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Queering The Kingdom: A Deep Dive Into 10 Gay Disney Villains You Love To Hate!

Queering The Kingdom: A Deep Dive Into 10 Gay Disney Villains You Love To Hate!

Gay Disney Villains! We all love them, and we all hate them. That’s kind of the point of villains in a strange, backwards way. They come onto our screens as negative influences in the worlds of our main characters and proceed to do everything that they possibly can to make things in the story worse.

With that said about the nature of villains, it makes no sense why most people end up feeling at least a little favorable about them. Liking them as characters, if not as real people that we would enjoy having in our lives, the same way that someone enjoys a fictional person played by an actor, but may not enjoy the personality of that actor. 

Or does it make sense after all?

On the surface, the inclusion of gay Disney characters could be due to the fact that villains are generally more powerful, experienced, and confident in their appearance and behavior than the main characters. These characters are – for the most part – stuck in assembling the potency and knowledge they will need to solve the problem and defeat the big bad.

You might disagree, but that certainly sounds like a landslide ‘Villains 1, Heroes 0’ victory in terms of attractiveness. Yet, even so, the presence of ‘likable’ antagonists in movies and the ‘queer coding’ of gay Disney villains isn’t always something to celebrate.

In fact, over the course of cinematic history, villains have been objectified not just as the negative force in their stories, but as tools that demonize straying from attributes perceived as ‘normal’. Hollywood’s film codes long included clauses stating that queerness and queer attributes can only be given to a character in a movie if that character is a villain. This was so strict as to include being overly flamboyant or having a bright taste in clothing.

Now that we’ve set off, it’s time to reclaim the badass, the sass, and explore some of our favorite villains of yesteryear while unpacking queer coding in cinema as a whole. What was it used for, why is it such a negative force, and what effect does it have today?

Queering The Kingdom: A Deep Dive Into 10 Gay Disney Villains You Love To Hate!

#1) Hades from Hercules

Hades is a strong figure in ancient Greek religion and myth, acting as both the third brother of Zeus and the lord of the dead and the Underworld. His name is so strongly associated with the latter that ‘Hades’ is often used as a name for hell or the underworld itself. Not a great start on describing someone likable.

When we start talking about the actual Hercules character, however, things change a fair bit. Hades is a perfect example of a queer-coded character among gay Disney villains, and one that is more acceptable than many others, given that Hades is relatively agreeable compared to the other villains on this list. Being the god of death is a job that someone needs to fill, after all, and it wouldn’t be fair to blame Hades for being forced to take up the post.

Hades wears exaggerated makeup, and his facial features help accentuate the sheer sassiness of his drawling, sarcastic attitude all the way to making him a queer mess. When consulting with the princess not-very-much-in-distress Megara – the love interest of our titular fellow Hercules – Hades does a not very subtle job of filling the role of ‘gay best friend’, and spends a sizable part of the movie making somewhat flirty comments about the hero’s masculinity and viability as a partner. 

And all of this is just the beginning. Not to mention the rather promiscuous nature of the Greek gods that the characters from this movie are based on – that could fill a whole book alone.

#1) Hades from Hercules - Gay Disney Villains

#2) The Evil Queen from Snow White

The ‘Evil Queen’ is perhaps one of Disney’s most famous characters. We all know the images of her and her poisoned apple, plotting to put Snow White into death’s sleep. But why the name? It is tentatively suggested that her name was originally intended to be ‘Queen Grimhilde’, as this was the title given to her in some very early promotional material for the movie, but the name seems to be an artifact lost to the past for now, and other source materials call her differently, for example ‘Queen Ingrid’ or ‘The Snow Queen’, which perhaps references the titular character’s own name.

But here’s where the queer-coding comes in. The Evil Queen’s tactics and obsessions are all trademarks of the subject, and her thirst for stealing feminine beauty paints her as a predator that takes advantage of young girls in exchange for her own gratification. 

She embodies jealousy and envy, and her alternate form as the ‘witch’ who poisons Snow White can be seen as an attempt to imply that an ugly soul lies somewhere within those who hold pride and treasure beauty, as well as a reference to the classic character Baba Yaga and he status as a child-eating, reclusive hag.

Much like other villains on this list, the Evil Queen’s confidence and ire towards Snow White – the ‘perfect’ Disney princess paired perfectly with her heroic Prince Charming – results in her downfall. Literally, as the Queen tumbles down a ledge, and is feasted upon by vultures. Lovely, we know.

#2) The Evil Queen from Snow White - Gay Disney Villains

#3) Scar from Lion King

Watching this movie as an adult leaves no doubt as to Scar’s considerably less-than straight behavior. He saunters and sways, gesturing widely with his hands – paws, sorry, definitely paws – and influences the members of the cast around him in a seductive, sly manner.

