Bob Chapek Needs To Be Replaced As Disney CEO

The Walt Disney Company CEO, Bob Chapek from the Investor Day 2020 presentation. Courtesy of Disney.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek needs to be replaced as CEO of The Walt Disney Company for not doing enough to fight hatred in Florida.

I’m not just speaking out as a transgender American and film/TV critic but as a shareholder of The Walt Disney Company. If this risks getting myself blacklisted as a critic, so be it. I cannot stay silent in the face of hatred. In a perfect world, I would be visiting Walt Disney World for the 50th anniversary while the festivities are going on. Unfortunately, the hatred on the verge of being signed into law is what is preventing me from doing so. Moreover, the lack of forceful words from Disney–especially Bob Chapek–is deafening. It is irresponsible of them to not be speaking loudly. Do they not want LGBTQ customers? How do they think LGBTQ employees in Florida feel? It is my responsibility as a Disney shareholder to also vote against the reelection of Bob Chapek to the Disney Board of Directors.

The Walt Disney Company Annual Meeting, Bob Chapek, Board of Directors
A screenshot of Danielle Solzman’s ballot ahead of The Walt Disney Company’s annual meeting on March 9, 2022.

Here is Disney’s super weak and upsetting response that came by way of GMA:

That their statement came way too late in the conversation is frustrating in and of itself. Inspiring content, really? How is a brief scene in Avengers: Endgame inspiring content? What about the scene in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker where there’s a same-sex kiss but it is BLINK-AND-YOU-MISS-IT?!? Let’s hope the upcoming Pixar representation is better. From what I can tell, the inspiring content Disney speaks of are just throwaway scenes that they can cut out in places like China. Films like Eternals are not enough when Valkyrie’s bisexuality is completely removed from Thor: Ragnarok. Let me know when these films feature storylines that you cannot simply remove in order to get an overseas release!

The Hollywood Reporter reports on why Disney is largely silent about the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Former George W. Bush appointee Geoff Morrell currently serves as the chief corporate affairs officer. Morrell’s statement is similar to the above in text:

Whatever Bob’s personal politics are, he’s not an activist and does not bring any partisan agenda to work. He sees himself first and foremost as the custodian of a unifying brand that for nearly a century has been bringing people together, and he is determined that Disney remain a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

It’s certainly a shame that former CEO/Chair Bob Iger is no longer a part of Disney leadership. Iger would be a stronger fighter for LGBTQ rights even if Disney movies aren’t doing enough to display LGBTQ representation. He understands what President Joe Biden is saying. Iger is on the right side of history. Bob Chapek, not so much.

I quote-tweeted Iger with a thread of my own in response.

Remember a few years ago? Iger wasn’t above threatening to pull Disney productions out of Georgia when they were on the verge of signing an anti-abortion law. The current status of the anti-abortion law is that Judge Steve C. Jones ruled it as unconstitutional at the District Court level. While there is currently an appeal from the State of Georgia to the 11th Circuit, everything is at a standstill until after the Supreme Court decides on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Why is Bob Chapek not being as forceful when it comes to LGBTQ rights? It is frustrating to see so much silence as a transgender American.

I will be keeping a close watch on the language coming out of Disney in June. If the company is going to put out any kind of statement for Pride month, they need to speak louder right now. I have zero tolerance for corporations showing solidarity during Pride month when they’re silent when it really counts. It’s nothing but performative and it really shows. There should be zero silence when it comes to protecting LGBTQ youth! The time for speaking out is right now!! Come on and do the right thing!

If Bob Chapek is unable of using his platform as Disney’s CEO to speak out against hate, I have no choice but to move for a vote of no confidence in his leadership. It’s only a shame that I am unable to attend this week’s annual meeting in person.

EDIT: In response to the backlash, Bob Chapek is NOW voicing his support for the LGBTQ community. If you have to wait for a backlash in order to show support, you’re doing it wrong. It is too little, too late to finally be speaking out. Moreover, Chapek’s comments come in a company-wide email to Disney employees rather than a public statement. It should not take a trade outlet obtaining the email. The comments should be plastered all over Disney social media. I fear that the comments will not be enough to prevent the Florida State Senate from passing the bill. It is already one step closer to the desk of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis! My stance on this issue is not changing: Bob Chapek needs to go.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.