For the past few years, Disney has been making a pointed — and welcome — effort to diversify its blockbuster realms, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a certain far, far away galaxy to wondrous planets that are only a tesser(act) away. The studio is following the same playbook with its upcoming holiday spectacle, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a star-studded adaptation of the beloved 19th century ballet that’s clearly intended to launch a new franchise. The latest trailer (watch below) for the film, which arrives in theaters on Nov. 2, bowed online today and garnered a number of positive reactions on social media for its lavish winter-wonderland visuals and evocative score, including an emo cover of the No Doubt tune “Just a Girl.”
But a chill wind blew from some quarters of the internet with regard to the presence of Morgan Freeman, who plays Drosselmeyer — the toymaker who gifts the story’s young heroine, Clara (played in the film by Twilight star Mackenzie Foy), with the titular nutcracking device. A small number of commentators specifically objected to the Oscar winner’s role as a case of diversity being prioritized over authenticity — an interpretation that conveniently overlooks the numerous multicultural productions of the ballet that have been mounted over the years, not to mention the fact that the plot involves a trip to magical world populated by such diverse citizens as sweet-hearted fairies and militant mice. “It always bothers me that they add diversity in old European classics. It doesn’t make sense and ruins the vibe,” wrote one YouTuber. The pushback against those sentiments was as swift and strong as you might expect.
So I watched the trailer on YouTube and there are a lot of triggered white people in the comments. #DisneysNutcracker
While the majority of commentators had no objection to Freeman’s presence from a diversity standpoint, opinions were sharply split over Disney’s decision to keep the actor in the studio’s employ despite the sexual-harassment allegations made against him in May. Comparisons were immediately drawn to James Gunn, who was relieved of his Guardians of the Galaxy directing duties due to old tweets that made light of rape and pedophilia.
That debate continued in YouTube comments underneath the trailer, with one person writing: “Interesting how Disney made such a point of remaining adamant against pleas to rehire James Gunn when they’re heedlessly releasing this movie starring accused felon (??) Morgan Freeman.” In response, another pointed out: “They’d already shot Freeman’s part. He’s a big part of the movie. If they did this with Freeman, they’d have to reshoot and reedit resulting in budget inflation that honestly isn’t worth it.”
In the wake of the Gunn case as well Roseanne Barr’s public firing from the Disney-owned ABC network, all the Mouse House must want for Christmas is a no-drama box-office hit. With Freeman in the mix, it doesn’t look like The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is necessarily going to be that gift.