+ app on my Roku to watch something and was very confused by the gauntlet that dropped and wouldn’t let me continue until I selected my parental controls. I’ve had this account for a while now, so this was new, which made me wonder what Disney+ might have on it, as parents suddenly have to be wary of letting their kids access their entire catalog. It has been pointed out that the Disney+ app has, for example, censored films from the 80s made available there. If they already censored things to make them more “family oriented,” why all of a sudden YOU DON’T HAVE TO ENTER UNTIL YOU SAY YOU ARE AN ADULT OR A CHILD!? Okay, it’s not that dramatic, but you know what I mean.

Once I went through that I’m an adult, I can see what I want— and having to do the same with all the users on my Disney+ account — I realized what had happened: there was a section filled with new Marvel series that originally premiered on Netflix, and they are labeled with the TV-MA content rating, which means “Adults Only.” A young child can easily see the Marvel brand and begin to see, for example, The Punisher which has sex and nudity, alcohol and drug use. So naturally it would make sense to have parental controls available in a streamer that now offers TV-Y through TV-MA. What bothers me and has a lot of questions is why Disney+ had no problem putting adult Marvel shows on their streamer – they even created parental controls to do it! – but Dear Victorr, which is TV-14, was marked too mature to be on their streamer.

cover image of Simone vs The Homo sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s how it came about: Becky Albertalli wrote the novel Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. The novel was adapted into the film Love, Simon. Dear Victor is a spinoff from the film, set in the same universe as the novel and adaptation, which introduces a Puerto Rican-Colombian-American teenager who discovers that he is gay. So people cheered when they heard the news that Disney+ was making this show for their streamer.

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And felt so stabbed in the back when Disney decided not to allow Dear Victor Season 1 on Disney+, but instead dumped it over to Hulu, the streaming service owned by The Walt Disney Company and also 33% owned by Comcast. The reason they gave at the time was “that the show’s depiction of alcohol use, sexual exploration and marital problems among parents was the main concern of the family-focused Disney+ service, and that Love, Victor would be a better fit on the more mature, Disney-controlled Hulu…” With unless they censored all the alcohol use out of all the 80’s movies available on Disney+ (I know them all by heart, they have alcohol use) then they already have alcohol use in the content they show .When it comes to marital issues Disney is literally known as the parent killer! Bambi literally yells at his mother repeatedly after she has been MURDERED and left generations of children traumatized. More importantly Dear Victor is labeled TV-14, the same exact content rating as shows like Hawkeye and WandaVision — both of which premiered on Disney+ well before the parental controls feature was implemented. If shows with much of the same content and exactly the same content rating is allowed, it really feels a lot like the only one of the excuses given to bar Dear Victor that Disney had a problem with was the focus on “sexual exploration”, where they just don’t say the “gay” part out loud. And sexual orientation regardless of gender/sexuality should not be a problem. At all. Ever.

Disney hasn’t had the best track record with LGBTQ+ representation on screen. And even if the streamer has some LGBTQ+ content, it often comes with a “you have to look for it” or “a second” or “they don’t actually say gay but…” or “it’s a supporting character and not the focus” type of addition.

Ultimately, Dear Victor— a great show about a gay Latino trying to navigate being a teenager, his family issues, homophobia, growing up, his sexuality and first love — aired its first season in June 2020 on Hulu followed by a second season in 2021. Now with the third season ready to drop, Disney has finally decided to allow Dear Victor airs on Disney+ starting in June. I can’t help but wonder how much The Walt Disney Company was rightfully called out for donating to politicians behind the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” bill and didn’t denounce it until well in advance, and the introduction of parental controls for shows that has actual TV-MA content ratings (which does not apply to Dear Victor which is TV-14) played a role in them finally allowing Dear Victor into the Disney+ catalog.

I’m happy Dear Victor will finally be where it was originally meant to be, but I feel like Disney+ had a “you have to be this tall to ride” threshold to the “you have to be smaller than this gay” tone to be on Disney+ before they got parental controls .

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