Why do so many animated villains have stereotypical gay voices and mannerisms?
That’s something you may have noticed but not really thought much about.
A 2014 documentary titled “Do I sound gay?” by David Thorpe explored a surprising number of animated villains with gay voices and mannerisms, and apparently a thing for extravagant hats. Disney films were mentioned specifically, but Disney isn’t the only studio to do this. Some of these villains include King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph, Jafar from Aladdin, Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas, Hades from Hercules, Scar from The Lion King, Captain Hook from Peter Pan, and Shere Kahn from The Jungle Book. The Little Mermaid’s Ursula also fits this stereotype – not as a female villain, but as a drag queen stand in. She is vain, has a husky male voice, and wears excessive make-up. She was supposedly modeled after the famous drag queen – Divine. Lesbian inspired villains do exist, but are harder to distinguish. Some have suggested Maleficent, Cruella DeVille, and the Evil Queen from Snow White fit Lesbian stereotypes.
According to Thorpe, effete, aristocratic, effeminate men have been depicted as villains for a very long time. Even before the animated films, Hollywood’s effeminate villains have included Waldo Lydecker in 1944’s noir film Laura and Addison DeWitt in the 1950 drama All About Eve.
Gay male stereotypes used in depicting villains include femininity, talking with a lisp, being flamboyant, being vain, sassiness, and being sensual or sexual. Lesbian stereotypes include masculinity, deep voices, and brash personalities.
Depicting villainous characteristics as gay has been a film trope since at least the 1940s. In a way, it’s a kind of social coding. The “sissy villain” is a sign of immorality which in turn assigns real life people with these traits as villainous. Since these stereotypes are introduced to children at an early age, since they are repeated often, and since there aren’t as many counterpointing gay acting heroes, the idea of gay people being villains is reinforced in society. These stereotypes can also reinforce internalized homophobia in gay youth.