Bob Iger Says ‘Woke’ Disney Is Over. It May Not Silence His Critics.

Asked at Disney’s April 3 annual shareholder meeting whether the company would just provide entertainment and stay out of politics, Iger said Disney’s job was to “entertain first and foremost.” .

“I have always believed that we have a responsibility to do good in the world, but we know that our job is not to advance any agenda,” he said during the livestreamed meeting. “As long as I serve in this position, I will continue to be guided by a sense of decency and respect, and we will always trust our instincts.”

It’s a message Iger has been keen to send since returning as CEO in November 2022.

During an analyst call in April 2023, he was asked a similar question about “promoting the woke agenda.”

“I’m sensitive to that,” he replied. “Our primary mission should be to entertain, and then, through our entertainment, to continue to have a positive impact on the world. And I’m very serious about that. It shouldn’t be driven by an agenda.”

Then, in September, he told investors the company would “silence the noise” when it comes to the culture wars, Reuters reported.

He doubled down on his message at November’s DealBook Summit when he said his company’s films were too message-driven and didn’t prioritize quality storytelling.

“Creators have lost sight of what their number one goal should be”: to entertain, he said at the summit.

“I used ‘Black Panther’ as a great example, just in terms of promoting acceptance, or the ‘Coco,’ movie that Pixar made about Day of the Dead,” he added. “I love being able to do that, entertain and if you can infuse it with positive messages, have a positive impact on the world, that’s fantastic. But that shouldn’t be the goal.”

Iger was even willing to end the long-running feud between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney over the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. In a surprising move, Disney and Florida settled their legal dispute in March.

In recent years, Disney has become the target of conservative politicians like DeSantis and social media voices, including, most recently, Elon Musk. Some criticize the company for including LGBTQ+ characters and elements in stories – such as a same-sex kiss in “Lightyear” and a non-binary character in “Elemental” – while others have taken issue with a black Ariel in the recent “Little Mermaid “.

Iger’s distancing from what some have called a “woke agenda” came as he fought a proxy fight against activist investor Nelson Peltz.

Peltz has made Disney “wokeness” a part of his campaign, calling into question Marvel’s “Black Panther” and “The Marvels,” which feature black and female protagonists, respectively.

“Why do I have to have an all-female Marvel? Not that I have anything against women, but why do I have to do that? Why can’t I have Marvels that are both? Why do I- I need an all-black cast.? he said in an interview with the Financial Times last month.

No matter how much Iger insists that the company is focused on entertainment, Disney will likely continue to produce content that reflects the world around it and introduces new characters – Iger has made it clear that these films can still be perfectly entertaining.

But even that will continue to agitate social conservatives. Just take the vicious online reactions to its new series “Star Wars: The Sidekick” on Disney+, directed by a female showrunner.

With a company as ingrained in culture as Disney, it doesn’t take much to upset longtime fans, much less culture warriors. And with Iger promising that the company will rely more on its beloved franchises, Disney will likely continue to draw criticism from social conservatives.


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