Column Road

Beauty and the backlash

Let’s teach our children to aspire to human/buffalo romances! (Photographer: Lauren Javier via Flickr).

Walt Disney’s new live action remake of Beauty and the Beast has not strayed far from the headlines since the moment it was announced. From controversy surrounding how much boob is appropriate for Emma Watson to reveal, to probably the most facially revolting doll that has ever existed, to a Primark ‘Chip’ mug selling for five times it’s retail price on eBay. The film has really got the people talking.

The main thing that has really upset people, though, is the suggestion in the new film that one of the characters is gay. Not only were social media commentators pretty mad, but whole countries got upset about it. When Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board tried to recut the film to remove the ‘gay scene’, Disney actually decided to pull Beauty and the Beast from Malaysian theatres altogether, rather than remove the ‘gay moment’ to placate local censors. “The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia,” a Disney rep told Bloomberg.

Let’s be realistic. There’s no rampant, saucy, sexy, male on male action in this movie. Theres not a kiss with tongues. There’s not even a kiss without tongues. LeFou, who is Gaston’s mate, fancies him a little bit. That is literally all that happens. The director, Bill Condon, said that: “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston…but it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

Although it was initially suggested that it was the candle, Lumière, that was the gay character in the film, someone made a wonderful joke that confirmed that, in fact, LeFou was the gay character, and Lumière instead simply just loved the clock.

Some people are arguing, that as Disney’s first inclusion of a gay character is somewhat…pitiful. The Daily Dot said that it’s hardly a high point for positive LGBT representation: ‘a dweeb who hopelessly pines after the muscular straight guy’. Although when I put this to my (gay) friend, he laughed and said ‘that’s the most fucking accurate representation of me that I’ve ever seen in a film’, so it’s good to know that not everybody is feeling so bummed out about the whole thing.

This isn’t the first time there has been suggestions that Disney characters are, or should be gay. There was a hashtag that stormed Twitter last year, #GiveElsaAGirlfriend, with the aim of encouraging Disney to make Princess Elsa a lesbian.

A LESBIAN?! They cried, A LESBIAN? ELSA can’t be a LESBIAN! That’s not REALISTIC! I mean, Elsa is the made-up queen, of the made-up city of Arendelle, who has made-up icy, snowy powers and accidentally ice-freezes her kingdom when she gets a little wound up…but she’s not a LESBIAN-that’s just not realistic! It was bad enough that her curse-breaking true love came from her SISTER and not a PRINCE! But another WOMAN?! Nope. Too far.

People suggested that ‘Let it Go’, with the lyrics “conceal, don’t feel/ don’t let them know/well now they know/the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all” get pretty much as close to a coming-out song as they come. As it so often does in recent times, the Internet got very, very upset about the whole thing.

Malaysia’s excuse for wanting to remove the ‘gay scene’ from the film was that children may be watching (or most probably will be, as it’s a kids’ movie) and therefore they should not be subject to such ‘inappropriate’ content that may ‘confuse their ideas of desirable relationships’.

Some people-like actual adults that have actually managed to make actual children, have stated that they will not allow their children to watch the new film in case they absorb all the gay-ness and turn gay. Seriously. They are actually concerned that the inclusion of gay characters may encourage children to think it is okay or even (flinches) acceptable, to be gay. Imagine a world where children think it is okay to be whatever they want to be!

So, even if we apply the somewhat (!) flawed logic that if you observe certain behaviours/relationships on television, you will without doubt mirror them , then we have much greater issues in hand. For the purpose of proving this point, I have compiled a list of relationships we should be FAR MORE concerned about encouraging our children to observe in films. It is important to note here, that nobody gave a shit about these relationships in these movies.

In 1987, in Mannequin, a man builds and then falls in love with a store mannequin. In Her, some poor bloke falls in love with the artificially intelligent operating system on his phone, essentially Siri. A man falls in love with Siri, and then has a relationship with it/her. In Warm Bodies, a girl fancies a zombie, and in Edward Scissorhands, a beautiful young woman falls in love with a dude that has scissors instead of fingers. And my personal favourite movie, Bee Movie, in which a woman falls in love, WITH A BEE. SHE LEAVES HER HUMAN BOYFRIEND FOR A BEE. BUT SOMEHOW THAT IS STILL A MORE VIABLE RELATIONSHIP THAN A GAY MAN IN F-ING BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

And, AND, if it is not bizarre enough that Belle is essentially dating an abusive buffalo for ¾ of the film, nobody questions the somewhat notion that the beast must fall in love before 21 (wtf) and he was eleven when he was cursed, by a witch, because he wouldn’t let her in his castle when he was home alone. So if this, bizarre enough, film is teaching kids anything, it’s that you better let strangers into your house if you’re home alone, or else you’ll be cursed for life. Brilliant.

Jokes aside, it is important that Disney is making the effort to include characters of all sexualities. Although LeFou is not an ideal representative for gay men as a character, these small steps are essential, and exciting! Perhaps in the years to come we will see Elsa get a girlfriend and maybe even a gay prince or a trans character. Or, maybe, the critics will be right, and LeFou will encourage young boys worldwide to pursue tall, muscular, straight men. Even so, our real concern then should be the women that must be divorcing their husbands to date bees, or buffalos, or men with scissor-fingers, because that is cause for much, much greater concern.

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