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Homophobes Are Attacking a Florida Teacher For Showing a Disney Movie

Ethan Clade smiles against a purple sky in Strange World.

There’s no movie less offensive than a Disney movie … unless you’re a bigot looking for things to be upset about.

Case in point: recently, Jenna Barbee, a fifth grade teacher in Winding Waters, Florida, showed her class Disney’s Strange World as a “brain break” between standardized testing sessions. Strange World is about Jaeger, Searcher, and Ethan Clade, a grandfather/father/son team exploring a hidden subterranean world in order to find out what’s killing off the energy source that powers their civilization. Although it received mixed reviews, Strange World is an incisive environmental fable with a diverse and inclusive cast of characters.

Two of those characters, Ethan and his love interest Diazo, are queer—and for one Florida parent, that trait was unacceptable.

After Barbee showed the movie, Shannon Rodriguez filed a complaint with the school district. Thanks to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits teachers from teaching about gender and sexual orientation, Barbee is now under investigation by the Florida Department of Education.

Rodriguez is affiliated with the right-wing organization Moms for Liberty, which has been at the forefront of numerous book bans around the country. According to Barbee, Rodriguez has been “on a rampage to get rid of every form of representation in schools.”

The bigotry is the point

Conservatives looking to ban books, movies, and other media often claim that the material isn’t age appropriate, or that it contains pornographic material. That excuse falls apart after a split second of thought, though.

In Strange World, Ethan’s crush on Diazo is mainly kept to the background of the plot. At the beginning of the movie, Ethan gets tongue-tied around Diazo, and then Diazo is largely absent as Ethan journeys into the world underneath Avalonia.

Compare that plot to, say, The Little Mermaid, in which Ariel follows her crush to the human world and spends most of the movie trying to coax him into kissing her. Neither movie is remotely pornographic, but why is the queer crush more objectionable than the hetero romance?

Because what Rodriguez and other conservatives object to is the mere existence of queer people. To them, any trace of queerness is too much. Florida’s surging hate movement, bolstered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s own bigotry and presidential aspirations, is working towards the complete erasure of queer people—and that’s one strange world that no one should want to explore.

(via Huffpost, featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

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Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and covers film, television, and books for The Mary Sue. When she's not making yarn on her spinning wheel, she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. You can check out more of her writing at, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.