The debate over LGBTQ+ tolerance escalated when Disney’s Beauty and the Beast included a gay subplot for a supporting character, LeFou, played by Josh Gad. Petitions were shared online in order to boycott the movie. In response, the LGBTQ+ community sounded off against the petitions creating a social media stir.
Before the highly-anticipated live-action remake of the 1991 story tale classic even hit theaters, with a total of $170 million on opening weekend, controversy circulated on social media about Disney’s choice to have the first openly gay character debut on the film.
According to an interview with British gay lifestyle publication, Attitude Magazine, the film’s director, Bill Condon, says LeFou is “somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day, wants to kiss Gaston.” LeFou is a companion of story antagonist, Gaston, the latter tries to court Belle, the film’s protagonist, while the former tries to subtly do the same to Gaston.
LeFou has short one-liners that reveal his homosexual orientation to the audience, such as a song he sings “No one’s quick as Gaston, no one’s slick as Gaston / No one’s neck is incredibly thick as Gaston / For there’s no man in town half as manly / Perfect, a pure paragon / You can ask any Tom, Dick or Stanley / And they’ll tell you whose team they prefer to be on! / Who plays darts like Gaston? Who breaks hearts like Gaston? / Who’s much more the sum of his parts like Gaston? My, what a guy, that Gaston!” The film shows moments of comedic relief where LeFou hints towards his pent-up feelings toward Gaston.
The “exclusively gay moment” Condon says is sending out a message that “[homosexuality] is normal and natural – and this is a message that will be heard in every county of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay.” The gay subplot didn’t sit well with those who held traditional views of marriage, taking to the internet to express their disfavor of the character.
Petitions were setup online in opposition to Disney’s green light on LeFou’s sexual orientation in Beauty and the Beast which was consequently shared on Facebook and other social media channels. One such petition title read “Tell Disney ‘No’ to LGBT agenda in Beauty and the Beast: Sign the Boycott Pledge Here”. Enflamed comments from both sides of the debate questioned the reasoning of signing an anti-gay petition while the movie itself is has a theme of bestiality. Roughly 134,000 people have signed the Life Petitions Boycott on ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
Facebook user, Wendi Deal commented on such a post by saying, “This is hilarious that people are upset over this. Marrying off teenagers is okay, having people trying to poison and kill people is okay, giving up your whole life and future for someone you don’t really know is okay, but god forbid you have a ‘gay moment.’ Also, gay people do not have an agenda, they are people, they have people agenda, they want to be treated like people. So, weird, but that is really all they want.”
Rachel Bernardin echoed the same sentiments by commenting, “[LeFou] dances and makes a flirtatious joke- literally- that’s it- 20 seconds of the movie – and your kids won’t be any worse for the wear. Plus, unless they’re homeschooled and confined to your house, they’re going to be exposed at some point, wouldn’t this be a teaching moment for you? If you want to teach them why it’s wrong- don’t you have to teach them that it exists? That’s all this movie does- is show it exists by having two guys dance together- which other movies have done it just wasn’t seen as gay- and have him make a flirtatious joke at another guy.”
“I do not believe we need to hide or cover our children’s eyes if we don’t believe in same sex relationships. What we need is open dialogues about why we do not agree with it and open discussion on the subject is healthy. Pretending it doesn’t exist is going to cause them to be intolerant, unkind people,” Tanasha Anderson, a Latter-day Saint, said. “Use [this film] as a tool to create dialogue with your kids on what you believe is right and then leave it at that. Don’t pretend it doesn’t exist that doesn’t work with the sex talk either you aren’t doing them any favors by censoring the world and acting like it isn’t happening.”
According to Vox.com, a drive-in movie theater in Henagar, Alabama refused to show the film because of the openly gay character. In a Facebook post, that has since been removed, the Henagar Drive-In stated, “When companies [like Disney] continually force their views on us, we need to take a stand. We all make choices and I am making mine. If I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me, then we have no business showing it. I know there will be some that do not agree with this decision. That’s fine. We are first and foremost Christians. We will not compromise on what the Bible teaches.”
The Henagar Drive-In wasn’t the only place to boycott the movie; the Russian government is considering a boycott if they determine there is “gay propaganda” in a prescreening of the film, according to Russian Culture Minister, Vladimir Medinsky, they will decide against showing it in the country. As well as a film censorship board in Malaysia has requested that Disney edit out the gay scenes, which Disney refused. The national talk over LGBTQ+ tolerance has been circulating ever since.
Despite the flak that Condon has taken over the past month, he told USA Today, “My message is: This is a movie for everyone. I’m sad about [the Henagar Drive-In], but there are 4,000 theaters showing the movie. I hope everybody moves past that and just goes to take pleasure in what we made.”
Beauty and the Beast has surpassed box office records by becoming the seventh largest opening weekend ever.