Disney’s remake of “Beauty and the Beast” was a box office smash hit, earning the seventh spot on the list of biggest domestic box office launches in history. The movie is expected to surpass the earnings of the original and become one of Disney’s highest-grossing movies.
All of these achievements have taken place despite the protest and backlash from more conservative groups in regard to the openly-gay character. Personally, I have seen the movie three times and have not yet been appalled by the blink-or-you’ll-miss-it “gay moments.” These moments are centered around Gaston’s goofy sidekick LeFou.
Disney’s subtle gay moments in “Beauty and the Beast” actually work very well. Instead of making a new movie with a gay focus, Disney has made their gay characters just a part of reality. No one mentions them, and they aren’t singled out; they simply exist.
I believe this is the best treatment Disney could offer the LGBTQ community, allowing them to simply exist in society without being the forefront of the plot. The best gay scene in the movie was probably when Madame de Garderobe (in wardrobe form) dresses three of the town’s men as women, with one of them obviously smiling and twirling while the other two run away.
As the viewer watches the now-happy man twirl away in his dress, Madame de Garderobe sings “be free, go now, be free.” Although this is not the gay moment that has drawn the backlash, this moment perfectly summarizes Disney’s view of the LGBTQ community: They should be allowed to exist as regular citizens within the societies of their movies.
Many religious families and groups have deemed the movie inappropriate and are protesting the inclusion of a gay character — because in a movie about magic and falling in love with a beast, the line is drawn at a few tiny “gay moments” that no child would even pick up on.
The inclusion of the LGBTQ community should not come as a surprise considering in 1998, it was reported 40 percent of Disney’s workers identified in the LGBTQ community. Almost 20 years later, we can only imagine the percent of LGBTQ workers has skyrocketed. Disney’s TV show, “Good Luck Charlie,” introduced lesbian parents during the show’s final season in 2014.
There has been a lot of speculation about past Disney characters outside of LeFou. These include Timon and Pumba in “The Lion King,” Ken in “Toy Story 3,” Governor Ratcliffe in “Pocahontas” and Hades in “Hercules” (he obviously is flaming). The most prominent may be Pleakley from “Lilo and Stich,” who is constantly crossdressing throughout the movie and TV series. They’re more of the obvious characters, but LGBTQ characters have popped up in Disney movies from the start.
Disney has proved over and over again that it is not afraid of a political statement. I believe “Beauty and the Beast” is just the start of a more politically-transparent Disney. I suspect we will be seeing more diverse characters and more LGBTQ inclusion in coming productions, both on big and small levels.