Recently, there’s been a lot of hype about the new live action Beauty and the Beast movie, starring Emma Watson, especially since Disney revealed for the first time that one of the characters is openly gay. At first I was surprised that Disney would actually come out and say that one of their characters was gay. Conservative parents aren’t exactly eager to expose their children to LGBTQ+ content, so this decision could potentially hurt Disney’s ticket sales. But,trying to stay positive, I decided to take this as a sign of progress in our society and a step towards accepting the LGBTQ+ community. But, before the movie came out in theaters, there were already tons of complaints and even a petition with over 58,000 signatures online to boycott the movie. When the movie finally came out I figured that the outrage would continue and possibly grow, but I was shocked when I really didn’t see that. After conducting a brief Google search, I was surprised that many people were downplaying the whole thing, even conservative websites! I hadn’t seen the movie, so I researched (i.e. Googled) further and found an article describing the character and the supposedly “gay moments” in the movie.
I can honestly say that after reading this article I was disappointed. Apparently, Disney believes that the only way to portray a character as openly gay is to incorporate several stereotypical characteristics and some incredibly obscure hints in a couple of the scenes. Before reading the article, I came across a YouTube video of one of the “gay scenes” in the movie.
Here’s the video:
I watched it and totally could not recognize how anything that I had seen was gay. It was only after I read the article above, explaining what the character did that revealed he was gay, that I finally got it. According to Ryan Roschke, what marks the character, LeFou, as gay in this scene is his effeminate gestures and dance moves. That’s it. Another hint is that LeFou gives Gaston an overly enthusiastic hug for several seconds longer than “normal” and asks, “Too much?” And the third point in this scene that reveals LeFou is gay is when Gaston asks him why he isn’t in a relationship with a woman and LeFou, hesitatingly, replies that he is too clingy. The article goes on to mention other scenes and another potential gay character that LeFou is paired up with in the end, but Roschke, again, points out how the scenes are too ambiguous or the characters too stereotypically effeminate. At the end of the article, he writes that things like acting effeminate, dressing well, and dancing with those of the same sex do not make a person gay, explaining that the way that Disney chose to portray their first openly gay character is a problem. According to Roschke, “[t]he issue is that Disney believes these are proper ways to establish sexuality and romance between characters. In reality, an individual’s homosexuality is not confirmed unless they explicitly mention their romantic attraction to individuals of the same gender.”
I understand why Disney might choose to be subtle. Conservative parents out there don’t want to expose their children to cartoons that depict homosexual characters. Other more understanding people just don’t want to have to explain these things to their kids. This opens a whole debate on age appropriateness and the parents’ rights to decide what they want their children watching. This also raises questions on whether or not it’s right for heterosexual relationships to be freely shown in Disney movies, but not homosexual relationships. Treating homosexual relationships this way perpetuates the belief that it’s abnormal and impure, something that needs to be restricted and censored. Personally, I side with Roschke on this matter, but i don’t have kids so I can’t fully understand the parental side of the argument. What do you think? I would love to hear from parents and what your opinions about this are. Do you think Disney went too far or not far enough? And do you think that homosexual relationships should be restricted in children’s cartoons or even left out entirely?
I’m ending this blog post with a video clip I found on YouTube that made me rethink this whole issue…and lol.