In the weeks leading up to Disney’s live action remake of the 1991 animated classic “Beauty and the Beast”, it was revealed that the character of LeFou, Gaston’s henchman and confidante, would be portrayed as gay in the movie. This revelation resulted in many varying responses, even before the film was released.
In Henagar, Alabama, the film was not screened due to the supposed “gay moment” between LeFou and other male characters. In Russia, the film was given a 16+ rating solely for this reason. On LifePetitions, a call to ban the film from being shown received 129,000 signatures. Faith Driven Consumers reported that 58% of those it surveyed believed that the gay moment in “Beauty and the Beast” was an attempt to “normalize homosexuality.” “I am not going to let a movie studio communicate to my children that sexual immorality is ‘normal and natural.” said Denny Burke, a Boyce College Professor who explained that he was refusing to let his kids see the movie.
Portraying LeFou as gay also received some criticism from the LGBT community. Many found it offensive that Disney’s first character would be a bumbling fool; a crony playing second fiddle to a brawny, cruel villain. Surely it wouldn’t be asking too much for Disney to portray their first gay character in a more positive light.
In addition to the criticism, the inclusion of a “gay moment” in the film sparked many positive reactions. Disney has been encouraged for some time now to diversify its’ cast of characters, and has recently been making some positive changes, such as introducing their first African American princess (Tatiana in “The Princess and the Frog”), not feeling the need to have a love story dominate a movie (“Moana”), and having their female character rely on male support and submitting to the “damsel in distress” narrative less and less (“Frozen”, “Tangled”). Introducing a gay character seemed like the next logical step, and a good way to bring Disney up to speed in the ever-changing world of the 2010s. Responding to the controversy, the actor portraying LeFou, Josh Gad, commented that “What I would say is that this film is one of inclusiveness. It’s one that has something to offer everyone.”
Now that the film has been released, and has been a towering success, grossing over $916 million worldwide, it’s important to ask ourselves whether the film’s “gay moment” deserved all the controversy, or if it was even a gay moment. LeFou’s line in the song “Gaston”, “You can ask any Tom, Dick, or Stanley, and they’ll tell you which team they prefer to be on!” is the most explicit reference to homosexuality, and even that is much more of a wink than a concrete statement. All slight references to LeFou being gay are swiftly brushed under the rug and treated less like a plot point and more like a possibility than a definite character trait. Anyone attending “Beauty and the Beast” expecting to see an empathetic, complex portrayal of LeFou being gay will likely be disappointed. If it hadn’t been pointed out by director Bill Condon in an interview that LeFou would have a “gay moment”, it’s likely that no one would even have thought twice about it.
Ultimately, LeFou being Disney’s first attempt at a gay character felt underwhelming and disappointing. Instead of winking to the audience and implying homosexuality, why not come right out and say it? Subtlety and hints are likely to confuse children much more than an explicitly gay character. Disney’s inability to commit to its’ first gay character being gay shows that the company is still afraid to alienate its’ Christian and homophobe customers, which is problematic for the many LGBT artists, performers, and workers who have contributed to Disney’s success throughout the years. It’s time for Disney to step it up when it comes to LGBT support. Merely dipping their feet in the water has left everyone unsatisfied.
Melas, Chloe. “Josh Gad Responds to People Upset by Gay Character in ‘Beauty and the Beast’.” CNN. Cable News Network, 07 Mar. 2017. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.
Petit, Stephanie. “Beauty and the Beast Director on His Decision to Make LeFou Gay: ‘In a Very Disney Way, We Are Including Everybody’.” PEOPLE.com. Time Inc, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.
Stoyan Zaimov , Christian Post Reporter. “‘Beauty and the Beast’ Gay Moment Is Ostracizing 95 Percent of Faith Driven Consumers, Group Says.” The Christian Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.