Disney's Jungle Cruise movie is shaping up to be something quite big from the House of Mouse, but it turns out the scale isn't the only thing the new movie may be using to make an impact. A new report claims that the character played by Jack Whitehall in the new film will be openly gay, which would be a first for a Disney film.
The report hasn't been confirmed by Disney so, at this point, it's still in the "grain of salt" phase, but The Sun reports that the story in Jungle Cruise will see Jack Whitehall's character, whose name is unknown but is supposed to be playing the brother of Emily Blunt, make it clear that he has no interest in women.
While this certainly sounds like a potentially big deal, it's important to view this with a bit of skepticism even if the report turns out to be accurate. When the live-action version of Beauty of the Beast was released it was announced that Josh Gad's Le Fou would be Disney's first gay character ever, and while that was technically true, there was virtually no screen time given to that aspect of the character. It was only made completely clear that the character was gay at all in the final seconds of the film. However, the fact that Jack Whitehall's character is being described as "open," where Le Fou clearly was not, certainly implies that Jungle Cruise will take the issue a bit more head-on. One wonders if this is being done specifically in response to the criticism over Le Fou.
If this does to turn out to be true it will be interesting to see how Jungle Cruise handles it. It likely won't be any sort of important plot point, just something that helps inform Jack Whitehall's character, but if it's well integrated into the movie, something that is revealed in a way that doesn't feel like it's being done solely to check a box, then it should be a step forward.
Having said that, the fact is that Jungle Cruise is a period film, likely to be set sometime in the early 20th century, so the fact that the character is openly gay during an era where such a thing was uncommon might end up meaning more to the overall story that we might think. Or it might simply help explain why the topic of the character's sexuality will even come up.
Movies, in general, need to do a better job accurately representing all the people that go to movies on the big screen. Disney, as the biggest film studio, is in a position to do a lot to help this issue. Jungle Cruise adding a gay character doesn't fix the problem, but every step in the right direction is a worth it.