Disney, the American multinational entertainment company, has just learned the hard way – and the word is perfectly chosen in this case – that you shouldn't confront the governor of a state and threaten him, because he stood his ground about his political convictions.
Ron DeSantis, the Republican Governor of Florida, has warned Disney that he will not tolerate its threats after the state passed a law preventing LGBT indoctrination in the elementary grades - up to ages 8-9 years.
Last June, DeSantis had already spoken openly about companies that play politics in favor of certain ideologies: “If you are in one of these companies, if you are a woke CEO and want to get involved in our legislative affairs, see, it's a free country. But understand that if you do this, I will fight with you. And I'm going to make sure people understand your business practices, and everything that I don't like about what you do.”
Company CEO Bob Chapek, under pressure from his employees, said the law “should never have been passed” and that the company's goal is to have it “repealed by the legislative body or annulled in court.” At the same time, he apologized to his employees for keeping silent and choosing to campaign against the law “behind the scenes.”
Disney’s benefits in Florida, where the company founded its second park, from quasi-extraterritoriality privileges. The Reedy Creek District is home to six theme parks, 18 hotels with 24,000 rooms, and numerous sports complexes, all owned and operated by the entertainment giant.
However, since 1967, the date of the first foundation, Disney has enjoyed an exemption which makes the company almost independent of the state in this territory of more than 100 km2. This special status has saved the company hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law on Monday, March 28, 2022, banning the teaching of subjects related to sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary school starting July 1. The LGBT community felt hurt.
“We are going to make sure that parents can send their children to school so that they learn, not so that they are indoctrinated,” stated the governor before affixing his signature. A number of companies, including Disney, have taken a public stand against the law.
“I'm not going to let a California-based woke company run our state,” replies Ron DeSantis. “Disney thought it ruled Florida. It even tried to attack me to advance its woke political agenda,” he added.
The main advantage of the special status mentioned above is regulatory: the company will therefore not be affected in the short term. Especially since the law will not come into force until July 1. Negotiation is therefore still possible and the status quo could possibly be maintained.
On condition, demands the governor, that Disney renounces its attempt to influence the educational program of the state where each year it pays some 780 million dollars in taxes and employs more than 70,000 people. Bob Chapek was right when he pointed out that the company was taking a big risk by taking a stand against this text.
In an article published in Le Figaro on April 22, 2022, Disney’s very utilitarian way of doing things is pinpointed. In fact, “Disney is increasingly highlighting neo-progressive values in its productions intended for Western countries. Who disappear by magic on the Chinese or Arab markets, particularly conservative when it comes to morals.”
This is how Karey Burke, president of the TV subsidiary of 20th Century Fox – acquired by Disney in 2019 – said that she wanted “50% of the characters in future films to be gay or from LGBTQIA communities.”
This project was formulated during a video panel “Reimagine Tomorrow,” a platform launched in 2020 and whose goal is “to amplify underrepresented voices and unknown stories.” Behind this title, a noble cause: to reaffirm “Disney's long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The Florida business is certainly no stranger to such a position. But, according to Le Figaro, it manifests “a renewal, not to say an imbalance, born in these ‘large Western companies which participate, alongside public power, and civil society, in the vast exercise of the definition of the common good.…They interfere, often upon the demands of consumers, in the very heart of the democratic game’ (Anne de Guigné, Le Capitalisme Woke – Woke Capitalism).”
Which means that “publicly, and as often as possible, Disney is therefore committed to affirming its support for the ‘good’ ideologies – this famous triumvirate of equity, diversity, inclusion brandished like a lightning rod to avoid the wrath of what some stigmatize as misguided political correctness, and others the essential values of progressivism.”
But still, notes Le Figaro, the choices in question reveal total hypocrisy. Because there is a region where the new motto “Equity, Diversity, Inclusion” is not accepted: China. The second market for world cinema is too appetizing for Disney, which is ready to compromise.
This is how a black actor, African-American, saw his silhouette, well in evidence elsewhere, “considerably reduced on the Chinese version of the posters.” And a Tibetan character was replaced by a British actress. The explanation is given by Stephen R. Soukoup, in “The Dictatorship of Woke Capitalism”:
“If you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that [the character] is Tibetan, you risk alienating a billion people,” explained the screenwriter. “And you run the risk that the Chinese government will tell you: ‘We not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’” Offending Beijing becomes intolerable while Disney is opening a gigantic amusement park in Shanghai.
Le Figaro sums up the situation exactly: “Disney's thirst for equity, diversity, and inclusion therefore has a limit: the growth of its total revenue and the increase in dividends for its shareholders - among which are some of the largest investment funds in the world such as BlackRock and Vanguard Group.”
“The Mickey-Mouse-ears company is capable of directly opposing laws passed by democratically elected representatives in the United States and threatening brutal economic sanctions on conservative states (Georgia, North Carolina) where they are enacted, but remains silent in the face of the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang – the province where much of the new version of Mulan, released in 2020, was filmed.”
The conclusion of this article is sharp: “Walking this tightrope – the white knight of the oppressed on one side, the accomplice of the Beijing regime on the other – has paid off: since 2005, the date of the arrival of Robert Iger as CEO, Disney's stock kept climbing until it approached $200 in March 2021.”
However, in the wake of the Florida kerfluffle, the Disney stock price as of April 22, 2022, “sits at roughly $119 per share, a far cry from its $200 per share price of March 2021. This marks a 17-month low for Disney’s stock price, its worst since late 2020.”