The Wise and the LeFous: Responding to Beauty and the Beast

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.

lefou

(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.

lefou2

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.

24 comments

  1. Thank you for your very straight forward, well thought-out and well-expressed response to the gay character and current problem with a formerly, well-trusted company. I pray that your post is the beginning of a good conversation between you and those with a different view.

  2. Well here’s an interesting perspective to toss into the mix. I told my 14-year-old son about this controversy, and his response was, “Wasn’t LeFou always gay?” And the truth is, LeFou was always an effeminate character. In my son’s perspective, who does know that homosexuality is unbiblical, it was no big deal because he had already assumed as much.

    1. That’s interesting, Dina. I’m guessing my teenage daughters might have those same thoughts! I think it’s parents of younger children who are more concerned about what becomes the “norm” for their little ones because, let’s face it – once it becomes the norm, it’s “acceptable” and once it’s acceptable it seeps into our Christian world. . .and once it creeps into our Christian world . . . .

      1. Oh, I agree. I’ve always tried to be careful especially not to let my developing children watch homosexual kissing on any sort of media. I think that could be confusing and could start forming wrong pathways in their brains. I was definitely concerned when people were saying that there was a homosexual “kissing” scene in the movie, but so far, I’ve found no evidence of that.

    2. I’ve heard similar thoughts…and I also feel like the LGBTQ community should probably be offended that such a bumbling sidekick is their first Disney representation.

  3. Although we love our homosexual friends and relatives dearly, it is clear in both the old and new testaments that homosexuality is sin. We can’t change God’s word.
    We take sin to a whole new level when we present it to children very subtly as an option for them. We wouldn’t have thought of such a thing as children because moral parents don’t present sin as an option. It is not an option if you care about your child’s soul.

    This is just the opening of the door to indoctrinating children to accept sinful life choices. What will follow this will be horrifying, but most won’t realize it, as they wade slowly into the mirky waters a bit at a time.

    I think we must look to Jesus, as always to see what he says about the issue. He made it clear in Matthew 18:6.
    Matthew 18:6 New Living Translation (NLT)

    6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

    Disney should be shaking in their boots, but they are not, because there is no fear of God any longer in our world.

    Praying that Christ’s return will be soon, and that we as Christians will stand firm for the truth, in love until the end.
    We are in the world but not of the world.

    If you are a follower of Christ, Jesus says the world WILL hate you. We must not be surprised. God bless all who are fighting evil, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    1. Hi Diane,

      I agree that no matter how much explaining you do and how graciously you respond, you will never be able to make everyone happy (and that shouldn’t be our goal anyway, of course). I do think some Christians are wondering if boycotting this movie is an effective way to stand for truth when there’s so much Christian truth in it, but I think you’re going to approach the question much differently if you’re talking/thinking about kids and what they should be viewing. Glad you’re thinking and praying about your response!

  4. A random aside, I’ve actually been more offended by the buxom, bosom-baring, sexualization of some of the females in the cartoon, and making them look like idiotic, brainless females. 😉 *Jaime shrugs* GREAT post, Amy

  5. Thank you, Amy, for your thoughtful and respectful explanation. As someone who grew up in a conservative Christian home, I think I understand your position, but as someone who is now in a loving gay relationship, I’m concerned about your statement below:

    “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.”

    As a kid, I suffered from severe and debilitating depression because I knew I was different, but I didn’t understand why or how. The only representations I knew of gay people in the media were as AIDS victims (thanks, Reagan) and as child molesters (no correlation). According to CDC statistics, LGB youth are at 4 times greater risk for suicide, and some estimate that the risk is double that for LGB youth in unaccepting families. I don’t have strong opinions about Le Fou one way or the other, but more generally, portrayal of homosexual relationships as normal is exactly what kids like me needed to grow up happy and healthy.