In fact, Scar’s position as less ‘masculine’ and less dominant than Mufasa, a trait often associated with the queer coding of gay Disney villains, is a large reason why he resents his position in the pride and Simba. As Mufasa’s brother, he was next in line to the throne, but with Simba and his father’s presence, he cannot hope to compete. Mufasa is large and strong, while Scar is smaller and more delicate in build and movement. Not only that, but his sense of humor and sarcasm is far more sassy than his brother’s stoic righteousness.

This fact remains so strongly present that Scar remains submissive to Mufasa until the very last moment even despite the edge of his conspiring nature, when he is able to best both the Lion King and his son with his brain rather than might, seeing Mufasa removed from the picture for good.

The end of the story and in fact the entire latter half is characterized by Simba embracing his masculinity, and using it to overcome the ruin that Scar’s rein over Mufasa’s pride and the region as a whole has brought. The two fight, and Scar is left to stand no match to the strength and skill of his brother’s son. Another flamboyant character, another evil plot, and another rather unseemly death.

#3) Scar from Lion King - Gay Disney Villains

#4) Ursula from The Little Mermaid

Ursula is definitely an interesting bundle to unpack. A loud, dramatic character from the very beginning, this antagonist living on the bottom of The Little Mermaid’s sea is practically the end-all of flamboyant villains. This overview of her persona is strengthened by the fact that Ursula was inspired and largely based upon an American actor and drag queen named ‘Divine’. Definitely no hiding the fact that this particular villain was based on queer archetypes. 

Her personality and the nature of her ‘real life counterpart’ means that Ursula is held as a gay icon quite often, but that does not remove the original purpose and the true nature of her character – being a villain. Taking the qualities that Ursula possesses and turning them into the trademarks of evil is the root of the problem that we are approaching in this list.

The fact is that Ursula is an agent of an outdated narrative of ‘evil, chaotic force ruining everything’ versus ‘acceptable, normal relationship’. While it may seem logical to dislike such a character on paper, directly associating queer characteristics with this role over and over again makes the matter much more confusing – both to unbiased watchers, and also to those trying to identify what Disney’s stance on queerness actually is. 

Does Disney believe that queer attributes and archetypes are things inherently associated with evil, and if they don’t, why is it proving so hard to pull them out of that not-so-distant past where queer coding was plastered across every villain possible?

#4) Ursula from The Little Mermaid - Gay Disney Villains

#5) Gaston from The Beauty and the Beast

Gaston, the loud, muscle-obsessed ‘antagonist’ of The Beauty and the Beast, represents an interesting case when discussing the queer coding of gay Disney villains. But why is he worthy of being considered under this lens, and what else is there to say about his movie as a whole? After all, isn’t Gaston made a villain by his greedy insistence to have Belle’s hand in marriage, and isn’t his entire character a caricature of toxic masculinity?

Well – there is the lingering fact that one of Gaston’s original designs more closely resembled an effeminate, powdered nobleman, but that is just a design phase that never made it into the movie that we all know. In fact, Gaston’s inclusion on this list is more to do with his presence in the movie and the events that he inspires than his actual personality.

Beauty and the Beast is a movie full of LGBT influences and subtext, from LeFou’s apparent infatuation with Gaston himself to the questionable state of Lumière and Cogsworth’s relationship (which we will discuss in another article!). On top of all that, Belle’s rejection of Gaston as a suitor has been long hailed as a strongly feminist metaphor, and Gaston’s self-obsession and flamboyantly gruff nature as an example of toxic masculinity as mentioned earlier.

So, while the man himself isn’t exactly a flaming beacon of queerness – depending on how you read him – it can safely be said that a lot of the characterization surrounding him lends to asking questions about Disney’s agenda in managing the personalities and archetypes of their characters.

#5) Gaston from The Beauty and the Beast - Gay Disney Villains

#6) Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty/Maleficent

In the modern live-action movie Maleficent told the story of true love, and the fact that it doesn’t always have to be romantic love to be real, but when she was truly the villain of her story back in Snow White, Maleficent was an entirely different character.

Her stoic, ultra-feminine nature and appearance falls into a lot of the same categories that Snow White’s Evil Queen’s does. I mean, just look at the two – they practically seem like the same person, if one took Maleficent as a more direct manifestation of the Queen’s evil. She takes and covets feminine beauty and the ability to be admired by all just as much as the Evil Queen did, and this much is shown by how she curses the land’s king’s beautiful newborn daughter, stating that she – Snow White – will die by pricking her finger on the needle of a weaving wheel.

As we mentioned earlier, in the more recent movie(s), where the story focusses upon telling the old story from the fairy’s own point of view instead of from that of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent is a separate person altogether. She is instead a representation of feminine self-sustainability, acting somewhat like a mother to the new ‘sleeping beauty’, Aurora, despite the fact that she had cursed the girl to fall into a ‘sleep like death’ upon her sixteen birthday when she was just a baby. The inversion of Maleficent’s character in the live-action remake is definitely an amicable change from the past.

