Yesterday the news came out that Disney’s upcoming live-action version of 1991 animated film, Beauty & the Beast, would make history with Disney’s first canonical queer character in it’s first ‘exclusively gay moment’ (which is some interesting wording there). And there seems to be plenty of applauding going on.
But is it really such a good thing?
If we go by the plot and character as we know them, from the original animated film. LeFou is a sycophantic follower of Gaston. So the gay community’s first ‘official’ representation is a major Disney film is going to be a gay man obsessed with a heterosexual man, one of such toxic masculinity that he sees people as below him and women as objects.
That’s….That’s really something of a step backwards.
That is such a majorly offensive, damaging and annoying media stereotype of gay men, that we crave heterosexuals in blind, puppy-dog obsession no matter how much they cannot reciprocate those desires or how much they hurt us. It’s reductive. It’s playing gay men as a joke. Something we should be long passed by now.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with stereotypes. I’ve often played with them myself, and there are many aspects of myself which could be considered stereotypical gay man. But stereotypes can be used in lazy and offensive ways, and that is when they become damaging.
Plus, it’s not like Disney isn’t already FILLED with gay characters – they’re just not made official or explicitly referred to as such. But look back through Disney films and you will see loads of clearly queer coded characters. Timon & Pumbaa are fabulous gay adopted dads. However, again, many of those queer coded characters are also villains. Hell, Ursula from The Little Mermaid‘s final design was influenced by infamous drag artist, Divine.
Of course, many of these live-action remakes of animated originals take some liberties with the source. Having recently rewatched the 1991 film, it could certainly do with a story update. So maybe we will find that things play out a little different, and LeFou may not be as bad a representation as it would currently seem.
As director Bill Condon says in the original interview with UK LGBTQ publication Attitude,
“He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realising that he has these feelings. And Josh [Gad] makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
It certainly implies more of an added story for the character, played by actor Josh Gad, and a positive final moment for LeFou. Though hopefully different than LeFou’s final moments in the original film, which have him getting stabbed in the butt with a big pair of scissors.