    Thank you for trying to show love to gay friends and family as a Christian. But with all due respect, love with an implicit undertone of judgment is a poor substitute for true acceptance and respect. Consider that it wasn’t until 1967 that the Supreme Court decided in Loving v. Virginia that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional, and that was a very unpopular ruling at the time (far more unpopular than Obergefell v. Hodges). But if you substitute “gay” for “interracial” in your post, you’d end up with a very normal Christian opinion in 1967 that most (younger) people would find absolutely repugnant now.

    I’m not exactly sure what my point is, except to say that yes, I think culture is going in the direction that that position can’t exist, and that’s good for today’s youth. The only kids who are confused are the ones who are taught by adults that something as natural as love is somehow wrong and immoral.

    1. Hi Joshua,

      Let me return thanks for your gracious and thoughtful words, and for being willing to share them. This kind of dialogue is what I’d love to see more of, and I have massive respect for you and the way you bring this up.

      The part of blog you quoted was actually me suggesting how other people could better phrase their objections in a clearer way, not my own opinions on this. (Then again, I didn’t expressly say that, so I can see where you got that.)

      As far as my actual position, I’ve read books/articles that interpret of biblical passages on sexuality from a huge range of positions, and I respect that it is a much (much!) more complicated issue than many Christians treat it as. That said, my conclusion was that I can’t interpret the Bible to approve of homosexuality. Other Christians disagree with me.

      What the government (separate from the church) rules about marriage as a civil institution is totally outside of that conclusion. And, to be honest, what the media should portray in movies/books as far as representation of other sexual preferences is a different conversation too. And the American church has been wrong on issues, as you mentioned, so just citing tradition or majority rule doesn’t prove right.

      Lots of disclaimers. Point being, I’m still working out what it means to truly, unreservedly love people who I disagree with, whether it’s my friends in gay relationships or my friends who think Trump is great for America. But when you say “love with an implicit undertone of judgment is a poor substitute for true acceptance and respect,” I tend to push back against that. Mostly because if you apply that to other scenarios, it doesn’t ring true to me.

      Like my more conservative friend who recently said that what I considered “righteous anger” was actually arrogance. I can (and did) disagree with her and say that I was justified and that what I did is not wrong. But since she approached it in a gracious way, I know she’s my friend and cares for me. Yes, there’s a wrong way to approach the love-judgment combo: a kind of legalistic, gavel-pounding hate I tend to think of when I think of Christians being judgmental. But love-and-I-also-disagree-with-your-choices can coexist. It’s harder, because friendships are often formed between people who share a lot in common, and tensions where people passionately disagree can be tough to navigate. But hey, who said life was supposed to be easy, especially life with other people?

      Some conservative Christians just pay lip service to loving those who disagree with them, but are more passionate about boycotts and condemnation than actually living out that love (for example, by defending teens bullied in high schools like you mentioned)…but not all of them. And I pray that by God’s grace, the church as a whole will get better at that.

      We’re not all going to agree about what the Bible says about homosexuality, and I think discussing that matters. But we should hold each other accountable and challenge each other in what it looks like to love others. Does that make sense?

      1. Thanks again. I appreciate that you took me seriously and wrote a nuanced response. Sorry I misunderstood what you were saying. And yes, what you wrote does make sense, especially after this divisive election cycle. Although there are some people I know who are pretty conservative that I still like and respect, it’s hard to understand their point of view, and I’m not sure if I could really become close friends with someone who believed homosexuality is wrong, for example. Kudos to you for trying.

        The love-without-acceptance for being gay is a personally sore spot for me. I think there’s a big difference between the disagreement with your friend and my example. You don’t identify as a righteous anger/arrogant person; that was a “judgement” about a specific instance. While you have a right to freely express your opinion, saying that being gay is a sin puts me in a class of lesser-than human beings. (But society and the law are slowly shifting to view LGBT rights as basic human rights, which they absolutely are in my opinion.) In terms of personal relationships, I can’t genuinely open up to someone who I know judges me for who I am, who will be sad about the fundamental things and people that bring me happiness. You may object to the fairness of this comparison, but how could a person of color love someone who is a proud member of a white supremacist organization?

