Disney’s live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ film is coming to cinemas on March 17th. Though the saying ‘Beating a dead horse’ does have relevance here, many are excited to experience the story on the big screen once more.
However, a recent development has stirred up publicity.
One of the characters has been announced to be gay.
Namely, Le Fou, the sidekick of Gaston.
Yeah…I’m sure everyone really remembers him….
It all started with director Bill Condon, who was being interviewed by Attitude for it’s April issue:
“Le Fou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston (Luke Evans). He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings,” (1)
This sparked an outcry from the religious and traditional communities. One Alabama drive-in banned the movie for this reason (2).
Interestingly, the main romance between a woman and an animal like creature raised no eyebrows. It is Alabama, I guess…
This isn’t the first time Disney has played with the ideas of gay characters. Rumours of lesbianism have followed Elsa of ‘Frozen’ (3) and Merida of ‘Brave’ (4) – if only because neither had a love interest within the film.
Their show ‘Good Luck Charlie’ (Not something that was on in my Disney Channel watching days, so I know literally nothing about its story) featured lesbian parents in a 2014 episode (5). Extremely forced acting aside, the scene just serves a way to win some ‘diversity points’.
Being the dominating force in family entertainment is hard work. They’re split between appealing to their conservative consumers, whilst branching out to reach new family dynamics that are emerging. Evidently, they’re still doing well – their 2014 revenue was a staggering $48 billion (6).
Anyhow, many people are split over the issue of LeFou being gay. And I agree with both sides…kind of.
First of all, the people upset over a gay character are completely unreasonable. Literally no gay character in any children’s media has been sexually suggestive – I’ve yet to even see a gay couple hug on a children’s show, yet alone have an orgy right on camera.
Kids who are watching Disney channel won’t even know how heterosexual sex works (I hope not anyway…or maybe I came from a more sheltered background…), so I highly doubt they’ll begin speculating on the mechanics of a gay couple.
That being said, I do understand the people who are getting tired of hearing about it. There does seem to be a push for more gay characters in places where they’re not needed. People have advocated for the following characters to be gay – Captain America (7), James Bond (8) and Daryl Dixon (9).
I don’t see any reason for any of those three characters to become gay. Particularly James Bond, a man characterised for being a womanizer.
In my opinion, it’d make a bigger statement if an original gay character was produced. There’d be no ‘hijacking’ of a franchise to make a point about diversity. And most importantly, it needs to be subtly.
Gay characters will only become a norm in films and television if they aren’t made a spectacle of. When each gay character (Or even a gay character who is presumed to be gay) receives a big wave of media attention, it cheapens the impact and makes gay people into a novelty. An easy way for film-makers to feel diverse.
‘Moonlight’ , which won the Academy Award for Best Picture recently, is the story of a gay African-American man. Having watched it, I didn’t feel like it was a over-riding factor of the film. It was the life story of a man, who was gay and black, and dealt with the problems faced by both groups. It was how all gay characters should be represented.
To summarise this incoherent ramble, do I think Le Fou should have been gay?
He’s not a particularly positive character, if the producers were looking to win favour with gay audiences. Le Fou is a cowardly buffoon, who only appears in the original as a comic relief and a character to make Gaston look better by default.
And the whole thing screams publicity seeking. If the producers had let the film speak for itself, it would have made a bigger impact. The character’s sexuality would have merely been a sidenote, rather than a giant attention-seeking stunt.
Regardless, this won’t be the last of these incidents. At some point or another, Disney will throw caution to the wind and have a protagonist of their films be gay. The benefits of representation are undeniable, and I do hope that one day, a gay character in a film won’t require a whole media-storm of praise and acclaim.