Mark B. Baer, Esq.

Empathy and Relationships

Has Disney Lost Its Direction by "Normalizing" Gay People?

Should people boycott Disney because of its efforts to "normalize" being gay?

Posted Mar 07, 2017

On March 2, 2017, Christian evangelist leader Franklin Graham “called for a boycott of Disney” because “Disney has aired a cartoon with same-sex couples kissing. It has also been announced that their new movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’ will feature a gay character in an attempt to normalize this lifestyle.”

According to Graham, Disney is “trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children.” He also says that Walt Disney "would be shocked at what has happened to the company that he started.” Moreover, Graham claims to know this because “he met Walt Disney when [he] was a young boy—he was very gracious to [him], his father Billy Graham, and [his] younger brother when [they] visited.”

Is Graham correct in his belief? Nobody will ever know for certain because Walt Disney died in 1966. We do, however, know Walt Disney’s beliefs, as he conveyed them, as well as those held by Graham. 

Let’s start with Disney’s beliefs through the following quotes that have been attributed to him:

Then, there’s “It's a Small World (currently styled it's a small world), a water-based dark ride located in the Fantasyland area at each of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide: Disneyland Park in California, the Magic Kingdom in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. The ride features over 300 audio-animatronic dolls in traditional costumes from cultures around the world, frolicking in a spirit of international unity and singing the attraction's title song, which has a theme of global peace…. [The installations within the ride] wind the flume around one large room, emphasizing its theme that the world is small and interconnected.”

Of course, there’s also the song It's a Small World (After All), written “in the wake of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which influenced the song's message of peace and brotherhood.”

The lyrics to It's a Small World (After All) are as follows:

"It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hopes and a world of fears
There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all

It's a small world after all
It's a small world after all
It's a small world after all
It's a small, small world

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hopes and a world of fears
There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all"

What does all this mean, you ask?  It means that at his core, Walt Disney believed in the power of empathy.

The following is an excerpt from Empathy in Conflict Resolution: If, How and When that was published by the Center for Empathy in International Affairs in June 2016:

“Empathy is an essential tool to resolve conflict and to ensure the sustainability of peace…. 

To empathize accurately requires a lot of work and if practiced well, it almost invariably leads to an adjustment of our own assumptions. Yet, the willingness to question assumptions and beliefs is a quality that tends to be disparaged rather than valued in powerful institutions.

Biases or preconceptions about others are resistant to change….

Empathy has a critical role in offsetting malign narratives, given the way that certain groups construct stories about others in order to portray them as evil. These adulterated stories, generated through folklore, popular culture, movies, books and more, can produce an environment that is conducive to highly destructive or immoral policies. Empathy can help challenge these stories, expose falsehoods and identify the resources that can be brought to bear to enable certain groups or societies to tell less harmful stories….

Targeted efforts are required to mitigate the bias against empathy, promote its professional recognition, and encourage greater willingness to scrutinize our own beliefs and assumptions….

There is strong case for promoting empathy in society as a whole, as a cultural attribute, and as a skill used by individuals, not only in negotiations but in many other spheres of human activity."

Now, let’s discuss some of Franklin Graham’s beliefs.

He believes or claims to believe the following:

As Jonathan Capehart said in his article titled Franklin Graham’s detestable anti-gay statements that was published by the Washington Post, “Such backward thinking about gay men and lesbians from someone who calls himself a man of God is all the more striking in light of statements from Pope Francis, who talks about lesbians and gays and their relationship with the church with compassion, openness and respect….  Let’s just say he spouted worn-out lies about same-sex couples raising children. What he said was deplorable.”

Allow me now to share what were listed as the most helpful responses to the following question that was shared on CircleOf Moms.com in 2012:

We are a christian family and my daughter found out her best friend is gay. Should she be allowed to continue her friendship with her?”

  • “Are you afraid ‘teh gays’ will rub off on your daughter? If you had just found out your daughter's friend had a sixth toe, would it make any difference? If your daughter wants to be friends with this girl then let her be friends with her. Show some damned compassion as a 'Christian' and befriend those whom you believe to be damned. Christ walked with the crippled, the lepers, the whores, and all the other sinners. He called them all brothers and sisters and loved them all. It is NOT YOUR PLACE to judge this girl. Love her for who she is, not what you're afraid she represents.”
  • “If I were the parent in this position my concern would be for my daughter's friend because of the negative reaction she may get from unenlightened people. I would be saying to my daughter ‘you know what, this is the time to really show what a good friend is and support her, because she may face some trouble from other people’. The idea that you may encourage your daughter to abandon a friend at a difficult time seem very odd to me. I would be upset by the idea that my daughter might do that.”
  • “Are you kidding me? This might be the most offensive post I've ever seen, and I've seen some doozies. My best friend happens to be gay, and her parents are the MOST Christian family I've ever met. Her mother goes to church every single day, and not a problem goes by that her mother doesn't think can be solved by saying the rosary! THAT being said, the love for her daughter FAR outweighs her Christian beliefs, and she is completely accepted by her family. So, before you ask yourself that question, ask yourself this...would YOU disown your child for being gay? I really hope you say no. This little girl is no different than anyone else, and honestly you should be ashamed of yourself for picking you child's friends because of something as stupid as loving the same gender. There are far worse things in this world than worrying over something as this. And if you are scared she is going to be an influence on your daughter, I can assure you, being gay isn't contageous!”
  • “Of course she should be ‘allowed’ to continue the friendship. What is the alternative? To forbid her from being friends with someone who is different? Who (in your eyes) is ‘a sinner’? If that's the case, then she shouldn't be allowed to have ANY friends at all, because according to the Bible, each and every single one of us, including you, is a sinner. The reason people are blasting you, is because the very THOUGHT of forbidding your kid to be friends with a gay person is just mind-boggling. Besides, like Kate said, Christ didn't ostracize the 'sinners' -- he walked among them and befriended them.”
  • “I am a Christian woman. I have had lesbian friends, gay friends, bisexual friends, and straight friends. Also, most of the Bible verses condemning homosexuality are in the Old Testament and in the letters of Paul in the New Testament. I can't think of one saying where Jesus condemned homosexuality specifically. If my children are ever confronted with this decision I'll remind them of this: when asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus answered, 'Love you God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And the second is, love your neighbor as yourself.' I have used this to form my position on difficult issues like this one."

In his post, Graham referred to being gay as a “lifestyle.”  I discussed the use of that term to describe LGBT people in my article titled Don’t Fall for Political Propaganda.  As I said in that article, “Generally speaking, those who take issue with same-sex marriage, and support the right to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, do so based upon their belief that homosexuality is a ‘lifestyle choice.’  However, homosexuality is no more a ‘lifestyle choice’ than is heterosexuality.”

So, is it true that Walt Disney “would be shocked at what has happened to the company that he started” because it is trying to normalize the fact that gay people really exist?

Is it true that Walt Disney “would be shocked” that his company is “trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of children”? 

Considering that the LGBT agenda is merely that they be accepted, respected, valued and loved for who they are, I have a very hard time believing that Walt Disney would be shocked by any such thing. Based upon his values, I have no doubt that he’d proud to know that all these years after his death, the company he founded is still teaching peace from understanding gleaned through empathy.

Empathy Is the Key to Conflict Resolution or Management. Empathy has been found to undermine biased conflict perceptions. Unfortunately, lack of empathy is the source of great conflict.  

How about people start boycotting fear and hate mongers, rather than peacemakers?

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