I should have known when the Disney+ logo splashed across the screen. The last time I saw it, what followed was an impassable disclaimer warning me of the microaggressions I might endure watching a pair of Asian cats. I should have known when we landed again in San Fransokyo — the setting of Disney’s Big Hero 6 and new spinoff, Baymax! — and the cast looked like bad stock art from the Oberlin College DEI handbook. I should have known.
But, there I was, two sick kids (two and six) running 102-degree fevers, upset and crying, nestled on either side of me on the couch. We just needed a break. Something wholesome; simple; happy. This was Disney’s sweet spot.
Earlier this month Disney+ reported reaching 221.1 million subscribers, a number that eclipsed the once-untouchable streaming platform, Netflix. But, a closer look reveals that Disney execs might want to hold off on celebrating. Shortly after the subscribership announcement, Disney quietly adjusted down its longer-term forecast by 15 million. Last week, UK subscribers fell by more than 4 percent.
The downward trends signal something important: people like me are sick of woke-era Disney and left longing for more magical times.
Before the adult-baby weirdos began a yearly Hajj to the Magic Kingdom. Before they bought and forever broke ESPN. Believe it or not, this was what Disney was great at: mindless, cute, fluffy movies with a hidden western moral or two. Raised on That’s So Raven and don’t believe me? If you can suffer the disclaimers, take a ride down memory lane as Cinderella reminds you to rise above your circumstances, Jiminy Cricket advises to let your conscience be your guide and Belle shows us that true beauty is on the inside.
Not long ago, I watched Big Hero 6 with my son during a similar sick day. It had the predictable sort of subtle anti-capitalism that felt unavoidable in the modern-era. But, besides a purposeful racial ambiguity, the film delivered on its promise. A lovable balloon robot and a band of engineering kids save the city. Wholesome. Simple. Happy.
So, when I clicked on the spinoff series, Baymax!, I did so with my guard down. Episode 1 went by without me even noticing. Needless to say this wasn’t Frasier to Cheers; they called in the third-string writer’s room to slop together quick content. Baymax, an inflatable robot designed to assist people with health challenges, spent the first two episodes helping an old woman go swimming to ease her arthritic hips and running a cafe while the owner nursed a sprained ankle back to health. But, the whimpering on my couch had faded. Disney was doing its job.
Then, Episode 3 happened. We descended into a middle school. I should have known something was amiss when they stayed for three extra beats on a setup shot of the “All Genders” bathroom. I cringed as I imagined the woke bureaucrat standing over the editing bay: “No, just a little longer,” he no doubt sneered. This was his big moment to prove he was inclusive enough. He doesn’t realize they’ll forget his contribution to wokedom and demand an apology from him soon enough.
In the restroom, a thirteen-year-old girl had locked herself in the stall. Her big talent show was any minute, and she was going to be late. She was having her first period. It was a decidedly strange health crisis for Disney to tackle. Baymax was on a mission to get tampons. All of a sudden — the robot whose career began when he downloaded all the world’s knowledge on crime fighting in ten seconds — was stumped. It was about as graceful as the setup to a Big Bang Theory punchline. Out of a crowd of over-eager pharmacy customers, one Brian Urlacher-shaped trans man emerged to offer the confused robot some expertise. Disney’s insufferable patronizing to wokedom truly had no bounds. And here I sat, sick kids on either side, watching a man-with-a-vagina teach a thirteen-year-old girl how to buy tampons… and this was supposed to pass as children’s programming. What. The. Fuck.
But, I suppose I should have known. This isn’t the Disney of adorable sprites yielding lessons in virtue. It’s the Disney of men in suits signaling their virtue. Men that are pushing wokedom with no remorse. Indeed, Disney corporate president Karey Burke announced this spring that she’s committed to having 50 percent of DIsney characters be “LGBTQIA and racial minorities.” I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the Big Hero 6 lead, an Asian American boy named Hero, was only around for a few seconds during the new series. Even cartoon affirmative action seems to hurt Asians the most.
Seventy years after making Alice in Wonderland, I’m sad to announce that Disney has gone through the looking glass. As for this guy, I’m turning in my subscription to the House of Mouse. I’ll have to make it through some whining (oh, there will be whining), but I won’t have to explain why Minnie has a new bulge in her unisex jumper… and that’s a tradeoff I can handle.