Beauty and the Beast’s Gay Moment

gaston and lefou.jpg

There was a bit of to do before the movie came out at the announcement of Disney’s first “exclusively gay moment” (read more here). Of course, no one knew what that would mean or just how explicit that moment would be, but the mere fact of the thing and its intentionality put the Christian community in an uproar, with many calls to “boycott Disney” as if we could in some way punish Disney for this indiscretion as we saw it (and maybe we can). But was it really worth the hype? Now that it’s out, let’s take a second to look at what’s really there.

From the perspective of introducing a gay agenda into Disney movies, they chose wisely, frankly. It’s one of the most beloved Disney stories of all time. Cinderella may be more “classic” but is very much a girls’ movie. Beauty and the Beast appeals far more broadly to both male and female. (I was shocked to learn it’s my brother’s favorite—the uber-macho, great-white-hunter, “Cowboy Clay” …who knew?!) It’s a love story for everyone…and now that statement is even more literally true. Think about it, if they’d chosen some new movie that no one knew, it would be easier for families to just not see it (or boycott, as the call has been—see below for a few thoughts on boycotting). But this one… it’s a story we all know and love and it’s hard to say whether the children or the parents are more anxious to see it.

On top of that, they waited to release the news until the excitement and anticipation had built to a fever pitch. People had plans to see it, never the wiser, when suddenly it’s released that there’s something “gay” in it. Had we known at first, things might have been a little different…but this feels like a bait and switch.

Disney also chose wisely (again, from a business perspective) to let this first “gay moment” be a mild one. So the news comes out, people get in an uproar and make big bold statements about boycotting before they know the extent of it all … and then people see the movie and the Christians look ridiculous for “overreacting” to such a subtle “no big deal” kind of thing. I get how it looks to the world looking in, the way we responded, because it’s not a big deal in their eyes. We were prepared for something really crossing the line… some sort of public display of affection, holding hands, a kiss, something. But that’s not what happened.

What did happen, exactly? Well…you definitely feel that LeFou is more overtly gay in this portrayal, whereas in the animated version, he was arguably just a hero-worshipper with no hint of romantic affection for his hero. (Although, “to the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; both their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Titus 1:5).) I also felt like Gaston (and LeFou, but particularly Gaston) was much more handsy and affectionate which would have increased LeFou’s romantic confusion towards his hero—although I confess that may have been because my sensitivity to the issue was heightened. These things are subtle, but they are felt.

Less subtly, when the villagers raid the castle, the dresser drawers “attacks” three men by dressing them in feminine clothes. Two of the men run off screaming, the third, however, turns and, dressed now in full drag (make-up and all), flashes that effeminate smile that is subtly but noticeably characteristic of the flamboyantly gay man. He liked his new look that is “out of the closet,” literally. Not long after that, LeFou changes sides and begins to fight with the castle against the villagers as he has realized that Gaston is the real monster. I’m sure there is another kind of changing sides that is also implied in this moment, and in case we missed that, it’s in the dialogue, as well. Mrs. Potts questions him on which side he’s on and he replies, “Well, I used to be on Gaston’s side, but we’re on [bad terms] lately.” To which she encourages him, “You’re too good for him anyway.” Which could be benign, sure. And it was true—LeFou was a better, kinder person and could easily have better types of people and friendships in his life. But, I doubt many people will mistake or miss the added connotation of a romantic relationship. It’s what you tell someone when they’ve broken off a romance. Not long after that, in the dance at the wedding, LeFou and the drag queen end up finding themselves dance partners and they have a “moment”—it’s a brief pause while the two of them get center focus and we see them smile with a sense of recognition and attraction—they’ve found each other. LeFou won’t have to be lonely anymore.

It’s subtle, maybe; left to inference, certainly. But altogether, these things add up for a pretty clear picture. These moments aren’t explicit or clearly stated, but it doesn’t make them any less powerful for it. They are seeds, and seeds, when planted in the right soil, take root and grow. Because we expected something big, however, something hugely offensive, we let this ride right on by and hardly notice it. Not because it’s not there, but because it’s so much less than we were expecting. Not to mention, we’ve been letting these subtle things slide for quite a while. Just think of all the innuendo and sexual jokes in Shrek! If you want to consider sheer volume of inappropriateness, I’m not sure Beauty and the Beast is high on the list, although the fact that its inappropriateness is homosexual in nature will trump the volume card for many.

So is it a big deal or not? Yes…and no, probably. Depends on how we handle it, certainly. Did we really overreact? Yes…and no, probably. Should you let your kids see it? Honestly, it’s moments like these when I’m glad I don’t have children and I am not the one having to make that decision for my family.

