In case you live more in your own little bubble than I do, there has been a good deal of controversy around the character of LeFou in Disney’s reboot of Beauty and the Beast.
Yes, THERE IS A SUPPORTING CHARACTER WHO MAY OR MAY NOT BE GAY.
Despite the fact that this shocks no one, it has caused an uproar. Franklin Graham called for a boycott of Disney. Life Petitions (of LifeSite News fame) had a petition to “tell Disney ‘NO’ to the LGBT agenda in Beauty and the Beast.” A drive-in theater in rural Alabama announced it would refuse to show the film when it was released, and Time quoted a staff member as saying, “If I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it.”
Because I’m Catholic, the one that really got me was the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ rating. The USCCB rated the 1991 animated Disney version of Beauty and the Beast an A1—suitable for general audiences. The 2017 live action version received an L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.
Joseph McAleer of Catholic News Service writes:
“The decision of the studio, director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”), and screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos to reimagine LeFou (Josh Gad), sidekick of the villainous Gaston (Luke Evans), as Disney’s so-called “first gay character” is a regrettable one. A cherished family film has, in essence, been appropriated for an underlying agenda that is firmly at odds with Christian values.
Parents will have a hard time explaining to their kids — as most know the cartoon by heart — why LeFou has jumped on the homosexual bandwagon. His amorous advances to Gaston, proud display of a bite mark from Gaston on his stomach (due to “wrestling”), and ultimate dance in the arms of another man will raise eyebrows, to say the least.
Admittedly, many grown moviegoers will take LeFou’s transformation in stride. “Beauty and the Beast,” however, is a must-see film intended for children. Given the clear intent to make a statement with the character in question, the restrictive classification assigned below is a caution for viewers of faith, especially parents.
The pall cast over “Beauty and the Beast” is unfortunate, as the film is largely an imaginative and engaging work with an arresting visual style.”
Spoilers, so skip this part if you don’t want to know the details of all the outlandish gayness on display. I say that with sarcasm, because the reviewer spends more time building up the homosexual subplot than the movie does. What’s done is fairly subtle and extremely short. In the Gaston song, LeFou hints that he may have feelings for Gaston that go beyond mere admiration. It seems as though he is realizing this himself for the first time. During the end dance scene in the ballroom in which the entire village is present and celebrating, LeFou dances with women for several minutes then, as partners change in the elaborate dance, he finds himself paired with a man for about 5 seconds and smiles. That’s it. No kiss. No declaration of love. No happily ever after. Disney’s hyped homosexual bandwagon publicity stunt simmers down to an acknowledgement that gay folk exist.
Someone please cover Jesus’s eyes. This is obviously unsuitable for all children and possibly some more impressionable adults.
The thing is, in our home, this situation already exists every day. My oldest daughter is LGBT, and engaged. So if the very thought of knowing that “gayness” exists should be limited to selective adults who can handle it, how would this reviewer suggest families deal with the issue? Because I’m quite certain that we are not the only Catholic family in which one child (or more) is LGBT and doesn’t hide it. Shall we kick her out on her ass until she “straightens” out? Shall we publicly denounce and then shun her? Shall we employ some of Gaston’s own tactics with emotional manipulation to get her to renounce who and what she loves in favor of what we have in mind? (Good luck with that—she’s as stubborn as Belle.) Should we just refrain from talking about it and ask her never to hold her fiancee’s hand or kiss their cheek in public so as not to make others feel uncomfortable in the face of such outlandish sinfulness?
I would not presume to present how the protests affect my daughter personally. She is a wonderful writer and an adult, and I hope she will tell her own story if she feels so moved. But as a Catholic mom who is not ashamed of her LGBT child, this is what your public outrage says to me:
- We have classified sins, and your kid sins the worst.— It does not matter that both versions of the movie include lying, emotional manipulation, kidnapping, murder, lust, pride, sorcery, cowardice, and apathy. The one with the character who questions his sexuality is restricted.
- People who believe differently than I do automatically have a dangerous agenda simply by existing.—Ah yes, the gay agenda. There must be some kind of agenda, complete with a bandwagon, involved in the appearance of a character who surely secretly wants to turn all other characters (and all the real boys and girls) gay. Again, we’re not concerned with the lecherous murdering agenda, because that’s normal. Boys will be boys—as long as they aggressively pursue girls long after they’ve been told to buzz off. If they’re gay we should probably avert our eyes and pretend they don’t exist.
- By not disciplining the gay out of your child, you must either hate Jesus or suck as a mother.—Honestly, if I could just mom up and handle this already so the rest of you don’t have to, we could avoid these awkward conversations about “differences” and “respect.” And clearly, if I’d done my job by teaching my kid the tenets of the faith, they wouldn’t be questioning them at all whatsoever, nor would they have their own opinions about God, right, wrong, politics, or when to wear a sweater. In other words—my kid is an intelligent, respectful adult who loves God and her family, who is living the way she was made, and doesn’t need my permission to do so. Whether or not you think her choices are wrong, please remember that whole Free Will thing.
- Just because gay is a “thing” doesn’t mean it has to be included in a movie.—True. We could also not be bothered when all CEOs are white men, or when all primary caregivers are depicted as married soccer moms. For that matter, we could take umbrage with the fact that some of the characters are short, or fat, or ugly. We could maybe prefer all of them to have curly blonde hair. But life isn’t monochromatic, thank God, and there is no reason to expect that every single character in every movie or book (if you read) will be personally relatable to you. On the other hand, if there is any box in which you do not fit, you may be relieved to finally find a character who is relatable. The irony of protesting the appearance of someone who is different in a movie about a young woman who has trouble fitting in because she’s different is biting.
- Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you have to show it.—Again, true. LGBT folk could totally stay in the closet. So could moms of LGBT folk. We get that hint when you point and whisper. But when my mom friends talk about their kids’ wedding plans, I like to join in and compare stories. And when my daughter’s grade school teachers ask how she is because she was AWESOME to have in class and it’s fun to hear which of her many interests she is spinning into a career, I like to include her relationship because it’s a huge part of who she is as an adult. I should not have to leave these things out of the conversation to protect someone else from feeling uncomfortable.
- You are willing to hang out with sinners.—Yup. Just like Jesus did. Again, every single person I know is a sinner. Hell, I’ll even hang out with you if we can have an open discussion.
- If you choose to love your daughter as she is, you are not welcome here (as in, anywhere in public).—Yeah. Too bad I’m as stubborn as she is. I’m not going anywhere.
“Being religious” and raising an LGBT child is not smooth sailing. We have had misunderstandings along the way. We do not see completely eye to eye where our beliefs and priorities are concerned. But we have placed our love and respect for each other, our familyness, above that. My commitment to love my daughter where and as and how she is comes before my commitment to making strangers, or even friends, feel comfortable.
Would you like to discuss it? Come on over for tea. Be our guest. Just don’t expect us to hide who we are.
Marybeth Bishop lives in Annapolis with her husband and five children.