On Wednesday (March 1), we broke the historic news that the eagerly anticipated live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast is set to bring us Disney’s first “exclusively gay moment” on film.
In Attitude’s April issue – available to download and in shops now – we sit down with the film’s stars Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as well as director Bill Condon, who reveals that the character of LeFou (played Josh Gad), sidekick to the villainous Gaston (Luke Evans) is set to feature in a small but hugely significant subplot of his own when it comes to his sexuality.
The director also reveals how lyricist Howard Ashman’s tragic battle with Aids during production of the original 1991 film shaped the story and music audiences know and love today.
Both pieces of news were welcomed by many commentators, who rightly considered the representation of an explicitly gay character on screen as a watershed moment for both Disney and family entertainment at large.
Sadly, however, it seems not everyone agreed.
Reader comments under a Mail Online story about the news show just what producers are up against when it comes to portraying same-sex affection in mainstream filmmaking – and why Disney’s decision to do so is so significant.
Pretty much, the complaints amounted to a whole lot of this:
“I guess I am not taking the kids to see this one…” wrote one reader, who apparently had no such qualms when the film’s plot solely involved an imprisoned young women becoming romantically involved with a four-legged, furry animal.
Another accused producers of “twisting a child’s story to fit an agenda”, adding: “Is nothing safe from identity politics any more?”
One took on a Trumpian tone as they declared the news “sad”.
“Let kids enjoy being kids,” they wrote. “Stop ruining a perfectly lovely story.”
Meanwhile, it all got a bit much for one reader, who declared that they were, “sick to death of children being overexposed to gender diversity”, seemingly forgetting the simple yet important fact that LeFou’s homosexuality represents a “first” for Disney after almost a century of filmmaking.
The “I’m not homophobic but…” brigade were also out in force, as Trixie, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, pronounced: “No I am not homophobic but I don’t think it should be broadcasted [sic].”
One reader even pronounced: “This secret gay thing will be Aids to this movie. So many will boycott [it] and refuse to go, Disney will have another John Carter on it’s [sic] hands.”
As the world prepares to prove that argument wrong, when Beauty and the Beast hits screens on March 17, Attitude editor-in-chief Matt Cain has welcomed the news of LeFou’s sexuality as a landmark moment for LGBT+ representation.
“It may have been a long time coming but this is a watershed moment for Disney,” he says.
“By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural – and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay.”
Matt adds: “It’s only a first step towards creating a cinematic world that reflects the one in which many of us are now proud to live, but it’s a step in the right direction and I applaud Disney for being brave enough to take it – and in doing so hopefully helping to change attitudes and bring about real social progress.”
We couldn’t agree more.