Disney is facing a backlash over the casting of Jack Whitehall as the studio’s first openly gay major film character in the upcoming film Jungle Cruise.

The comedian, who is straight, announced he was “honoured” at being appointed to the role for the film, due to arrive in 2019. However, the news has led to some criticism from the LGBTQ+ community, with many asking why Disney couldn’t have given the role to a gay actor.

Furthermore, reports on Wednesday (August 15th) that Whitehall’s character will be “hugely effete” and “very camp” led to campaigners for LGBTQ+ rights warned that Disney risked getting the tone wrong for a potential watershed moment by “playing up to negative tropes and received ideas about queer people”.

Jack WhitehallJack Whitehall's casting in 'Jungle Cruise' has been criticised by many

“An increasingly diverse audience both wants and expects to see and hear itself reflected authentically,” said Giovanni Bienne, the chairman of British acting union Equity, said in reaction.

However, other commenters have said that the backlash is overstated, with some saying that the practice of only selecting actors on the basis of their identity correlating with those of their roles will lead to typecasting.

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“Calling for gay actors to play gay roles will limit gay actors only to gay roles,” one Twitter user argued, and that what actually matters is whether the “performance [is] believable”.

The backlash has echoes of the recent controversy regarding Scarlett Johansson’s casting as a transgender man in the planned film Rub & Tug – a project that Johansson eventually withdrew from last month after initially defending her decision to take the role on. Neither Disney nor Whitehall have formally responded to the criticisms.

Whitehall, 30, will star alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise, and he took to Instagram to reveal his delight in a short video.

“I am having the time of my life with my amazing co-stars. It’s so cool to be part of something of this scale and also as possibly one of the biggest Disney nerds on the planet so exciting to be working on a project with this much history.”

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