Disney officials are becoming embroiled in a struggle with Florida lawmakers over a contentious education law, which the company has pledged to help defeat.
Disney’s participation in the public debate over a bill dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by detractors has attracted intense scrutiny to its internal decision-making — and put the business in the middle of a struggle it may be ill-prepared to combat.
The entertainment company’s executives made the news again this week after excerpts of an all-hands meeting were leaked, in which they reaffirmed their commitment to identity politics.
Disney parks are also attempting to phase out the use of “ladies and gentleman” and “girls and boys” in greets to guests, replacing them with gender-neutral greetings, according to the company’s head of diversity and inclusion.
Disney’s endorsement of a liberal agenda on gender and sexual identity politics coincides with the company’s opposition to Florida’s new law prohibiting such themes from being taught to children in kindergarten through third grade. Proponents of the rule believe that it protects the youngest students from potentially harmful issues.
Despite the fact that the new rule only applies to the first grades, many have compared it to a harsh prohibition on free expression in schools.
Disney has this week made itself the face of leftist opposition to the law.
Disney executives’ take on the situation
Following internal outrage over the company’s initial quiet on the matter, Disney CEO Bob Chapek decided to speak out against the law.
Employees staged a walkout last week as Disney chose to remain silent in the midst of an increasingly heated public debate. According to Geoffrey Kabaservice, vice president of political studies at the Niskanen Center, Disney was likely forced into the fight by internal pressure.
“I think probably, in this case, Disney, like a lot of corporations, finds itself caught in a crossfire between a Republican Party that is mostly working class at this point — and most working-class Floridians seem to have no problem with this bill — versus Disney’s Imagineers and other highly educated employees, who tend to vote Democratic and think this bill is an outrage,” Kabaservice told the Washington Examiner.
Disney takes on the onus of ‘defeating this law’
After initially declining to participate in the fight, Disney announced this week that it now intends to ‘defeat the law’.
“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that,” the company said.
Kabaservice added, “I think what, realistically, Disney’s strategy is they’re going to wait and see how the courts rule on this when it comes up … because there’s enormous amounts of ambiguity in this law.”
While Disney’s shift to activism was welcomed by employees, opponents accused the multinational conglomerate of hypocrisy.
The probable reason behind Disney’s foray into activism
It is important to note that the two parties at loggerheads with each other here have different agendas in mind.
Almost immediately after Gov. DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, Disney released a statement stating that they would make it their aim “for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.” According to Forbes, Gov. Ron DeSantis has stated that Disney’s recent comments about working to repeal the law have “crossed a line.”DeSantis said that Disney “didn’t seem to have a problem with [the law] when it was going through [the House]. If this is such an affront, why weren’t they speaking up at the outset?”
While Ron DeSantis has proved time and time again that he is a reliable and competent general to take the Conservative agenda forward and keep its legacy alive, Disney is just an organisation trying to hold onto its footing in a changing world where LGBTQ is no longer taboo.
The decision to enter the quagmire of partisan state politics is a big one, but specialists in marketing and brand management believe that after a lot of thought, the company determined that public resistance would best serve its reputation and business interests.
“Before a company does anything, believe me, they run the numbers up and down and left and right,” said James Bailey, professor of leadership at George Washington University’s School of Business.
Bailey told the Washington Examiner that Disney has accountants, marketing professionals, and focus groups that have determined that opposing the law will benefit their business model – even if it means losing some conservative customers. He believes the move will bring in some new liberal clients.
“So what Disney does by fighting this is perpetuate this idea that they are a progressive company,” Bailey said. “For Disney to step up and say, ‘Hey, we’re a progressive company, and you can’t tell us what to do,’ is actually helping their reputation. And so this is Disney being Disney and adhering to their values, but it’s also Disney making money.”