March 10, 2020

"Love, Simon" spin-off is unsuitable for Disney+, but "The Simpsons" is OK?

"Love, Simon" spin-off is unsuitable for Disney+, but "The Simpsons" is OK?

Disney+ since its launch is fairly popular as a streaming service. However, its originals, aside from “The Mandalorian,” haven’t set the world on fire. (Too bad; I thought “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” had its moments.) While Disney’s working on this, some of its decisions seem questionable.

“Love, Victor,” a TV series spin-off of the gay teen romantic dramedy “Love, Simon,” was initially scheduled to stream on Disney+. However, Disney recently decided it’d be more suitable for sister service Hulu, due to its content. To quote the Hollywood Reporter:

Sources say that Disney thought the half-hour comedy featured more adult themes than it was comfortable featuring on family-focused Disney+, which is the company’s streaming centerpiece and highest priority. Those topics include alcohol use, marital issues (among the parents) and sexual exploration. Sources note that those themes were a concern for Disney+ execs, who feared they would not resonate with families who watch the service with young kids. Sources note that Disney also believed Love, Victor would be a better fit alongside Hulu’s YA programming that includes PEN15 and the limited series Looking for Alaska and streaming rights to Freeform’s Black-ish spinoff Grown-ish, all of which explore similar coming-of-age themes with a sometimes dramatic tone.

“The Simpsons” is OK for Disney+, apparently

As myself and others noted on Twitter, Disney+, despite being “family friendly,” is also the home of “The Simpsons,” something the service has heavily promoted. (Both the Springfield gang and “Love, Simon” come from Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox Studios.) That said, “The Simpsons” also often touches on the themes that’re getting “Victor” bumped to Hulu. Analyzing the major points of contention:

Alcohol use

Moe's Tavern
Homer at Moe’s, from the episode “The Springfield FIles”

Homer’s love of beer is a central driving point of the series. One of the major settings of “The Simpsons” is Moe’s Tavern, run by surly bartender Moe, and frequented by barfly Barney Gumble. Several episodes have specifically revolved around drinking, including Homer going “dry” (“Duffless“) and an episode where Springfield outlaws alcohol (“Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment“).

While I’m left to assume “Love, Victor” will tackle underage drinking, it likely won’t match the levels of alcohol shown in “The Simpsons.”

Marital issues

Homer and Marge’s marriage is another recurring subplot of the series, with various problems and ways of resolving them shown over the show’s run. A second season episode (“The War of the Simpsons“) has Marge and Homer attend Reverend Lovejoy’s marriage counseling retreat.

Sexual exploration

Finally, “The Simpsons” hasn’t shied away from mentioning or depicting sex, or the existence of non-heterosexual characters (Smithers, Patty, etc.). One episode, “Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy,” starts off with Homer and Marge having problems with their sex life, before moving onto Grandpa selling a sex tonic.

LGBTQ representation in Disney movies/TV shows

As for what’s really at the heart of this, the mere existence of gay characters in a Disney production, Disney does have ongoing issues with representation in its movies. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it depictions of LGBTQ folk in “Avengers: Endgame” and “Star Wars: The Last Skywalker” have received criticism for their inadequacy. (They’re also in scenes that’re easy to edit out.)

That said, such characters do at least exist, with said films available on Disney+. There’s also some minor representation in a few Disney TV shows (“Gravity Falls,” “Star vs. the Forces of Evil,” etc.), which’re also on Disney+. And then there’s two gay characters on Disney+’s own “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.”

There’s also some questioning just what constitutes a “Disney+” original series in terms of tone, or what falls under “family friendly.” Variety notes “The Simpsons” and “Doc McStuffins” are on the same service despite differences in tone and audiences, plus how Disney+ had a recent change in plans on a “Lizzie McGuire” revival. The Verge notes a few older PG rated films from the 80s are on the service (such as “Splash”), films that would likely get a PG-13 rating by today’s standards. Of course, Disney+ has plenty of PG-13 films as well, per the Marvel and modern “Star Wars” films.

Granted, content standards in the US often come down stricter on sex/sexuality, while being much more lenient on violence. Batman comics can show the Joker shooting up Black people in a church (in a 2018 story) with little backlash. However, showing Bruce Wayne fully nude (in a “mature readers” rated comic; the Joker story above got DC’s equivalent of a PG-13) received backlash and the scene edited in future editions.

If there’s any upside, Hulu’s offered alongside Disney+ in their bundled $12.99/month package (along with ESPN+). Thus, families subscribing to such can still watch “Love, Victor” when it debuts.

Tags: animationDisney PlusHuluLGBTQLove SimonMediastreaming videoThe Simpsons