The live-action iteration of Beauty and the Beast, due March 17, is expected to make serious bank. Tracking indicates the musical is set to make upwards of $120 million in its opening weekend alone, which is nothing to scoff at. Experts at Disney, however, are far more conservative with their estimate, believing the film will earn a (still impressive) $100 million.
With such sky-high expectations and international, cross-generational appeal, it’s no surprise that when director Bill Condon delicately teased that one of the film’s supporting characters, Gaston’s pint-size buddy LeFou, is gay, a ton of press followed. As the studio might have predicted when they presumably allowed Condon to announce LeFou’s “exclusively gay moment,” an overwhelming surge of support buoyed the announcement, mainly because of its progressiveness, which Disney has been famous for avoiding. In fact, this would mark Disney’s first inclusion of an openly gay character in any of its animated films.
Homophobes, however, are less than thrilled. Most notably, a drive-in theater in Henagar, Alabama, a rural town of less than 2,500 citizens, posted on Facebook that the cinema would not screen the film at all. “When companies continually force their views on us, we need to take a stand,” the post read. “We are first and foremost Christians. We will not compromise on what the Bible teaches. We will continue to show family-oriented films so you can feel free to come watch wholesome movies without worrying about sex, nudity, homosexuality and foul language.” The film has also become subject to boycott on the international level, with the BBC reporting that Russia may ban the film for being guilty of their laws against “gay propoganda.” However, a Russian government official reported today that the nation gave the film the go-ahead without any problems.
Instead of hinting at a character’s sexuality, perhaps Disney should grow some balls.
Sine Condon’s interview, which was printed in British gay lifestyle magazine Attitude, those involved in the film are now playing down the “exclusively gay moment” talk. Josh Gad (above), who plays LeFou in the film, told USA Today that there was nothing in the film’s script that denoted his character is gay. Condon himself told Screen Crush that the gay announcement has “been overblown,” insisting it’s “part of what we had fun with.”
Even the Screen Crush writer who interviewed Condon, and who has seen the film, confessed, “The moment itself isn’t a big deal at all…In the movie, LeFou’s sexuality is never directly addressed.” He notes that Gad [SPOILER ALERT] “slips in some subtle nods to his affections for his hyper-masculine friend with a shoulder rub and a wink in the ‘Gaston’ musical number” but insists LeFou’s sexuality amounts to “more of a blink-and-you-miss-it shot.” He deduces this moment is hardly “exclusively gay” but instead “a notch or two up on the queer subtext scale compared to most Disney movies.”
Based on this review—and without any of us at Playboy having seen the film—we can’t help but wonder whether LeFou’s now “overblown” sexuality was teased simply to garner publicity. Because now that the studio has received feedback on the film’s profit-earning potential, they’re seemingly walking back on the statement—or at least making it less certain.
If the revelation is truly as subtle as those behind the film are making it seem, this announcement should have never been uttered. It should have instead been something that viewers arrived at on their own—a sort of easter egg, if you will. Then again, maybe that’s what it was always intended to be until the starving media (us included) chose to throw a megaphone on to a whisper.
However we choose to see it, Screen Crush laments LeFou isn’t even the most flamboyant character in the film. According to the pub, this designation belongs to the wardrobe, which, when you consider stereotypes, seems a little offensive. Think about it: a literal closet is representing a flamboyant male character who may or may not be gay. How about this: instead of hinting at a character’s sexuality in film, perhaps Disney should grow some balls and actually write a gay character who isn’t subtle—or in the closet. Our apologies; we mean “wardrobe.”