The Disney fantasy film stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt as a pair of adventurers who attempt to find a mystical relic buried in the deepest recesses of the jungle. Whitehall plays Blunt’s brother, her reluctant assistant.
Despite early buzz boasting that Whitehall’s character in the film is gay, new details of his “coming out” scene have led to a backlash.
According to Variety, the character does not explicitly confirm that he is gay, and only suggests that he broke off a number of engagements as his “interests happily lay elsewhere”.
The character then thanks his sister for supporting him after he was shunned by the rest of their family because of his “interests”, and then leads a toast to “elsewhere”.
Fans have been quick to condemn the scene.
“A blink-&-you’ll-miss-it moment,” tweeted one person. “Disney doesn’t care about genuine representation, & that has been proven time & time again.”
“Disney continually wants prizes for doing the bare minimum,” added another.
“Any time Disney has had a gay character it’s either only been implied in the movie, the moment lasts like five seconds or it’s only said in a passing line,” wrote someone else.
Others also criticised the film for apparently deciding to confirm the character’s sexuality using vague euphemisms.
“Disney will really do anything to avoid using the word ‘gay’ in its mainstream content won’t it,” wrote Twitter curation lead Declan Cashin.
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Playwright Jeremy O Harris also mocked the casting of the heterosexual Whitehall to play the character.
“Y’all still don’t know any gay actors tho?” he tweeted. “Dear @Disney I am gay & funny & evil… I know other evil funny gays. I spent a lot of money at Disneyland this year so it would be cool to work on one of your movies so I could get that money back and also help Disney be gayer.”
The Independent has reached out to Disney for comment.
Disney has faced criticism in recent years for its fleeting use of gay characters in a number of its major franchises.
Both Beauty and the Beast and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker featured brief glimpses of gay characters embracing or dancing together in the background of shots, while Avengers: Endgame featured a minor scene of a man mourning his dead husband.
Jungle Cruise is released on Friday 30 July.
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