Queer Coded: Ratcliffe and Wiggins (Disney’s “Pocahontas”)

Ain’t no way you can argue that Wiggins and Ratcliffe aren’t the poster children for queer-coding in Hollywood.

Ratcliffe, by himself, is enough. He’s foppish, more concerned with money, style, fashion, and power than any kind of morality. He wants to be liked so much by his peers that he’ll kill a civilization for it. And if we’re being generous, his queer-coding isn’t saying he’s explicitly gay so much as he can’t be trusted. That is, in fact, the basis of “queer-coding”: to give the audience a (usually male) character imbued with nonconformist gender or social traits intended on making the audience see the character as either silly and an easy target for ridicule, or a villain meant to be shunned. In this case, he’s a huge villain–he’s ruining the land and way of life for an entire group of people. Ratcliffe should be rightly disliked. But he can be disliked without being imbued with foppishness.

Ratcliffe-Pocahontas

But WIGGINS. How many queer-coded traits can be packed into one character? He’s not only foppish in the extreme, but he’s empty in the head, concerned only with prettifying things, creating gift baskets, fussing over Ratcliffe’s equally foppish dog Percy, or low-key working hard for Ratcliffe’s affections. It’s almost as if Disney is basically yelling to you, “You should dismiss this character and laugh hard at him because he’s gay.”

Wiggins-Pocahontas

It’s also interesting to note that David Ogden Stiers, who voices both Ratcliffe and Wiggins, hadn’t revealed he was gay back in the ’90s, but did in 2009.

Want to read more about Wiggins and Ratcliffe? Check out these essays.  And, of course, you’ll probably see more about Pocahontas on this site in the future. It’s a really problematic movie, even though I will always love Kokoum, Thomas, and Nakoma and secretly wished that Thomas and Nakoma had gotten together even though Thomas killed Kokoum and should have been held responsible rather than John Smith. This is the one time I’ll defend John Smith, because he’s obnoxious in a very “American stereotype” way, like Wheeler from Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

What do you think about Wiggins and Ratcliffe? Discuss these characters in the comments section below.

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