Here’s the truth, as I said before, seeds may seem small and insignificant, but don’t mistake their power. There’s a reason why Jesus himself spoke in parables. Stories are a powerful, maybe the most powerful, means of planting seeds into the soil of our minds. Let’s also acknowledge that Beauty and the Beast was a gateway. It was a subtle start, an opening to the idea of homosexuality being openly presented (and encouraged) in children’s movies. If pot is a gateway drug, I daresay this is a gateway movie. Maybe not for you or your family, but for the industry.

They say that if you put a frog in hot water, it will jump out. If, however, you put it in cold water, and subtly, slowly turn up the temperature, it won’t notice when it gets too hot. Ultimately, that frog will boil himself. This is the situation we are in, that we have been in¸ longer than we realize

It paved the way, and because they did so carefully, know that there will be another movie…and it will be subtle, too…but it will push the envelope just a tad bit farther.

We are that frog and our entertainment is the water. It’s been getting warmer and warmer and warmer, but it’s subtle and we don’t even realize how warm it is already. When someone says they are about to turn the heat up, we object…but then we realize it’s not a big deal, not a big change, not uncomfortable…so settle back into the pot and breathe a sigh of relief.

So, in many ways what they showed wasn’t a big deal, and in many ways, it is. It’s just that the ways in which it is a big deal, won’t really be all that evident. (I am reminded of Gone with the Wind – the first movie to allow cussing. Saying “damn” one time wasn’t that big of a deal…it wasn’t anything anyone hasn’t heard before, certainly. BUT…again, it opened the door. A small seed can grow a mighty tree.)

Research is proving that the first time a child hears about something determines how they view it from then on. That first time is the lens through which they will forever view that thing. So, if the first time your child hears about sex is in the locker room, anything you may try to inform them about it later will be viewed through the lens that their peers gave them when they “taught” them about it. Conversely, if you are first, then whatever they may hear later, from school, entertainment, etc., it will be viewed through the lens that you gave them about it. THIS is why it is SO important for YOU to be the first one to teach your kids about these things of life. About sex and homosexuality and family, and God, and so forth. Beauty and the Beast may not “teach” your kids about homosexuality, but it will inform them. It will put LeFou in such a sympathetic light that your child’s natural response to it will be that “whatever makes him happy” and “whatever feels good/right” to him is what is truly good and right. The temptation is to be happy for him to have found another who will return his affection.

Despite how the movie might make us feel, the issue isn’t LeFou’s happiness but his righteousness. People want to make the gay issue about whether or not they have a right to pursue their sexual and emotional happiness. That’s not really the issue, if they are a Christian. For a Christian, the issue is whether or not you love God. If so, you choose righteousness. You choose to say no to fleshly desires when they don’t please God—this includes but it certainly not limited to sexual desires. And just because someone has an interest in the same sex does not mean they get a “get-out-of-jail-free card”—they are called to righteousness in the area of sexuality just as much as a straight person is.

In this respect, the Beast sets us such a beautiful example. He died to himself. He set all his desires for Belle aside because he loved her and she wanted to leave. That is love. It’s not pursuing your own happiness, but the happiness of the other person. How can we say we love God if we don’t love Him with that kind of love? If we aren’t willing to die to our own selves, our flesh and our desires? Especially when we know that He only wants what is good and best for us? (For more on this, read here.)

So, should we be mad at Disney? Should we expect more, especially noting that they are focused on entertainment for children? I think that’s partially why we have been so particularly upset—Disney is a company we have largely trusted because it is geared towards children and families. Let’s not forget, however, that if you are a family/kids organization without Christ, then your idea of growing and nurturing children almost has to involve recognizing and encouraging all sexual orientations and lifestyle choices.  (For more on this subject, Crosswalk’s article, Everything you need to know about the new Beauty and the Beast is worth the read.)

I am not going to try to tell you how you and your family should respond. It’s moments like these I’m glad I don’t have children … because I don’t know what I would do. I can honestly say that my response would probably depend a lot on their age, their maturity, where I felt their hearts were, and more than anything, what I felt God was leading me to do for my family. I can say I would want to discuss (as much as possible for their age) whatever we did, and why we did it. I would look for the opportunity in this to stir my children’s hearts, not towards rules and legalism, but in affection towards God and do my best to minimize whatever Satan might be trying to do against the Lord in this, by making God “against gays” in their minds, or “against Disney,” etc. I would do my best to show what God is for, rather than focusing on what He may be against. (More about that in this article.)

On that note, I want to say that yes, there is this SO unfortunate thing where homosexuality is brought into the movie, but on the other hand, it is also SO beloved because it represents the message of Christ so incredibly beautifully. You may not choose to watch this newest version, but don’t let the gay issue be the only point of conversation you have about the story. Take some time to talk with people about why they love it so and help them see how it resonates with their soul because it’s the story of the Gospel. As I’ve said already, seeds are powerful, and there are good seeds in this movie, too. LOTS of them. Do all you can to help those seeds take root! (Read about the connection between the Gospel and Beauty and the Beast here.)

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