Disney Walks a Fine Line With Florida's Parental Rights Bill

(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, which is before the legislature and will most likely pass, is a reasonable piece of legislation. It’s all about making sure parents know what’s going on in their children’s schools, but naturally, one bit of the legislation has spun the left into a tizzy.

A portion of the bill “prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels.” More specifically, schools can’t plant the seeds of LGBTQ confusion into kids from Pre-K to 3rd grade, and that’s what makes Democrats and teachers’ unions (but I repeat myself) so angry.

My PJ Media colleague Megan Fox hit the nail on the head on Tuesday when she wrote, “The reason this bill had to be written is that public school teachers and administrators are actively converting children into the trans cult and then hiding their brainwash-job from parents.”

The left has saddled the Parental Rights in Education bill with the typically silly yet effective moniker “Don’t Say Gay,” and they have put their political theater into high gear to combat it.

It’s just like the Democrats and their willing accomplices in the media to take a small segment of a sensible piece of legislation, twist it, and turn it into part of The Narrative™ to discredit the great people of Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is having none of it, and he eviscerated a reporter who tried a “gotcha” question on him earlier this week, as another PJ Media colleague of mine, Athena Thorne, reported.

But do you know who’s been remarkably quiet in all the fracas over the Parental Rights in Education bill? Disney.

Full disclosure and shameless plug here: I’m a major Disney fan. Walt Disney World is my family’s traditional vacation destination, and our (at least) annual trip there is the basis for my new book Neon Crosses (which you should buy).

It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that Walt Disney World is Orlando’s largest employer. It also doesn’t come as a shock that Disney’s a reliably woke company. It hasn’t occurred to the current creators of wokeness at Disney that their content flies in the face of the company’s founder and namesake, who created movies, television shows, and theme parks that promoted the values of patriotism, family, free enterprise, faith, and an optimism about the future.

From the Wayback Machine: Walt Disney’s Fascinating Political Journey

Disney hasn’t shied away from getting involved in politics before, either — they made noise about Georgia’s fetal heartbeat bill in 2019, threatening to pull out of their considerable filming sites in the state but never did.

So why has Disney been relatively quiet? It’s obvious that they’re deeply invested in the Orlando area, and there’s no way the company could pull out of the Disney World property, which means any gesture criticizing Florida could ring hollow.

Here’s another thing: Disney donates to politicians of both parties in Florida, but they know who’s in charge in the state, so they donate heavily to Republicans, including several state legislators who unequivocally support the Parental Rights in Education legislation. Needless to say, if Disney spoke out too fervently, it would look like biting the hand that feeds them.

If Disney did criticize Florida too harshly, the state could play hardball and threaten to revoke the legislation that created the company’s special quasi-governmental designation, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which allows the company to operate with less interference from the state and county governments.

Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek — who, in the eyes of many Disney fans, is doing a terrible job running the company — has weighed in, albeit in a sly way. Los Angeles Times reporter Ryan Faughnder wrote about a statement that Chapek sent to the press.

Chapek said that he told LGBTQ Disney employees that, rather than speaking out on legislation, the company is “more effective at creating social change through its movies and TV shows.”

“These and all of our diverse stories are our corporate statements and they are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort,” Chapek added.

In other words, Disney knows that it has a bigger bully pulpit cranking out woke content, no matter what Florida’s legislature does. After all, in the immortal words of the late Andrew Breitbart, “Politics is downstream from culture.”

For what it’s worth, Chapek told Disney stockholders that DeSantis assured him that the bill would “not be used to weaponize against the LGBTQ+ community.” DeSantis also urged those who have complained to actually read the legislation.

The always perceptive Dr. Albert Mohler weighed in on the controversy and Chapek’s remarks on his podcast on Wednesday, and he put it well when he said, “I’m going to say that as much as I disagree with Disney’s CEO on the moral question, I think I might well agree with him about the power of story being even more powerful than the power of policies or laws.”

Is the power of story really enough? On Monday the phrase “Boycott Disney” was trending on Twitter and, of course, the vast majority of the tweets were leftists complaining about Chapek not speaking out forcefully enough about a bill that they probably haven’t read any of. It’s a far cry from earlier Baptist boycotts of Disney over their embrace of gay tourism.

Story is a powerful thing, especially when it’s done right, but do you know what else is powerful? Motivated and concerned parents. And I sure wouldn’t bet against them, particularly when they have Florida’s lawmakers on their side.

At the end of the day, Disney’s going to be just fine. Nothing’s going to change for them if (or when) the Parental Rights in Education bill becomes law. They won’t change a thing about their Florida operations, just like they didn’t change a thing about filming in Georgia when the heartbeat law went into effect.


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