When Disney+ first launched, it was seemingly poised to become Netflix’s biggest competition in the streaming game. There was certainly some excitement abound, especially with the service’s slate set to include Marvel fare like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision, the Lizzie McGuire revival, and the Star Wars series, The Mandalorian. However, considering that the latter is the only major original series currently streaming on Disney+, the ongoing decisions to greenlight a mixture of prequels and spin-offs based on random characters from well-known properties makes it clear that Disney+ has an original programming problem and it seems to be getting worse.
In the latest round of random character in a Disney property is getting a series news, the streamer is reportedly developing a Beauty and the Beast prequel from the creators of Once Upon a Time, Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis. If you thought, “aww, that’s so nice, they’re expanding upon Belle’s story,” then I’m sorry to burst your bubble because they’re not. It’s much, much worse. Instead, the prequel will be about Gaston and his right-hand man, LeFou, with the limited series bringing back Luke Evans and Josh Gad to reprise their respective roles from the live-action.
With this announcement, it seems Disney+ has an original programming problem. It’s something that becomes ever more clear the more they announce which shows they greenlight. However, with the company reviving old shows and movies like The Mighty Ducks, remaking their animations into live-action, and extending limited series offers to characters no one gives a flying f*ck about, I have to wonder who these TV shows are even for and how the folks at Disney are even choosing which character gets a show and why.
Currently, there are only three original scripted shows streaming on Disney+: The Mandalorian, Diary of a Future President, and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. While the streamer has promised much more to come, none of the announced options (beyond some of the Marvel shows and the Lizzie McGuire revival) have sounded remotely interesting. What, exactly are people paying their subscription fees for? Why didn’t Disney bother investing in more content that would be streamer ready ahead of its launch?
What’s more, most, if not all, of their upcoming shows are a part of already-established properties, including Star Wars, Marvel, or live-action spin-offs of animated live-action remakes. There is no risk whatsoever and, when they do decide on what gets made into a TV series, their choices certainly call into question not just what Disney has to offer people paying a monthly subscription to watch new shows, but also what kinds of characters the streamer is willing to invest money in. Spoiler alert: shows like High Fidelity don’t count. Want an original story about characters outside of established worlds? Disney+ may not be for you!
Giving Gaston, who is one of the most misogynistic characters in Disney’s vast repertoire, a series sets a bad precedent. He’s the most vile representation of toxic masculinity, persistent in his pursuit of Belle even when she was clearly uninterested in him and told him so often. He’s egotistical, violent, and actually uttered the line “It’s not right for a woman to read.” No one should have to pay a monthly subscription to watch misogyny in pants. Now, I’m not against villains getting interesting origin stories, or getting new backstories to explore their characters further. Maleficent did a decent job with that, even though Disney had to jump through some hoops to make sense of it. More importantly, though, why is such a toxic man like him getting his own series on a “family friendly” streaming platform while a show like Love, Victor got booted to Hulu for presumably having adult themes? The same can be said of the whole Lizzie McGuire controversy, in which Hilary Duff asked that the show be moved to Hulu, so as to avoid “limiting the realities of 30 year old’s journey to live under the ceiling of a PG rating.”
The Beauty and the Beast sequel about Gaston reminds me of the time, not that long ago, mind you, that Disney decided that Prince Anders — you probably don’t remember him because he was that random white dude from a random place that no one cared about in the live-action Aladdin — would also be getting his own series on Disney+. Granted, Gaston isn’t as much of a random character as Prince Anders is, but the idea is still the same. Disney’s current collection is not only thin, but its future library options aren’t looking all that great, either.
Ultimately, the more news comes out about what Disney has planned for its original programming, the more uninterested I become with this streaming service and its choices. There already isn’t that much to offer and, considering how much money Disney has to spend on original content, you think they would come up with something more original than a show about Gaston, someone who represents the worst of society and isn’t remotely “family friendly.”
Header Image Source: Disney