        1. Yeah, you’re right, it wasn’t a good one-to-one example, just the one that was on my mind because it had happened recently.

          I’m left with this, though: if I believe that the Bible teaches something is wrong, I can’t just stop believing that because I someone I respect and care about disagrees with me (which is the case with this issue, actually). That would be like my atheist neighbor saying, “Hey, Amy is my friend and she believes in God, so I will too,” even if none of his objections to Christianity had been addressed. It’s not possible or wise.

          Isn’t it more honest for people to continue to hold to their beliefs, while seeking to love others too? Even if it seems like a contradiction to you, I’ve seen it lived out well (though obviously not always).

          1. Hmm, I don’t know. I don’t not agree with you. I’d certainly rather have Christians seeking to love others and wrestle (like Jacob and the angel?) with contradictions than Christians who aren’t seeking to love others.

            But I guess when I faced that I dilemma personally, I eventually accepted that I couldn’t make sense of reality by viewing it through the lens of the Bible. Most logical conundrums went away, for me at least, when I concluded that religion is a human-made institution.

            1. And seriously, thanks for explaining where you’re coming from. The more stories and perspectives I collect, especially ones that are different from my own, the better I’m able to struggle well. That’s the goal. It’s going to be a lifelong process.

              1. You’re welcome. I admire what you’re doing, and I will try to do the same. Best of luck!

  6. I think you have a right to your own opinion, but I would just like to ask what exactly is “inappropriate” about gay relationships, in comparison to straight ones? Portrayals in the media do not confuse kids, in my view, kids don’t think like adults do, none of us are not born with our religious or political views inbuilt. The real negative effect of gay portrayal in the media, is the use stereotypes. My parents explained gay relationships to me and my sister at a young age with no confusion, the confusion comes when kids get older and see the role of homophobia in the world around them, and are faced with the choice of joining in with discrimination and bullying or standing up against it. I personally believe love is a gift from God and that it can appear in many different forms.

    I am gay and I’m a Christian, I don’t see any contradiction there, and the majority of Christians I know, across the sexuality spectrum, believe the same. Here in Ireland, this film is a non-issue, there is virtually no controversy surrounding this film (other than surround its outdated message about gender roles). I don’t want to be rude here but, have you ever thought about the shame and ridicule GLBT people have to deal with? And after all that, you say they don’t even deserve to feel the most human thing, love, because that’s a privilege only made for opposite gender couples? That is not the teaching of my god, love is love, and God is love.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I have friends who identify as gay and Christian and think the Bible agrees with their view (I disagree with their interpretation of the Bible, but I still love them). And I have friends who would instead say they’re same-sex attracted but interpret the Bible to say that sexual expression outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is not permitted, so they chose celibacy. It’s an incredibly complex and difficult topic with lots attached to it, and one I will probably continue to learn more about.

      If a Christian, like me, believes that the Bible teaches God’s design for sexual relations is only in marriage between a man and a woman, there are a lot of Hollywood movies besides Beauty and the Beast that they should be outraged about, that’s for sure. (Pick anything with pre- or extra-martial sex, for example.)

      I agree that God is love, I just don’t agree that saying that means you also have to say that all types of sexual relationships are therefore permitted. But in my follow-up post to this one, I challenged my conservative Christian friends (and myself) to think about what it really means to love others, not just go into random outrage rants. (https://themondayheretic.wordpress.com/2017/03/06/lefougate-part-two-a-christian-response/) I don’t think that completely addresses your concerns, because we do have a different way of interpreting what the Bible teaches, but I do think it’s important.

      Again, thank you for being respectful in your disagreement…that is rare and always appreciated.

      1. Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment. It is great to hear someone from the opposite perspective to mine express their opinion in a non hateful, non harmful way. Thanks, now I’ve seen more of your posts, I see you are eager to include multiple viewpoints, I think that’s great ☺

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s