Disney’s recent live-action remakes have been impressive to say the least, and diving deep into their own well has allowed them to re-tell classics in interesting new ways. Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella was a tale of kindness in the face of abusive cirumstance, and Bill Condon’s upcoming Beauty and the Beast hopes to do at least a couple of things differently, starting with a small but significant step for queer representation.
While speaking to Attitude Magazine, Condon commented on the following clip released by Disney, in which Josh Gad’s LeFou sings his memorable Gaston verse:
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” reveals Condon.
“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.”
Reactions to the news have been all over the place. Even folks within the gay community are split on what we know about the portrayal thus far for a multitude of reasons, be it Gad’s role as sidekick/comic relief, or the minefield that is the canon of what counts as “explicit” or “open” queer characters when it comes to this being a "first," something one can’t always pin down as an absolute given our history of queer artists who couldn’t always tell their stories the way they wanted.
We’ll talk about this in more detail as the film draws near and we learn more about LeFou (who, if you listen to his song in the ’92 original, isn’t exactly a far cry away from this “change”), but in the meantime, hopefully people can give Condon the benefit of doubt and trust that an openly gay storyteller might approach this moment in a way that he sees fit, and with the care it deserves. The decision was made in tribute to Howard Ashman, who won a posthumous Oscar for the original’s lyrics after his battle with AIDS, a battle that Condon says Ashman saw reflected in the Beast being ostracized from Belle’s village.
At the risk of sounding patronizing: progress is slow on such a front. In the meantime, there’s always room for debate on definitions, portrayals and readings of characters as we help guide it along, and these discussions tend to be fruitful here on Birth.Movies.Death., but do keep in mind that the film hasn’t even premiered yet. Once it has, and people have had a chance to watch the film when it opens in two weeks, unpacking this topic is going to be a whole lot easier, not to mention a whole lot more comprehensive.
With that in mind, feel free to sound off with your thoughts below. Just don’t exhaust yourself before we delve into the topic in more detail!