Beauty and the Beast’s Gay Character is Making Waves

I should have known the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast was going to be a big deal when Emma Watson was cast as Belle over two years ahead of its release and the entire internet freaked out. Or by last May, when Disney released that 90-second “teaser” that was just vignettes of castle architecture and it trended for like a million years. I certainly knew by last November, when the official trailer dropped and 127.6 million people watched it in the first 24 hours, thus breaking a world record.

People give a serious fuck about this movie!!! According to a Fandango survey, it’s the number three most-anticipated film of 2017. Which is why it’s not surprising that the announcement that Beauty and the Beast will feature Disney’s first gay character has people freaking out (in every sense of the expression).

“Played by US actor Josh Gad, the character of LeFou serves as the sidekick to the film’s primary antagonist Gaston (Luke Evans), and is set to feature in a small but significant subplot of his own when it comes to his sexuality,” reports Attitude. Or as director Bill Condon puts it: “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.”

It’s exciting to see a new type of representation in a children’s movie, a space that’s so often failed to deliver where diversity is concerned (although the wins are trickling in). The choice is also particularly interesting given the history of the movie. According to Condon, the 1991 original was largely inspired by lyricist Howard Ashman, who saw the plot as a metaphor for AIDS and had a large hand in shaping the narrative to reflect that. Ashman was diagnosed early in the development process and died just four days after the first screening of the film.

“Ashman had just found out he had AIDs,” Condon told Attitude, “And it was his idea, not only to make it into a musical but also to make Beast one of the two central characters; until then it had mostly been Belle’s story that they had been telling.” He goes on to explain that Ashman connected with the plight of the Beast, in that in some ways he tragically experienced his diagnosis as a curse that brought sorrow on those he loved.

LeFou, as Gaston’s forthcoming sidekick, is a small role. But the response has been overwhelming, with some people vowing to boycott Disney and many more lauding them for the decision. Clearly, it’s touched a chord and it’s refreshing to see Disney strike this note. I hope they continue to honor representation, especially where the imaginations of children are involved.

Photo via Walt Disney Studios.

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  • Jennifer

    Hope it’s not all hype then falls flat (Snow White and the Huntsmen comes to mind). They have a chance to make a great film here! Also interesting that they wouldn’t just cast a gay actor instead of straight actor for a gay role. Oh well. Baby steps I suppose.

  • Bailey Stark

    *insert hand clapping emoji here*

  • belle

    It’s really hard for me to give Disney a pat on the back for featuring a gay character in a minor role. I mean, it’s 2017. The fact that a minor character in a movie that hasn’t even come out yet is making headlines is really emblematic of the fact that Disney has historically been incredibly shitty (starting with Ol’ Asshole Walt himself). It’s a long overdue step in the right direction though.

    • BarbieBush

      Same. And also is this even good??? Having a chubby gay guy lusting after a hot non-gay guy, who is lusting after a woman. Sounds like the tragic gay narrative that is like the only acceptable gay narrative where their being gay is the biggest thing about them and ruins their lives or kills them. Problematic and just fucking boring.

      This will only be cool if the end is a ~crazy~ twist where Gaston and LeFou end up together.

      • Karolina Liczbińska

        Well, they did say there will be a payoff to this narrative.

  • alex

    ‘Or as director Bill Condon puts it: “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.”’

    ^In my opinion, this is problematic. The gay character is an antagonist who desires his hypermasc caricature “friend” who treats him like shit? Unrequited queer love is such a boring trope in film, and one that a lot of us in the lgbtq+ community have trauma from from high school and don’t really care to see as a celebrated example of the ~first gay character~ that Disney wrote.

    • BarbieBush

      whether disney admits it or not I feel like Frozen Elsa is the first gay character..right???

  • Amanda Biron

    So they make “The Fool” (Le Fou en francais) gay? What kind of message is that sending? Sorry I find this insulting to the gay community. Even if they try to make him a more interesting character, he’s still LeFou and we remember who he was in the animation – a little man dependent on a more elite man to feel better about himself. Lame and contrived.

    • Victoria Swan

      Perfectly suitable!

  • Victoria Swan

    Why does EVERYTHING have to come down to straight and gay? Who the f*ck cares as long as it’s good acting? Get off this bandwagon already and enjoy a show for its performances!

  • Sarah R

    We are skipping the movie. Disney doesn’t get to introduce gay sexuality to my 7 yr old.

  • Megan Harvey

    Will not see the movie. Parents want to have the discussion with their children at the right time. A children’s movie is not the right time, and irresponsible of Disney.

    • alex

      a children’s movie is not the right place to display the countless difference between people, normalizing them in the process? shit, if it were up to my parents to tell me what being gay was, i would still be in the closet.

      • Megan Harvey

        You just contradicted yourself in your previous post. You’re cliche high school gay love triangle is the first thing all kids will see as normal. In fact, it’s not normalizing, it’s distorting. You can thank Disney later for the continued stereotypes for generations to come! This is nothing for anyone to celebrate, including LGBTQ. And….sorry, your parents sucked. Mine didn’t. So again, no a children’s movie is not the right place for the reason you stated.

        • alex

          I was speaking more generally about your blanket statement of “Parents want to have the discussion with their children at the right time,” not specifically about this case, which clearly I have issues with. Though I don’t think this character sets a great example, like I said, I think there have been equally bad or worse precedents set for kids re: sexuality/marriage/gender. (Also, my parents don’t suck, and they accept my sexuality; they, like a lot of parents, failed to speak openly about sexuality with me when I was young.)

    • BarbieBush

      What is this discussion exactly?? I am always v v curious when parents are like…how could I explain this to MY child?? Like what is there to explain? And wouldn’t this help your v intense discussion?

      It’s a jumping off point! Hey honey this guy likes boys just like Belle likes an animal..some people have caraaaazy tastes.