We've recently seen more and more LGBTQ+ characters on our televisions and movie screens, but representation for the community in large studio films remains scarce. Walt Disney Studios has been under scrutiny for its lack of diversity the past few years, specifically for its limp attempts at providing more queer characters in its canon. Its latest LGBTQ character is John McCrea’s Artie, a friend of Emma Stone’s Cruella de Vil in the Disney prequel coming to theaters and Disney+.
In Cruella’s ‘70s London setting, John McCrea plays the owner of a vintage shop who befriends Emma Stone’s Estelle, thanks to their mutual love of fashion. The actor is known for his lead role in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the West End, ahead of the play’s upcoming movie adaptation. He was asked whether his character is in fact a LGBTQ character, here was his response:
It depends on who you're asking I suppose - but for me, yes, it's official: he's queer.
Cruella’s Artie stands apart from other attempts at LGBTQ+ representation because he is a supporting character throughout the film and has a role within the movie’s plot line besides being the gay character in the film. And John McCrea personally identifies as a gay man. The actor explained the character further to Attitude:
In one of the original scripts he was a drag queen, so I think he was always intended to be queer-representing I suppose, or somehow a member of the LGBTQ community. I imagine that was always the case.
Movies such as Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and Toy Story 4 led to Disney’s recent efforts at LGBTQ+ representation being deemed “poor” efforts by GLAAD. Endgame had co-director Joe Russo briefly cameo as a gay man in Endgame, while Rise of Skywalker’s was a blink-and-you’ll-miss kissing scene between two women in the far background of a shot.
So far, Disney’s most (and only) high-profile gay character was for 2017’s Beauty and the Beast when Josh Gad’s LeFou dances with a man at the end of the film. John McCrea shared his feelings on being part of this new milestone for the Walt Disney Company with these words:
We don't see him falling in love; there's no social aspect to the character. It's not beating you on the head with a stick. But his lifestyle is fabulous, he loves his life and it was so fun to play him… If I had a character growing up like that to watch on the screen I would've fallen in love. Also with the idea that he's completely well-adjusted, very happy, and has a real lust for life. Those are things I'd find so exciting.
Earlier this year, Disney had the LGBTQ+ community talking following the release of animated film Raya and the Last Dragon. The movie, which centers around two women, has been embraced by some of the community as an implied female relationship. This includes Raya’s voice actress, Kelly Marie Tran, who said that she decided there were “some romantic feelings going on there” between her and Gemma Chan’s character while recording for the role.
You can meet John McCrea’s Artie in Cruella, coming to theaters on Disney+ Premier Access this Friday, May 28.