By Adam Morrow
As the Disney+ streaming service gears up to launch in 42 countries this summer, the Walt Disney Company controversy appears to have moved beyond the confines of America’s culture wars.
In Turkey, where the service is set to begin broadcasting on June 14, some critics say that Disney content—given its increasing emphasis on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) themes—constitutes an “attack” on the country’s traditional culture and values.
“We oppose this pro-LGBTQ propaganda, which wages war on our nation and children,” Dilek Çınar, head of the Istanbul-based Turkish Youth Union, told The Epoch Times. “Disney+ seeks to poison the minds of Turkish youth with this content.”
Many Turkish parents also express reservations about what they perceive as inappropriate content for young audiences. “My husband and I don’t want our 4-year-old son exposed to movies and TV shows that contain sexual or LGBTQ ideas,” Betul Alver, 30, told The Epoch Times. “We’re deeply concerned about Disney+ and urge the authorities to prohibit its broadcast in Turkey.”
Last December, Turkey’s Supreme Radio and Television Council granted Disney+ a license to broadcast its content nationwide for ten years. The Turkish Youth Union, which boasts more than 80,000 members, responded by mounting an online campaign to raise awareness about the issue and press the council to reverse its decision.
“It’s very important that parents have this awareness to ensure that our children are protected,” Çınar said. “We also object to other media platforms, like Netflix, which disseminate similar propaganda.”
When asked to cite specific examples of LGBTQ themes in Disney content, Çınar pointed to several recent Disney productions, including Gravity Falls, Onward, 9-1-1: Lone Star, and Owl House. Çınar’s assertions are hardly conspiracy theory: Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch has confirmed the homosexual relationship in his animated comedy series. At the same time, Onward was hailed in the Western media upon its release in 2020 for introducing Disney’s “first openly LGBTQ character.”
According to Alver, many parents in Turkey “are aware that these multinational media companies employ subtle messaging to push alien ideologies on young and impressionable viewers.” Calling for all media platforms that cater to children to be “closely monitored,” she said: “We don’t view this as a restriction on our freedoms; rather, it’s about protecting our children, our future.”
On April 23, Turkey’s National Children’s Day, the Turkish Youth Union held a demonstration in Ankara, the nation’s capital, to protest perceived LGBTQ “propaganda” on popular media platforms such as Disney, Netflix, and YouTube. Hundreds of high school students from across the country attended the event. Participants raised banners that read: “Netflix and Disney+, we will never swallow your poison!” and “We are not ‘Generation Z’! We are Turkish Youth!”
According to Çınar, Youth Union leaders have met with officials from the Radio and Television Council to discuss their concerns. When asked if she entertained hopes that the council might reverse its decision regarding the launch of Disney+, she said: “The Council’s concerns coincide with our concerns.”
The Radio and Television Council did not respond to repeated requests for comment by The Epoch Times.
The Turkish Youth Union has not been alone in voicing objections to the upcoming launch of the streaming service. In a recent statement, the Ankara-based Republic Women’s Association, which advocates for preserving Turkish culture and founding principles, also claimed that Disney’s promotion of LGBTQ themes represented “an ideological attack on our country and people.”
Globalization and its Discontents
The California-based Walt Disney Company, for its part, has made no secret of its positions regarding “gender identity” and other LGBTQ-related issues. In a company-wide Zoom meeting in March, Karey Burke, Disney’s president of general entertainment, called for vastly increasing the number of LGBTQ characters in Disney content.
The Turkish Youth Union quickly reposted the video—replete with Turkish subtitles.
The Zoom meeting was reportedly held under the rubric of Disney’s “Reimagine Tomorrow” initiative, which, according to its website, “builds on Disney’s longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” But according to the Republic Women’s Association, lofty phrases like these merely serve to disguise a hidden agenda.
“The promotion of this pro-LGBTQ ideology has nothing to do with ‘freedom’ or ‘human rights,’” the group said in a statement. “It’s about reducing people to mindless slaves of the system by alienating them from themselves and their values.”
Despite Turkey’s ongoing efforts to join the European Union, many Turks, regardless of political orientation, look askance at what they regard as the “decadence” of the West.
“This corruption of traditional values has already begun in the U.S. and Western societies,” Çınar said. “And that corruption is being exported to and imposed upon the rest of the world under the banner of globalization.”
Çınar added that recent years had seen a “growing reaction” against globalization and its ideologies, especially those pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Florida’s recently-passed Parental Rights in Education Bill, which Disney has openly opposed, bans teachers from discussing such topics with young students. The bill “is only one example of this reaction,” she said. “It’s inevitable that there will be resistance to this corruption, even in the places it originates from,” she added.