If you’ve been anywhere on Twitter, or if you are a fan of Beauty and the Beast (or Disney in general) then you have heard by now that in the live action film (released later this year) there is going to be a gay character. I heard this, before I found out who it was, and was originally overjoyed. A gay character? In a Disney film??? I’ve been waiting for this for YEARS! I adore Disney films, and am queer. I love seeing love blossom and bloom between two men and/or two women. It warms my heart. (For the record, I also like seeing love between a heterosexual couples, but let’s be perfectly honest. You can find those everywhere. They are as common as fur on a Persian cat.) But then I heard what character they were making gay and I was immediately saddened and disappointed.
Le Fou. They are making Le Fou, a character’s whose name literally means “the fool”, gay. What’s worse, he doesn’t even realize he’s gay. I say this is worse because it makes me wonder if throughout the movie he’ll come to the realization that he is gay, actually acknowledge his feelings for Gaston (the villain! Also problematic.), or just completely ignore it all. Because this is Disney I’m willing to bet it’s the latter. The supposed “gay moment” is supposedly only five seconds long. I’m sorry, that’s not good enough.
But let’s back track a minute. Why is making Le Fou the gay character harmful? If you’re straight then this is probably something you haven’t thought about much, or even realized that it is harmful. So let me outline some of the issues.
First, his name. Like already stated, Le Fou is French for “the fool”. A person could interpret this as Disney saying gay people are fools, or at the very least jokes. Le Fou is not a character anyone can take seriously. He’s a lacky, a toadie. He follows Gaston around like a love sick puppy, but hardly does anything other than boost Gaston’s ego. Time and time again he’s made the butt of jokes. He is the comedic relief character of the entire story. Gay people are not fools. Being gay isn’t a joke.
Second, he’s a character that is, at the very most, a sidekick character. He has barely any screen time, and is very often Gaston’s punching bag…literally. We have a plethora of gay “sidekick” characters. But guess what? Gay people aren’t “sidekicks” in their own life. We are our own protagonists. I didn’t just ride along to see Logan a few hours ago–I didn’t go to it because someone else suggested it. I suggested it, got our tickets online, and drove us to the theater. Those are things a protagonist does. It wouldn’t have worked for them to make Belle or Beast gay because then you wouldn’t have the standard Beauty and the Beast story. But you know what Disney could do if they were serious about being progressive and inclusive? Write an openly gay main character. As in, create one. I don’t mean something like Elsa where people have to assume or speculate that the character is gay. I mean a full on, kissing scene or explicitly stated “I’m gay”, gay character. No questioning involved.
Third, he’s a villain. Granted he isn’t the main villain. He is the main villain’s sidekick (see sidekick issues in the above paragraph) which just makes the sidekick issue even worse. It’s almost like Disney is trying to hide him or something. They are shoving the gay character in the furthest, darkest corner they can. The main villain’s sidekick?! You can’t get much farther or darker than that. You know what sidekick character(s) could have been made gay, the story wouldn’t have changed, and the whole thing would have gone better? Cogsworth and/or Lumiere! You can’t tell me the two don’t have a thing for each other. Being gay isn’t bad, and Disney making villains (even sidekicks of the villains) gay sends the message that it is. Which isn’t a good message to be sending at all, to anyone. Especially not gay kids who need to see themselves represented the most. (And before someone tries to make the argument that kids don’t think about sexuality, let me point out that there are plenty of people who knew they were gay when they were kids and just didn’t have the language to express what they were feeling. I was one of those kids.)
The Fourth and final point, is that many people are pointing to this and saying that Disney is doing good. Disney is getting credit for being progressive. But they aren’t. Even the director, Bill Conden, has said that he doesn’t want Disney to be lauded for this. And yet, they are. Sure there are people like me who are pointing out the flaws with what they are doing. But there are just as many (probably more) people who are applauding Disney for the inclusion. Sorry, I can’t be excited about this.
What do you think? Are you excited Disney has included a gay character? Give this post a thumbs up if you (like me) ship Cogsworth and Lumiere, and think they should have been the character(s) instead!