The Disney Channel may not be the go-to network for progressive social agendas, but the most recent episode of their flagship sitcom Good Luck, Charlie featured a lesbian couple to the joy of some viewers, and the consternation of others. Conservative bloggers were quick to condemn the move, while others praised the way the storyline was handled.
In the episode, Charlie is due to have a playdate with her friend Taylor. Parents Bob and Amy (played by actor Eric Allen Kramer and Leigh Allyn Baker respectively) argue about Taylor’s mom’s name, only to discover that they’re both right because “Taylor has two moms.”
Disney had previously announced their plans to introduce a same-sex couple to the show and the storyline was developed in consultation with child development experts and community advisers. Disney stated that the inclusion of the lesbian couple was part of their ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.
It is the first time that a gay couple have appeared on the Disney Channel and reaction to the episode was predictably divided along party lines. Supporters of same-sex marriage declared the episode to be “awesome” and “an important step forward in the evolution of programming for kids.” The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), who were consulted during the development of the script, expressed their thanks to Disney for including gay families in their shows.
Conservatives were less happy, with the One Million Moms group taking a firm stance against the show and the storyline. In a statement, they accused Disney of valuing political correctness over producing entertainment that’s suitable for families. Disney, they went on to say, is pushing an agenda and the inclusion of a gay couple was an issue that children are “too young to comprehend.”
Good Luck, Charlie has been a hit for The Disney Channel since its launch in 2009. Based around the exploits of the Duncan family, it has boosted the career of star Bridget Mendler and become a worldwide hit, even earning itself a remake in India. Like most Disney shows, it has largely avoided controversy during its run, which is due to end at the close of the current season.
Although the gay plotline of the show is relatively low-key within the context of the episode, it comes at a time when same-sex marriage is a high profile issue in the U.S. On TV, rapper Macklemore celebrated his Grammy by performing his track Equal Love, during which Queen Latifah performed a wedding ceremony for 34 same-sex and opposite sex couples. Meanwhile, the Defense Of Marriage Act has been collapsing in states where it or an equivalent statute had been enacted, and the Attorney General of Virginia stated last week that he would not defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in an upcoming legal challenge.
It seems reasonable to say that The Disney Channel, with its carefully managed brand and steady output of uncontroversial entertainment, feel that now is the right time to allow a lesbian couple to appear on one of its shows. Whether a similar decision will be made about other shows remains to be confirmed.
By Bernard O’Leary