The world will see a highly anticipated live action version of Beauty and the Beast, originally released in 1991 as an animated film on March 17.
In an interview, director Bill Condon said that the film will have Disney’s first “exclusively gay moment,” according to Vulture. LeFou, played by Josh Gad, would be Disney’s first LGBT character. His character has strong romantic feelings toward the character Gaston, played by Luke Evans. Considering LeFou’s almost affectionate approbation of Gaston in the 1991 animated film, the gay moment is not surprising. However, it was not met with universal approval.
First, a drive-in movie theater in Alabama came into the spotlight after its supervisors refused to screen the film due to the fact that there is a gay character. Managers at the theater claimed that the film does not promote wholesome family values. In an interview with The New York Times, Henagar Drive-In owner Carol Laney defended herself from being labeled a bigot, saying that she has homosexual friends whom she loves but she has to follow the “word of God.” Ironically, the human-beast relationship does not bother the owners.
The most passionate reaction came from Russia, where display of any homosexuality is practically illegal. Lawmaker Vitaly Milonov requested that the Russian Culture Ministry block the film in Russian cinemas. Milonov is known for such discriminatory views, as he has pioneered the infamous “homosexuality propaganda” bill.
The bill criminalized any display of same-sex affection to minors, thus sparking a national spike in homophobia and establishing precedent for vague interpretation of the law. The film did receive an age rating in Russia, citing that anybody younger than 16 was prohibited from watching the movie.
The whole premise behind the story should be universal love, where everyone should be free to love whomever he or she decides and be happy no matter what members of the society think. Considering the plot pivots around a woman who falls in love with an animal, picking out the appearance of a gay character is not just petty and foolish, but is also missing the point that the storyline preaches.
Problematically, Disney’s first gay character is a flamboyant and effeminate sidekick who is attracted only to Gaston’s masculinity.
However, such reactions from Alabama and Russia are an important reminder that people and allies who strive for acceptance still have a long road to travel. Contrarily, it is important to note that Disney’s inclusion of even minor LGBT representation is a small, but much needed step in the right direction. However, more progress can still be made.