Last week I wrote a piece about both my undying love for the original Beauty and the Beast movie, and some issues I have with it. Since then, I have seen the new version, and as one of Disney’s biggest fans–and a proud bisexual–here are some thoughts I had:
Before we even get into Lefou and the new Beauty and the Beast, let’s back up a little.
Yeah, the original Beauty and the Beast did not have explicitly gay characters, but the wonderful team that created the movie certainly did. Howard Ashman, the executive producer as well as lyricist for the movie, (as well as for The Little Mermaid and Aladdin), was openly gay and sadly died from AIDS on March 14th, 1991, before Beauty and the Beast was even released on November 22, 1991. In fact, at the end of the credits, Beauty and the Beast is dedicated to Howard Ashman, as there is a quote, “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful.” Beauty and the Beast is inarguably dedicated to a gay man, so having its reboot include Disney’s first explicitly gay character is very fitting. Also, David Ogden Stiers, who voices Cogsworth and the narrator, came out as gay in 2009. I hope that Howard Ashman is looking down at the new Beauty and the Beast from Heaven and is happy that the movie he so lovingly created is now a smash hit remake that includes the first character to be like him.
Here is Howard Ashman on the left, with Alan Menken, the other Disney musical genius who is luckily still alive and has done the music for literally every single Disney movie. These men are legends and true heroes.
Moving on. After basically every movie I have ever seen, I have said to myself, “That could have been gayer.” This was definitely the case after I watched the new Beauty and the Beast. There was SO MUCH HYPE about the so-called first “explicitly gay moment” in a Disney movie. But–SPOILER ALERT–it left much to be desired. If you haven’t seen it, and don’t mind getting this a teensy bit spoiled, during the siege of the castle one of the townspeople is fighting with the enchanted wardrobe, Madame de la Grande Bouche, and she sort of attacks him with dresses and make up and he ends up getting dressed up in a traditionally feminine way. But instead of being horrified at being emasculated, this guy smiles and seems to enjoy his new look. Flash-forward to the very end of the movie after the spell is broken. Everyone is dancing in the ballroom, and LeFou’s dance partner–a girl–sort of switches to a new partner, and in her place the wardrobe guy starts dancing with LeFou. LeFou seems to enjoy this change for sure, but that is it. Two guys ballroom dance together. For literally one second. That is all we got (beyond a few hints about a crush on Gaston here and there).
Needless to say, I was a little disappointed. I, of course, whooped loudly in the theater when LeFou started dancing with wardrobe guy, but come on. Disney can do so much more and so much better. To be fair, Josh Gad, the actor who plays LeFou, did say in some interviews that he was worried people were expecting too much from the film. He genuinely seemed concerned that people were getting their hopes up too high, and I appreciate that he made an effort to warn us not to get too excited. Shout out to Josh Gad <3
A few other things: It is also important to note that even though, yes, the first gay character and first gay moment were underwhelming at best, they at least were done well. LeFou as a whole was made into a much more sympathetic character in the new movie, and there was absolutely no hint of his sexuality being a joke or a source of comedic relief or anything negative. There was a serious concern that LeFou–whose name literally means “the fool”–would be a bumbling, stupid character, like in the original, who would then be coded as a stereotypically feminine gay man that would be used to reinforce his inferiority to the hyper-masculine and straight Gaston (think how nightmarish it would be if Gaston were like “let’s storm the castle!” and LeFou did a hair flip and said “Fabulous idea!”). This was clearly not the case. Not only was LeFou not stupid at all like he was in the original–rather, he was a tentative voice of reason–but his sexuality was not a joke at all. Obviously, saying “it could have been worse” does not mean that the portrayal was great, but I do feel that since this is new territory for Disney, and really for all of us, we should commend them for making this first cautious step and for doing it well.
Overall, it was a great movie. I truly enjoyed it and would recommend everyone to go see it. I do wish that Disney would give us some more explicitly gay moments and well-rounded, sympathetic, gay characters, but this was a good start. Most importantly, I am still so happy that Beauty and the Beast was the movie chosen to trailblaze this path…Howard Ashman can finally rest in peace.