Beauty and the Overblown Controversy
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Disney has been on a hot streak of classic film remakes over the past few years, with plans for even more in the future. The newest highly anticipated movie, Beauty and the Beast, released on March 17th..
Weeks ahead of its release, news broke that the movie would feature a gay character, Le Fou, played by Josh Gad, who was previously heterosexual in the 1991 classic.
In an interview with Attitude Director Bill Condon said, “Le Fou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. […] And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
And with this, the world lost it.
On the one hand, waves of doubt and wariness came from people who didn’t appreciate the fact that the character who was gay was Le Fou, the bumbling, goofy, villainous sidekick. While representation and inclusivity are highly necessary and sought after, many were worried that it wouldn’t be the most ideal representation.
On the other hand, this news was met with approval and excitement by people who are tired of Disney’s complete lack of inclusivity with regards to LGBTQ people. The thought of a behemoth like Disney including an LGBTQ character in a movie for the first time was uplifting.
Inclusivity is highly important in the entertainment industry, as it has direct effects on the way LGBTQ children grow up and view themselves and other people, as well as the subconscious view of LGBTQ in the eyes of heterosexuals.
The addition of a gay character to demonstrate natural affection was a step in the right direction for Disney.
But leave it to the uninformed and the prejudiced to declare the movie unsuitable. For its one gay character in its one “short but explicitly gay scene”.
Not long after the news broke, owners of a theater in Alabama announced on Facebook that the movie would not be shown.
“If we can not take our 11-year-old granddaughter and 8-year-old grandson to see a movie we have no business watching it. If I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it,” the owners stated in the post.
The movie was completely banned in Malaysia, after Disney refused to edit the movie to the country’s satisfaction, and children under 16 in Russia were banned from seeing it without an adult present.
What did they possibly expect?
After all of the backlash and banning, the irony is that the actual “gay moment” in the movie (and it was literally a moment), was proportionally underwhelming.
It was at most subtle social cues throughout the movie and three seconds of Le Fou dancing with an unnamed background character who was male and assumed to be non-hetero.
With Condon’s quote, people were given the impression that Le Fou’s storyline would be more impactful, be it negative or positive. Essentially, what the audience is left with is a feeling of underwhelmed ambiguity due to the large fuss stirred up. But you know, go Disney, with your inclusivity.
All qualms with Le Fou and the movie as a whole were the products of completely unfounded judgements by people before the movie was even released. The fact that such a large fuss was made, and that people immediately equated “gay” with “harmful” and “perverted” directly explains why LGBTQ representation is needed.
Though his part was small amidst the grandeur of the movie and the hype imid the controversy, Le Fou’s development of humanity and conscience, as well as the development of his sexuality, did make him more human than his cartoon alter ego.
One may hope that, with this first baby step, Disney will begin to do more than the bare minimum in LGTBQ inclusivity, and will continue to prominently feature more characters of the like in protagonist roles.