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Bob Iger’s Excuses for Disney Failures Echo the Worst Time in Hollywood History

Bob Iger looking smug.

When Andrew Sorkin of The New York Times asked about the “creative magic” of Disney and what’s happening to the performance of recent movies, Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, responded, “My number 1 priority is to turn the studio around creatively.” But his ideas on how to do that are disappointing.

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Iger was pulled back into office less than a year into his retirement in what appears to be a move from Disney to boost investor confidence. “We have conditioned the audience to expect that these films would be on streaming platforms relatively quickly,” Iger admitted, but he believes that the problem is much bigger than just people losing interest in cinema or the deterioration of the quality of the films.

Many people have accused the recent Marvel and Disney movies of being “woke,” and awful Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has boldly led the charge against Disney for his right-wing politics. Sorkin then clarified, “Do you fight with DeSantis or do you create LGBT characters?”

“Our primary objective in creating content is to entertain, and the good news is that there is a huge marketplace that demands entertainment,” Iger responded. “Creators lost sight of what their #1 objective needed to be,” Iger referenced Black Panther and Coco as movies that imparted good values, but he believed that they succeeded because they were entertaining.

“We have to entertain first, it’s not about messages. If your story can have a positive impact, there’s that. I’ve worked hard to remind the creative community that this is the objective.” This is despite Black Panther being set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, which is untainted by colonization. If “woke” is the real problem here and studios have to focus on being creative over messaging, then how come Wakanda Forever, Black Panther’s successful sequel, managed to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in 2022?

The sequel followed Shuri, who had to navigate grief after losing her immediate family while becoming the next Black Panther. It was the story of a girl who has to protect her nation from the threat of genocide. Disney didn’t shy away from portraying themes of colonization and slavery in Wakanda Forever, so what’s happening?

Is the messaging of these films to blame, and not the poor working conditions that many workers had to endure and strike about throughout 2023? VFX workers from Disney and Marvel have voted to unionize and join the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) against egregious working conditions and meager pay. Disney’s writers had to go on strike with the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and all Iger had to say for it is that the writers were not being realistic with their expectations, even if the strike had largely to do with protecting their livelihood over artificial intelligence and securing fair compensation.

Hollywood Blacklisting didn’t die out after the Cold War. Instead, creatives are being fearmongered by corporations and politicians to align with their interests. It seems that diversity is still not part of those interests, and Iger’s comments, veering extremely close to the “go woke, go broke” line you’re like to hear from the worst people online, just seem like history repeating itself. Hollywood executives and the U.S. government have come together in the past to weed out left-wing politics and only produce content that upholds the status quo.

(featured image: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

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Vanessa Esguerra
Vanessa Esguerra (She/They) is a Contributing Writer for The Mary Sue. She graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree in Japanese Studies. She speaks three languages, but still manages to get lost in the subways of Tokyo with her clunky Japanese. As a mixed race bisexual woman, she frequently writes about race, gender and sexuality both academically and professionally. Fueled by iced coffee brewed from local cafés in Metro Manila, she also regularly covers anime and video games while queuing for her next match in League of Legends.

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