Hollywood is coming out, one small step at a time.
As thousands watched the widely publicized marriage of same-sex couples during the 2014 Grammy award ceremony on Jan. 26, the same night TV viewers were introduced to Disney’s first lesbian couple on the show “Good Luck Charlie.”
Disney received mixed reactions to the brief appearance of Susan and Cheryl, the first same-sex couple, when they dropped off their daughter for a play date with the main character.
The company has also received attention for the alleged inclusion of same-sex parents in its blockbuster movie “Frozen,” a theory that has not been confirmed or denied.
“I think it has to do with the increased mobilization of queer politics, where a queer family structure can be just as normal as heterosexual,” said Justin Grant, a UF feminist and queer studies graduate assistant. “We’re seeing a translation in mainstream media where a queer family structure isn’t necessarily risque or threatening.”
Though the first gay television character appeared on CBS’s “All in the Family” in 1971, only recently have companies started to feature LGBT identified people in shows and commercials. Fox’s “Glee” saw the engagement of Kurt and Blaine, two gay teenagers. ABC’s Emmy-winning “Modern Family” focuses on a gay couple and their adopted daughter, and Coca-Cola and Chevrolet have received attention for featuring same-sex families in their respective Super Bowl and Olympics commercials.
“I think that it’s great, that it shows that television is getting more diverse,” said Liliana Bello, a 19-year-old UF chemical engineering freshman. “I’m honestly surprised that this hasn’t happened sooner.”
Despite receiving support from Miley Cyrus, Harry Styles and fans of the show, Disney was attacked by conservative groups such as One Million Moms for “pushing an agenda” of “controversial topics that children are far too young to comprehend.” Five-year-old Mia Talerico, who plays Charlie on Disney’s “Good Luck Charlie,” also received defaced pictures of herself and death threats on Instagram after the episode aired.
It’s unlikely that the couple will appear on the show again since the show’s last episode airs Sunday, but many see this as the first of many LGBT Disney characters to come.
“I think we’re slowly starting to see Disney make that turn that other broadcasting companies are doing,” Grant said. “Within the next 10 to 15 years, I believe there will be a LGBT main character in a Disney movie or show.”
[A version of this story ran on page 7 on 2/13/2014 under the headline "Disney introduces first same-sex couple on ‘Good Luck Charlie’"]