Some were quick to point out the original animated Beast's potential likeness to an AIDS victim, while others questioned the validity of the film's claim to being “first” with references to homosexual characters on Once Upon A Time, a Disney property (albeit one geared for older audiences).
Nonetheless, many reactions to this revelation were positive. Commenters cheered for the added visibility that comes with a gay character in such a highly anticipated film (even if it is in the form of the somewhat lackluster comic relief vehicle LeFou), and felt that it was an appropriate nod to the film’s roots.
But as any denizen of the internet knows, there is no piece of news that cannot be made polarizing, especially if it references homosexuality. Almost as soon as the praise for this subplot appeared, so did the backlash.
The phrase “gay agenda” began popping up, the way it seems to whenever anything mildly intersectional occurs. One Million Moms (actual mom membership: 89,281) called for a boycott of all things Disney. Soon, an Alabama theatre announced it would not be showing the film, citing religious beliefs. The official statement attempted to wrap up on a positive (read: passive-aggressive) note, saying “You can feel free to come watch wholesome movies without worrying about sex, nudity, homosexuality and foul language.” Notably missing from this list? Violence.
As other writers have pointed out, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it homosexual subplot isn’t the only way that Disney chose to update this classic story. The climactic battle between Gaston and the beast had some changes, too.
Gaston’s quaint bow and arrow has been replaced with a rifle. What was already a dramatic scene in the original animated version (though not as scary as the wolves, in the mind of this once-3-year-old) becomes even more high-stakes as a CGI beast goes head-to-head with a firearm. Gunshots thunder. Blood is shed. The beast registers pain, nearly dies.
But there are no calls for a boycott, no theaters citing gun violence as the reason they won’t be showing the film in their “wholesome” establishments. Nobody blinks an eye. And yet, as threats to American society go, guns are a much more considerable one than “the homosexual agenda,” even for the children who are presumably this film’s target audience.
In 2014, for example, unsupervised toddlers shot themselves or others using firearms at a rate of one per week. In 2015, that number was higher. So it wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask why the parents who are deeply worried about exposing their children to a brief allusion to homosexuality aren’t more concerned about their kids watching gun violence.
Parents: Scared your son may mimic the on-screen behavior he witnesses? Make sure your guns are stored under lock and key. Dancing with another boy is the least of your worries.
Now, stories need villains, of course. The decision for this remake’s villain to carry a gun isn’t a profound leap. What is a profound leap is One Million Moms’ attempt to paint LeFou—goofy, along-for-the-ride LeFou—as the villain of this story, all for his assumed sexual preference.
Let’s be clear: the womanizing, scheming, dishonest, gun-toting Gaston is the villain, for all those traits that make him who he is. The traits that make LeFou who he is—in this version, at least—include his same-sex preference. It's a preference that, frankly, is a tale as old as time. And it’s time we began treating it like one.
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