Beauty and the Beast: A Not So Gay Confession

I am not excited about this movie. I wish I was. Trust me, I really wish I was.

Image: Walt Disney Pictures

Growing up, Belle was my idol. I was determined to walk and read at the same time (not actually that difficult), to have my hair curl around my face the same way as Belle’s. She was sweet and yet a hard-ass (I don’t count the wolf scene – completely out of character if you ask me). Belle was the nerdy princess – of course I wanted to be her. And yet I couldn’t bring myself to watch the trailer when it was first released. I’d quickly scroll past any picture of Emma Watson in the yellow dress. I wouldn’t even look at the cast list on IMDb (anyone who knows me knows this is a major deal).

I know this is silly – there are so many other things to worry about. But for whatever reason, these live-action Disney remakes really bug me. Truth be told, Maleficent didn’t bother me (it felt like a new story), and The Jungle Book actually made sense (of course you’d want to see a “real” jungle, CGI or otherwise). But Cinderella baffled me. What was even the point of it? There was literally nothing new except for the flesh and blood on screen – all they wanted was a live-action carbon copy of the original. Who wants that? Besides those that stand to gain, of course.

And then I read about LeFou. If you didn’t hear, he apparently has an “exclusively gay moment” when he realizes his feelings for, you guessed it, Gaston. Because of course, the bumbling idiot whose name literally means “the fool” in French is in love with the chauvinistic villain who abuses him. Yep, this is the way Disney has chosen to present its first explicitly out gay character. After Attitude reported this revolutionary news, and tons of opinion pieces have followed suit. Teen Vogue’s Ryan Houlihan said it best: “They made the gay character a villain, relegated him to being a sidekick, gave this explicitly queer role to a straight actor, and then muddled the issue by making him sexually ‘confused’ – just to hedge their bets.” It’s about time Disney had a gay character, but did they have to do it this way?

Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of affection for the original LeFou, and I actually do find Josh Gad hysterical. I’m sure he’ll bring a lot to the role, and according to USA TODAY, he takes the character’s sexuality seriously: “What was most important to me was taking a character that is wonderful and so iconic, but is defined by cartoon conceits in the (original) movie… and expanding on that, giving him dimension, making him human.” Theoretically, this is exactly what I was missing in these live-action replicas: something new, a retelling. In other words, LeFou was pretty much asexual in the animated film, and now we learn more. Just like how Belle is more than just a book-reader, she’s actually an inventor. But this is how they make him “more human”? In keeping with the recent trend, queerness and feminism are used as ploys to make the overall production “deeper,” and conveniently check a box.

Maybe that’s why these movies infuriate me so much – all they’re doing is following a shallow check list. The filmmakers don’t care about the characters themselves, only how they look. Yes, I loved that Belle had the same hair as me, but that wasn’t the essence of the character. If Disney is going to churn out remake after remake, I’d rather they focus on capturing the personalities, not the body doubles. These movies feel like the pod people of Disney.

I don’t know how they’re going to portray this “gay moment.” Maybe I’ll be proven wrong. Maybe the movie take time and really explore the nuances of the revelation, not just shoehorn a queer role into this dopey part. Maybe they’ll let this actually reshape the character and the relationship. I just don’t see that happening in this doppelgänger of a remake. The production is just so focused on the physical images of the source material, I’m afraid the characters will take these new traits and just make them part of the gimmick.


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