#6) Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty Maleficent - Gay Disney Villains

#7) Captain Hook from Peter Pan

The famous one-armed pirate captain returns! It feels like playing a broken record to repeat, but Captain Hook is another example that perfectly fits the bill of queer coding among gay Disney villains. Dressed loudly and with a sense of drama and style seconded by no ‘good guy’, Hook has perfect hair, a perfect moustache, and a pride bigger than the hull of his ship.

As was described earlier in this list, it is truly astounding how many villains in Disney movies (as well as throughout cinema as a larger whole) take qualities that aren’t at all negative – such as wearing unique clothing, wearing makeup, and acting outside of silly stereotypes of masculinity or petit femininity – and turn them into things that are held almost exclusively by villains or chaotic side characters while good characters fit ‘normal’ to a tee. 

Another thing worth noting is that the vast majority of villains like Captain Hook and those that are queer coded have a submissive sidekick. This is equally true when it comes to Hook. The ubiquitous Smee fits this bill perfectly no matter why adaptation of the Peter Pan story you reference, and provides a comedic rock for the Captain to bounce his fuddling humor and slapstick failures off of. 

Smee is not half as evil as Hook himself – which can also be said for basically all of the other sidekicks attached to the villains on this list – and seems to simply feel a sense of service to him and the rest of his ship’s crew.

#7) Captain Hook from Peter Pan - Gay Disney Villains

#8) Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog

Facilier is a little different from the rest of those on this list – a little less strongly associated with stereotypes directly related to queer coding, and more of a mysterious type of villain than the violent and the blatantly evil attitudes that Disney baddies usually manifest. 

And this turned out to be something that fans and those who watched the movie that he appeared in – The Princess and the Frog – quite liked about him. He was different from other villains, had even more style, and was a non-white character that took a different angle to the entire business of making the protagonist’s life harder. In the case of the movie’s plot, this means instituting the frog curse which creates the main obstacle that the heroes must bravely overcome.

Despite his admittedly unique traits of character, however, in some ways he is as classically queer-coded as the rest of those on this list. Flamboyant, musical, and dressed to kill (literally!), Facilier is a smooth, charismatic witch doctor with plans of greatness. Evil greatness, of course, as one can easily assume due to his inclusion on this list.

One of Facilier’s other most notable characteristics is his shadow, who takes on the guise of an at least semi-sentient sidekick, and is able to do the doctor’s bidding while also helping him perform during musical numbers. The shadow reflects Facilier’s mood, and adds an overall air to his character that makes him just that little bit more unforgettable and extravagant to the eye.

#8) Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog - Gay Disney Villains

#9) Jafar from Aladdin

Jafar’s edge is in sophistication. He holds himself high and mighty, is immaculately kept and reserved, and wears colorful clothes as part of making himself seem as royal and important as possible. It’s very easy to see a lot of parallels between Jafar and other characters here such as Scar, who share a lot in common with him by way of position and ambition. Scar is the brother and underling to the king that he wants to overthrow, whereas Jafar is the trusted advisor – but neverless still an underling – to the Sultan.

Jafar’s character feels like a good platform to bring up an incredibly important aspect behind the animation and production of a lot of ‘camp’ Disney villains. Not only is their queerness coded and hinted at to the advantage of the plot, but many of them – Scar, Jafar, Hades, Roger Rabbit and Gaston – were animated and stylized by the openly gay German-American artist Andreas Deja, with several of them like Jafar and Gaston being his own creations. 

This has facilitated a lot of discussion about the nature of the characters themselves, and certainly adds a lot more of a background to where the queer touch on these characters comes from, and how it was later built upon by the characters’ voice actors. Though the topic sees much debate, everyone can agree that Jafar shares a lot in common with other Disney villains, and that puts him into the same realm as the others due to queer-coded characteristics.

#9) Jafar from Aladdin - Gay Disney Villains

#10) Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas

Another thinly disguised poke at strengthening the notion that being flamboyant and colorfully dressed are traits of villains, Pocahontas’ Governor Ratcliffe is a gaudy, glittering man of great stature, having travelled to the New World as a last-ditch effort to make a name for himself and to find the riches that he believes he deserves. 

If there is any character to serve as a perfect example of queer-coding, it is Govenor Ratcliffe. Personality wise, things go pretty much as one can expect when it comes to Governor Ratcliffe. Like most Disney villains, he is an irredeemable xenophobe with a thirst for gold and power. Unlike most Disney villains, however, he holds himself as a genuinely good person, and believes that his path of action is the right one

Ratcliffe is very much a character of extremes. He is without a doubt the most evil villain on this list, as not only does he have a negative agenda towards the main characters of his story, but he also takes actions and expresses himself in a way that makes him an undeniable racist, liar, and fraud.

On the other hand, however, he is also one of the most outwardly queer characters that Disney has ever produced. His appearance and behavior is a strong contributing factor to this, as are his actions as a character. Ratcliffe shares a tent and several innuendoes with his slender manservant Wiggins, who travelled all the way to the New World with Governor Ratcliffe to continue serving him.

#10) Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas - Gay Disney Villains
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