On August 12, The Sun revealed that British comedian Jack Whitehall would be playing Disney's first openly gay character, a "hugely effete, very camp, and very funny" supporting role in Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt's Jungle Cruise, based on the Disney ride of the same name.
Whitehall's casting was already somewhat controversial since he is not, in fact, a gay man. Some critics called Disney out for missing the opportunity to cast an actor with the appropriate sexuality in their first major LGBTQ role. Idris Elba was asked about Whitehall's new part, and decided to insert himself into the wrong side of the conversation.
Speaking to TimeOut London, Elba commented that anyone should be allowed to play a gay character:
Artistic license is artistic license. If an actor has the attributes to do something, they should be able to do it," he said. "They're acting. You don't necessarily have to be gay to play a gay character."
He then added:
Though you do have to be black to play a black character.
Did I miss the part of this story where Idris Elba came out as gay and can therefore speak to experience on this an… https://t.co/wqpOlWd722— Brian Gray (aka ürb) (@Brian Gray (aka ürb)) 1535479568.0
Many are now calling out Elba for his hypocrisy:
It's important and necessary for black actors to be cast in roles written for black people, but gay roles should be… https://t.co/jTmkFgykdo— MixedUpMixerMan (@MixedUpMixerMan) 1535684529.0
Here’s the thing about Idris Elba saying Whitehall as a landmark gay doesn’t matter. If Bond is played by a black a… https://t.co/quO4FddGZB— Danny Lee Wynter (@Danny Lee Wynter) 1535709937.0
at some point the media and people should not pretend that one oppressed minority can speak for another just like… https://t.co/uCmQTZfAWk— Monjula Ray (@Monjula Ray) 1535573824.0
While being a member of the LGBTQ community is not the same as being black, both groups are minorities who deserve to see themselves represented accurately onscreen by actual members of their community.
@urbanbohemian @gaystarnews Your black but do you need to be black to speak out on how black, Hispanic, Latiin, or… https://t.co/VAY9GhnUqv— Ms. Metafly (@Ms. Metafly) 1536068064.0
@LogoTV That statement works both ways but in reality, majority of LGBT talent don't get to play straight or cis ro… https://t.co/2wBrNRqOUm— Krish🐝🏳️🌈✊🏾 (@Krish🐝🏳️🌈✊🏾) 1535816118.0
The argument that LGBTQ actors "get to" play straight actors all the time and, thus, the reverse should be acceptable doesn't pass muster. It ignores the fact that the vast majority of roles are straight characters, though surely many LGBTQ actors would love a part that matches their sexuality, and that cis-gendered people hold more power and privilege in our culture. The power dynamics at play when representing a member of the majority vs. representing a a minority are very different.
@outmagazine He is correct in a sense, but at the same time representation matter. You should look at LGBTQIA 🏳️🌈 actor first.— Keyonna Lashay (@Keyonna Lashay) 1535573081.0
@BET @idriselba Really? Should we also say we should let the Bonds Franchise be all white? How hypocritical of you… https://t.co/FPhAHNNDWr— Daniel Izu Sichinga 🇿🇲🇲🇺 (@Daniel Izu Sichinga 🇿🇲🇲🇺) 1536051110.0
This isn't the first time straight actors have been called upon to play LGBTQ individuals, and it's not the first time people have been angry about it.
I fully agree with dragging Idris for this statement. But If you didn't drag Timothee and Armie for playing queer… https://t.co/yUe7DrqYGL— Kosoko 'Preorder A PLACE FOR WOLVES' Jackson (@Kosoko 'Preorder A PLACE FOR WOLVES' Jackson) 1535824677.0
@outmagazine Nobody is disputing that fact. What the LGBTI are fighting for is inclusion. How many gay actors are a… https://t.co/nZ9zT5S8YH— Juici Arse Cakes (@Juici Arse Cakes) 1535575946.0
Jungle Cruise premieres on October 11, 2019.