Walt Disney Studios' live-action re-telling of Beauty and the Beast is one of the most anticipated films of 2017. Fans have spent the better part of two years anxiously awaiting the film, which hits to theaters this month. The costumes, singing, and cinematography seen in the trailers have people at the edge of their seats. But it seems there's much more to this version of the 1740 French fairytale than gorgeous visuals. On Wednesday, news broke that the live-action Beauty and the Beast will feature Disney's first gay character. While on the surface the move is great, it's also left some fans disappointed.
In an interview with Attitude magazine, director Bill Condon revealed that LeFou, Gaston's sidekick, is gay in the new film, according to BuzzFeed. Condon told the British publication that LeFou, played by former Daily Show correspondent Josh Gad, is
somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston ... He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just [realizing] 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.
Many fans of Beauty and the Beast have praised Condon's decision to make LeFou gay, BuzzFeed reported. After all, LeFou will make movie history as Disney's first gay character in 80 years, and hopefully that will pave the way for more LGBTQ characters in future films. Not just as supporting characters, but in main roles as well. (Side note: it has been argued that the shopkeeper in Frozen, also starring Josh Gad, was Disney's first gay character — just not explicitly.)
Fans have taken to Twitter to show their support of Disney's decision. Many people were overjoyed to have a gay character finally represented in a Disney film.
But there's also a lot to unpack in Condon's decision. First, the A.V. Club noted Condon seems to have taken "the subtext in LeFou and Gaston’s relationship, and address[ed] it head on." As writer Ana Mardoll posted on Twitter, the decision to make LeFou gay is no means a stretch for a studio that "has had queer-coded villains in many movies."
Second, Mardoll continued, Disney could have made a real show of inclusivity by choosing to make either Gaston or Cogsworth gay. In the live-action film, these characters are played by openly gay actors — Luke Evans and Sir Ian McKellen, respectively. So the alleged subtly of LeFou's sexuality is not progress, because it would not show "explicit queerness," she wrote.
Other Beauty and the Beast fans on Twitter shared Mardoll's feelings about Disney's decision. Some critics derided the studio for choosing a "bumbling fool" to represent the LGBTQ community. Romper has reached out to Walt Disney Studios for a comment on the criticism.
Of course, Disney has been criticized by fans before for tired stereotypes of race, sex, gender, and sexuality. But in the last few years, the studio has made significant strides to become more diverse and inclusive in its films, according to Vanity Fair. Granted, those efforts haven't always been perfect. Hopefully, though, these gaffes will serve as lessons to Disney to create meaningful, well-developed, and diverse characters rather than pursuing inclusivity for inclusivity's sake.