The following contains minor spoilers for Jungle Cruise.
There is no company in the entertainment industry quite like Disney. In addition to being a massive movie making behemoth, Disney is known for being the studio that creates films and television and cartoons that are suitable for the whole family. Disney is the name that people trust, but with that trust has come a significant responsibility. When so many people from so many places and so many backgrounds come to one place for their entertainment, those people want to see themselves represented in that entertainment. Disney has received a lot of criticism in recent years for the way it has handled, or not handled, homosexual representation, and the new Jungle Cruise movie tries to take a positive step in that direction, though that meant there was a lot of pressure on co-star Jack Whitehall, pressure he admits he felt.
It had been previously reported that Jack Whitehall's character in Jungle Cruise, McGregor Houghton, would turn out to be gay, and that turns out to be true. I recently had a chance to speak with Jack Whitehall about the scene where that is revealed and he told me that he, and the rest of the Jungle Cruise cast and crew involved, really wanted to do it right and so he was really nervous about the scene. Whitehall explained...
I think we felt the weight that responsibility and really wanted to do justice to that moment. The scene that you see in the film is one that we thought about and discussed so much. I remember in the lead up to it being more nervous about that than anything else in the film. I just really wanted to get it right and make sure that it worked and that it was a moment that could be something that audiences properly connected to. And I love that about the film, that it has this kind of depth and it paints these characters as people in full and they have interesting backstories and it’s not just blowing stuff up. It’s characters that you really care about and you’re really invested in them and you care about them.
We've seen some simple examples of gay representation appearing in Disney movies, but previously it's been very much in the background. A great deal, likely too much, was made of Josh Gad's Le Fou from the live-action Beauty and the Beast, who is seen dancing with another man for only a brief moment. Likewise, in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a pair of women are seen embracing romantically as part of the film's ending celebration. While this sort of representation might be seen as better than nothing, there was a feeling from many that it was not enough.
The scene in Jungle Cruise is a simple one and, without getting into too much spoilery detail, it's a conversation between Jack Whilehall's McGregor Houghton and Dwayne Johnson's Frank Wolff where the details of McGregor's backstory emerge. The scene isn't part of the plot, simply a building of the relationship between these two characters. It can, and likely will, be edited from the movie when its released in territories that have a problem with such content. However, for what it's worth, it is a step forward for Disney as the topic is dealt with in actual dialogue between two main characters.
Whether or not this is enough, is a question that I can't answer. It will likely be discussed at length once more people see the movie and form their own opinions Jungle Cruise opens Friday in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access.