The anticipation for Disney’s real-life imagining of its animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, already felt like it was at a record high. The casting is pitch-perfect and reported script updates include feminist touches like the fact that it isn’t just Belle’s father who is an inventor, it’s also Belle, who comes up with a rudimentary washing machine in order to give herself more time to read. What more could we want from an updated fairy tale? How about having one more patriarchy-imposed boundary shattered? How about having the first explicitly gay character featured in a Disney film? Yup, Beauty and the Beast will even have that.
Director, Bill Condon, revealed in an interview with Attitude magazine that Beauty and the Beast will feature “a nice, exclusively gay moment” between the characters of the machismo-imbued Gaston and his sidekick, LeFou. Condon explains:
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 realising that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.
In the animated film, LeFou—like many Disney characters before him, from the seven dwarves all the way to Timon and Pumbaa—was definitely given subtext implying he had romantic feelings for Gaston, but there was nothing definite about it. This is an all too common thing in art aimed at children; gay characters are explicitly omitted from the narrative, even if there is enough ambiguity for creators to claim plausible deniability when it comes to their refusal to showcase true diversity, sometimes even retroactively adding gay characters long after the art’s initial release. (See: J.K. Rowling’s recent insistence that Dumbledore was gay.)
This is why this news is so groundbreaking, even if it is long overdue. There is no denying anymore that the LGBTQI+ community is an integral part of society; there is no more writing gay men and women out of the narrative. It might seem a simple thing to have a secondary character reveal that he is gay, but all too often, homosexuality has been portrayed in films as nothing more than a punch line, while heterosexual love is shown to be the ultimate goal in life, the prototypical happy ending. This lack of representation is damaging for the millions of kids who turn to popular culture to find someone to identify with, someone who looks and sounds and acts like them—and until now, that’s been missing from one of the main sources of children’s entertainment. But no longer.
And while we look forward to seeing LeFou’s Beauty and the Beast storyline, we also look forward to the day when the central narrative of a Disney film revolves around LGBTQI+ characters, demonstrating not only that everyone deserves a happily ever after, but also that everyone deserves to have their story told.