Disney Tries On “Gay” in Beauty and the Beast
By now, you’ve probably heard that the upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast will feature Disney’s first openly gay character. While that’s a great step forward for representation in mainstream cinema, it’s an imperfect gesture that comes across as more cynical than heartfelt.
It was revealed this week that the character of LeFou in Disney’s remake of Beauty and the Beast will take part in what director Bill Condon called an “exclusively gay moment.” Excitement stirred around the potential for the first gay character in the Disney canon. However, this moment isn’t quite what you’d expect. According to viewers of advance screenings, LeFou dances with a man for a split second. That’s the scene.
As Vulture’s Jackson McHenry writes in his analysis of the scene, “Disney can pat itself on its back all it wants for turning a villainous buffoon that was coded as gay in the original film into a morally ambiguous buffoon who is more obviously gay, confides in a teapot, and tries out dancing with a man.”
So, not great execution on the moment. Even more troubling is the casting decision for LeFou. He’s played by Josh Gad, who, to be fair, is a talented comic actor. Gad, however, is not a member of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s important to give screen time to non-heteronormative characters, but it’s also crucial that the actors that play them can at least identify with the struggles that those characters would face.
It also doesn’t help that LeFou isn’t actually gay in the script for the movie. That’s right—Josh Gad revealed after news of the “gay moment” that his character wasn’t written the way director Condon hyped it up to be.
Representation matters and Disney is at least trying to take steps toward better diversity in their movies. They shouldn’t be so self-congratulatory, though. LeFou is hardly a role model, and the casting of Josh Gad is lackluster. Hopefully next time, Disney might not make so many mistakes.