Oh, Disney, you’ve done it again. Not only did you give us a character who is both too gay and not gay enough at the same time, but you called it ‘representation’ and named him ‘The Fool’. In the midst of all the excitement for the live-action remake of The Beauty and the Beast, the news fell like a bomb: LeFou, Gaston’s loyal comic relief, is openly gay in the new movie, making him Disney’s first openly LGBTQ+ character.
I mean, it is nothing we didn’t know already, but the director Bill Condon patted himself on the back and made sure to point out that this was a turning point for Disney. This is completely disregarding the complicated history that Disney has with LGBTQ+ characters and tropes, but it is giving people a representation that they didn’t necessarily want.
Let me explain this a little bit better.
Disney has always had gay characters, or at least characters that could easily fit in what society codes as ‘gay’. Think about Captain Hook with his bright red coat and flamboyant attitude. Or Scar and his glorious ebony hair and recurring hand gestures. On a more recent note, think about the villain in Wreck-it Ralph, King Candy, who has Hook’s bombastic clothes and Scar’s limp wrist. Disney has a tendency of making villains out of people that don’t conform to cultural norms, be it gender, sexuality, or race (Jafar, anyone?).
And now we can add LeFou to the list. Even though he is not necessarily a villain, he is definitely not the representation LGBT folks have been advocating for. LeFou being in love with Gaston only lands him in the sad stereotype that gay men only fall in love with buff, straight dudes. Whether it is accurate representation or not, the blink-and-you-miss-it gay scene in the movie was enough to create controversy and gain the movie the 16+ rating in Russia.
The worst part about the whole LeFiasco is that we are forgetting that the original Beauty and the Beast’s executive producer and lyricist Howard Ashman was a gay man who died of AIDS before the movie was released. With this background, we are forced to put the whole plot in perspective: the Beast is tormented by a spell (disease) he can’t shake off nor control, and the people in town mobilize against him because they are terrified of how different he is to all of them.
Disney has a history of demonizing all that is different and the trend has not ceased. While this new reboot of the film is beautiful, it does no justice to the film’s executive producer and lyricist’s experience as a gay man. This pattern of claiming representation and progression needs to end –– Disney owes more to the LGBTQ+ community.