In the spirit of considering how to have better conversations on tricky things, I have a proposal for my Christian friends who are reacting to the news that Beauty and the Beast will feature a (sort of) gay character.
(This post is mostly directed at Christians, some of whom are outraged, some of whom think this is no big deal, and a whole spectrum in between. If you’re not a Christian, read on! Just know that’s who I’m talking to.)
If you are joining in on a boycott of this movie over LeFou’s sexuality, I have a request: when you talk about it, especially on social media, can you explain why? Yourself, not trusting people to read an article and assume it states your position.
You don’t have to, obviously. You are free to post an article about LeFou being gay with just a mad emoticon. Or “Guess I’m not going after all…” or something like that.
I just think it would save you a lot of trouble in responding to comments if you elaborated a bit. More importantly, I struggle with the fact that many people view Christians only as “people who are against stuff.” If they don’t understand why this is an issue for you, you’re just one more tally mark in the “easily offended for no good reason” category.
Here are some examples that I thought of that might be helpful in avoiding the rage-fests I’m seeing in the comments.
Disclaimer: People will still disagree with you—you can’t make that go away. And, probably, people will still be angry with you. But at least these define a bit what you are and are not saying, because who has time to explain that to a dozen angry commenters?
I’m a parent and don’t want to have very “adult” conversations with my young kids about sexuality. I realize I won’t be able to protect them forever (and maybe you don’t even agree with whether this is something that would mess with that child-like innocence), but I don’t think a Disney movie is an appropriate place for this.
I worry that the increasing portrayal of homosexual relationships as normal in the media—especially kids’ media—is confusing and sends a message that those relationships are okay and it’s intolerant to oppose them…when I actually believe that homosexual practice is wrong, but that you can believe that and still actively show love to friends, neighbors, and family members who are gay. More and more, I feel like our culture is saying that position can’t exist.
This feels like one more political statement in the newest fad, and I’d rather not take part. I’m called to love those around me who identify as gay, transgender, etc. That’s significant, and I’m trying to figure out what that looks like. But I’m not called to love a cartoon character who the producers made gay in order to gain hype for the movie.
As a Christian, I won’t be seeing this movie, but let me explain. Not going to see the movie doesn’t mean I’m going all Westboro-Baptist on you. They’re wrong. God doesn’t hate gay people. I’m uncomfortable, though, with a kids’ movie portraying a gay character’s romantic struggles. If you want to know what specifically bothers me and why, send me a message. Let’s start a conversation.
They’re changing my beloved childhood movies in a way I don’t appreciate and my exacting sense of nostalgia won’t be able to take the crippling blow! I believe in sticking strictly to the author’s intent for characters and their motivations (except when it comes to original fairy tale source material, because, let’s face it, those things were terrifying and gruesome).
Or…explain why you don’t think watching this movie is a problem. I’m not going to give you examples of what that would sound like because I don’t think it’s as controversial to talk about. Just remember not to mock people who have a different opinion.
So, which response would I choose?
I’m actually not sure yet. And that’s not because I want everyone to like me and not be mad at me. (Although if you know me well enough to suspect that as a motivation, points for you!)
I’m leaning toward thinking this is a massive publicity stunt and probably won’t affect me as a mature adult, especially since I don’t have kids to think about. The question I’m asking is: does an “exclusively gay moment”—whatever that means, probably significantly less dramatic than the hype around it—take away from the main message of the movie in a way that would be problematic for me?
Let me explain.
Stories show what we value, and fairy tales are in a special category beyond that. They don’t teach a lesson as an accidental byproduct. That is why they exist. Until recent remakes, film versions of these old stories made the distinctions between “good” and “evil” nice and clear, especially for young viewers just starting to sort out the whole morality thing.
This is where we get the villains wearing black and laughing evilly, going into rages and punishing henchmen for no apparent reason, in contrast with the princess of pure pureness who sings to animals/birds and whose outward appearance reflects her lovely heart.
Then there’s Beauty and the Beast. Oh-ho, a twist! Gaston is handsome and wears red…but he’s so clearly arrogant that we know he’s a bad guy. The Beast’s name says “villain,” and so does his roaring, hulking, might-want-to-trim-those-claws-bro appearance…but he changes so much throughout the movie that we know he’s a good guy. (Note that, pre-enchantment, he was basically a richer, blonder Gaston.) Belle is…okay, she’s still beautiful and has a pretty singing voice, but overall, Beauty and the Beast is a subversion of our normal fairytale plot.
Or, in the words of G.K. Chesterton, “There is the great lesson of Beauty and the Beast, that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”
Sound familiar, Christians?
(Hint: Sunday School answers are totally welcome here.)
(Another hint: Jesus. It’s Jesus.)
What does this have to do with either being outraged or being confused by the outrage?
Mostly, I just wanted to reassure you that, whether or not you go see this movie, the chances of it brainwashing others with sexuality propaganda is relatively low. Fairy tales done well, the ones that last and resonate, are based on very simple, very deep truths. A side character portrayed as struggling in his sexual identity may not be appropriate for a kids’ movie, but it’s not going to take away from that.
Our faith matters. It relates even to areas of our life like what animated movies to watch. This isn’t a ridiculous overreaction…as long as Christians thoughtfully and graciously make and explain their choice.
What we watch may be important, but more important is who is watching us to see what Jesus is like. Let’s keep that in mind as we ride out LeFouGate.