Disney has quite often had an aversion to making anything in their films overtly political, or presenting something in a way that could incite controversy. That doesn’t mean that controversy doesn’t arise anyway, but by and large throughout Disney’s 90s heyday they offered a very squeaky clean slate. However, while the studio’s films have always offered up heterosexual relationships, those actually making the films have been as diverse as the makeup of the world itself. And as the studio has gotten bolder in its subject matter with films like Zootopia (which took on institutional racism) and Moana (which bucked a romantic entanglement entirely to present an independent female protagonist), it appears they’re now finally ready to (gasp) include a gay character.
Indeed, it appears that in the high-profile live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, director Bill Condon and team have embraced the subtext of the original and will present Josh Gad’s Le Fou as a gay character. Speaking with Britain’s Attitude Magazine (via IndieWire), Condon revealed the film will offer the first “nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie,” while adding that Le Fou’s character will find himself wrestling with his feelings for Luke Evans’ Gaston:
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh [Gad] makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its pay-off at the end, which I don’t want to give away.”
This is a pretty big deal. Studios regularly shell out the big bucks for their biggest films each year, but these movies often fail to represent the LGBT community. We’re certainly moving in the right direction, and it takes directors like J.J. Abrams saying, “The protagonists of the new Star Wars franchise will be a girl and a black guy” to actually deviate from the norm, which is white heterosexual dudes saving the day every time. Progress is being made though. Even Alien: Covenant features a gay couple as a pair of its central characters.
With Beauty, Condon is simply doubling down on years of subtext found in the Disney library, and indeed the man responsible for writing the iconic songs in the original Beauty and the Beast, Howard Ashman, was himself gay. Ashman went one further, embracing the outsider status of the Beast as a metaphor for his struggle with AIDS, which sadly resulted in his death mere months before Beauty and the Beast’s premiere.
Moreover, let’s be honest, Le Fou’s obsession with Gaston in the original film would be weird for a straight guy. It’s not like they’re making some radical deviation from the original film here and turning the Beast into a female character (which, now that I mention it, would be pretty interesting). So before folks get up in arms about this live-action redo’s gay character, let’s keep in mind that it’s really just bringing to the surface what was already there in the first place.