The Texas Board of Education dealt The Disney Company another setback in July when it voted to sell off about $46 million in stock in the entertainment giant. The majority in the 8-4 vote cited the sex and graphic violence in movies distributed by Miramax Films, a subsidiary of Disney, for its decision.
While the board's divestiture of all Disney stock owned by the state's education trust fund puts barely a dent in the conglomerate, the action serves as a public relations defeat for an increasingly beleaguered company that was the standard for family entertainment for decades.
The decision was based on moral and financial considerations, said a member of the board's majority.
"It doesn't make sense for the Texas State Board of Education to subsidize a company that is doing things that directly undermine the very things we're trying to accomplish …," board member Richard Neill told Baptist Press. "They are the Jekyll and Hyde of the entertainment industry." Disney has some of the best and some of "the most perverted movies" in distribution, he said.
"Disney has for years had a very in-your-face attitude with regard to graphic violence and sex, especially in Miramax productions. And secondly, the stock price of Disney has been doing very poorly."
From "a moral and from a fiscal standpoint, Disney is a very bad choice as far as stock to be in," said Neill, a Fort Worth dentist.
Among the Miramax movies that have received criticism for their violent and/or sexual content are Pulp Fiction, Priest, Trainspotting, and Chasing Amy.
"It's among the largest divestments by a major fund of an individual company stock," said Timothy Smith, executive director of the New York-based Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Texas Board of Education chairman Jack Christie of Houston said he finally decided to support selling the stock after seeing clips from Pulp Fiction, a 1994 Miramax movie including scenes of extreme violence, drug use, and sadomasochism, according to a Reuters news service report.
The decision was aimed at driving home a "message to Miramax … that the public in general had had enough of explicitness in these movies," Christie said during board debate, according to the Austin American-Statesman. "How many more school shootings do you want before we have to do something to reverse that trend?"
"I predict that there will be other state agencies in other states that will drop Disney stock," said Neill, who led a successful effort in the early 1990s to convince advertisers to withdraw sponsorship of The Phil Donahue Show because of offensive content. The effort eventually led to the cancellation of the show.
"It's very obvious to me" the boycott by the SBC and other organizations "is having a direct impact," Neill said.