I’ve always been a Disney fan. I was raised on Disney movies. The Lion King is the first movie I can remember seeing in theatres. And I’ve been very, very excited about the live-action Beauty and the Beast that’s coming out this month. I mean, Emma Watson as Belle?! How could I not love it?!
But today I find myself very, very disappointed with Disney in light of recent events. Yesterday, Attitude Magazine revealed that Beauty and the Beast is set to make history with Disney’s first canonically gay character.
And at first I was like…
The idea of Disney having an actual, canon-endorsed gay character excited me to no end. Queer representation is so important, and the only place I’d kill to see a queer character more than in Disney is in the Harry Potter universe (hint hint, J.K. Rowling!).
But sigh, because my excitement was short-lived as I clicked on the Attitude article and it was revealed exactly who the gay character is…
Yep, you read that right. Gaston’s bumbling sidekick, best known for singing about no one is like Gaston. His obsession with his boss/friend/overlord kind of makes sense that he’s gay.
But while this makes sense, it’s extremely disappointing, and in many ways it feels like a cop-out from Disney, who are just now trying to queerbait and drum up some extra publicity for the film.
This was my reaction to reading the announcement:
Reaction across Twitter was swift: many people are also just as upset and angry and disappointed as I am.
And here’s why:
While I fully appreciate and embrace the idea of a queer Disney character, LeFou is not the best choice for that character. Yes, he’s obsessed with Gaston, but therein lies the problem. For its first canonically queer character, Disney has chosen someone who is in love with his straight companion. Gaston is a character designed to be a misogynistic prick, a typical ultra-macho, Type A heterosexual cisgender male. LeFou idolizes Gaston, as director Bill Condon says in the Attitude article: “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston”.
Yes, he’s gay and wants to kiss Gaston, cool! But Gaston will never love him back. So he’s being set up for heartbreak. But on top of that, LeFou is evil. He’s a bad guy, and as Ana Mardoll points out in her Twitter thread on this fiasco, LeFou is an active participant in Gaston’s schemes to pursue Belle, despite the fact that she wants nothing to do with him.
But what’s more, the Attitude article quotes the film’s director again talking about how LeFou is confused and unsure about what he wants. He promises “a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie”. BUT HOW?! Disney finally decides to have its first canonically queer character and it’s an evil, confused man who’s in love with literally the worst possible person who thinks of no one but himself!
I’m just so angry and hurt by this decision. Like…
Queer representation is so important, but it has to be taken seriously and done right. And while I haven’t seen the movie yet, I just have a really bad feeling about this based on LeFou and Gaston from the original animated film. This feels like queerbaiting, and nothing more. It’s Disney trying to give itself a pat on the back by saying there’s a gay character in the film.
I’m currently researching identity and representation in young adult novels with queer characters for my Major Research Essay for my Master’s, and I’ve looked at studies that talk about how important proper queer representation is, especially for youth in the process of figuring out their identity. It’s very possible, and even highly likely, that children and teens going to see Beauty and the Beast could be struggling with who they are. I should know, I wrestled with my sexual identity for over five years before I finally started coming out.
LGBTQ+ youth need to see realistic portrayals in the media. They need to be able to see characters they can relate to and see themselves in. Seeing flawed representations on screen likely won’t help anyone grappling with themselves, especially when that identity is portrayed through a confused, malicious character whose feelings likely won’t ever be reciprocated by the object of his desire.
Like, if they really, really wanted to include some legitimate queer representation, why not go with Lumiere and Cogsworth?! Fans have shipped them for years anyway and they bicker like an old married couple. AND, Cogsworth is played my literal gay wizard Ian McKellen in the new film! Just imagine, at the end of the movie when all the objects are human again, and Lumiere and Cogsworth confess their feelings for each other and it’s just so cute and perfect and gay. HOW MUCH MORE DIRECTION DO YOU NEED HERE, DISNEY?!
In all seriousness, I just can’t even fully explain how upset I am. This just feels like such a betrayal from Disney. I will still go see Beauty and the Beast because it is one of my favourites, and I love Emma Watson, but I’m still so hurt by this.