Last weekend my husband and I, and six of my family members, joyfully took my 3-year-old daughter to see Disney’s new live-action take on its classic cartoon Beauty and the Beast. Not only was I excited to soak in this take on the beloved musical with my little girl — who’s seen the 1991 animated version approximately 32,684 times — but I was equally thrilled for the much-publicized “exclusively gay moment.”
A gay moment in a major Disney movie? Would it be too stereotypical for me to shout “yasssssss?” (Oh, it would? Then I’m so doing it.) We gays do love us some Disney, so for me this was everything.
Also, it tickled me in all the right places that various groups were ranting and raving against this gay scene. All the desperate and shameful backlash Beauty and the Beast was receiving from Christian bloggers, parts of the Deep South, and entire countries was delicious to read about. It was hilarious that such an uproar had sprung up over a gay moment in a flick that none of these groups had yet seen, and typical of the those who continue to battle in vain against the tide of LGBT equality.
It’s just more irrational reaction with very little common sense.
So you can probably guess the shivers of sheer delight I felt once the opening numbers rolled in. Judging by the movie’s historic success, any boycott effort failed. And failed epically.
Even more humorous to me, now that I’ve seen and really enjoyed the movie (there may have even been tears), is how the much-heralded gay moment featuring villain-turned-good-guy LeFou is hardly a moment at all. It’s more like a gay millisecond, a blink-and-it’s-gone flicker of a scene that sails pass the narrative of the movie in an instant. If it hadn’t been referenced in advance, I doubt most people would have caught it.
Despite the millisecond of gayness Beauty and the Beast featured (or barely featured), the fact that Disney bothered to include it is important. The worlds need all the positive queer representation it can get. It’s not the size of the representation in Beauty and Beast that matters, because despite its barely there length, it’s a massive step toward equality for a major studio film to include even a tiny bit of open queerness in such a huge family movie.
Regardless of a smattering of complaints that LeFou is a negative stereotype, I for one cheered for the character. He is far more than a villain, or just a mere comedic fop.
LeFou is actually given a small storyline with layers. Spoiler alert: The way the LeFou moves past his crush on oily beau-hunk Gaston to saving Miss Potts, then joining the celebratory party at the end, and finally dancing with another man is not only fun, but it’s an actual character arc. Bravo, Disney!
As a gay parent in a same-sex marriage and as a person with a brain living in 2017, I say the more queer characters in all-ages entertainment the better. And if these moments manage to tick off those who strive to diminish and erase the very existence of families like mine all the better.
I am so happy that my daughter was able to watch a gay character on the big screen, and I love that she was able to experience a same-sex storyline via her favorite fairy tale. It’s amazing for me to think that she can gaze up at the silver screen and see a character that may remind her of her parents. My hope is that gay moments like LeFou’s will show her that her parents and her family aren’t as rare as our culture makes us out to be.
This is why I laugh when some on the far right scream and yell about the “gay agenda” corrupting our society with our “avalanche” of homosexual imagery. Sorry, what? Heteronormative love and families are almost all we see in film and TV. Anything outside the typical mother-and-father unit is ignored.
My only gay agenda is to simply live my life openly and with the same dignity and respect anyone else enjoys. If that includes giving my reality and my everyday life a small chance to be included in our heterosexual-dominated culture, then hell yes, that is also a part of my agenda.
Having a gay moment in an all-ages movie isn’t something that will destroy a child’s delicate psyche. I can say this with absolute confidence as my daughter has witnessed my husband and me kiss on a number of occasions, and each time we smooch we hear her soft little voice squeak out, “Aww, that’s nice.” That's followed by her grabbing us both and making the three of us come together for a family hug.
Our tender moments at home, in the daily pattern of her life, are just another part of her day. But seeing similar characters experience same-sex love in her favorite media — cartoons and kids’ movies — would be huge. All kids should be able to see their lives, their families and their realities depicted in our entertainment.
For my daughter, two men sharing a moment of affection isn’t cause for scandal, nor is it a boycott-worthy offense. Our occasional displays of tenderness don’t evoke derision or some holier-than-thou shout of “What about the children?”
For her, our sweet moments are no different from those she watches and enjoys when Belle and the post-Beast Prince engage in their first kiss. The magical make-out between the male-female couple evokes the same “aww, that’s nice” she offers when her fathers kiss. There's nothing beastly about that.
BRIAN ANDERSEN is a writer and indie comic book creator who lives in San Francisco with his husband and gorgeous baby daughter.