Disney’s latest live-action reboot of the animated classic Beauty and the Beast started out as one of the year’s most highly anticipated family films. Sadly, it quickly devolved into a battleground over gay rights and the role children’s movies should have in pressing that issue after director Bill Condon—who did an excellent job with the film—told reporters that there was an “exclusively gay moment” with the character LeFou. Whether that comment was a slip of the tongue or a deliberate attempt to play up the prominence of that “moment,” it’s led many to swear off the film before ever finding out what actually happened.
That’s unfortunate. as the movie maintains the original’s important, and biblical, message of looking beyond a person’s outward appearance before judging his character (1 Samuel 16:7). In a world where people feel increasingly justified in assuming that they know all they need to know based on one facet of a person’s life—whether that be her faith, sexual orientation, income, etc.—it’s even more important now than when the animated version was released in 1991 for kids and parents alike to remember that there’s often more to people than what’s given by a first impression.
To that end, the new version adds a considerable amount to the backstories of both Belle and the Beast that helps to explain how each developed into the people they are in the film. For the Beast, especially, it makes it much easier to understand his initial fall and adds a greater sense of appreciation when he’s finally able to find redemption.
Beyond those backstories, however, there really wasn’t much of a change from the original, and that includes how LeFou—the film’s gay character—was depicted in his interaction with Gaston. After having seen the movie, I’m still not sure to what scene Condon referred. The closest was actually when LeFou and another male character (not Gaston) bump into each other on the dance floor for a moment before the camera pans away. That scene would have likely gone unnoticed—or quickly forgotten—if you weren’t looking to assign some greater meaning to it.
For the most part, LeFou is simply portrayed as a confused and weak individual who latches on to the coattails of someone he wishes to be like. If your child is alert and mature enough to make a judgment about LeFou’s sexual orientation from how he is depicted in this film, without being predisposed to look for it by what was said about him before entering the theater, then chances are that he or she is also mature enough to have the conversation that would follow. As the issue of homosexuality in our culture is not something that we can protect our kids from, perhaps it’s not the worst thing if it comes up naturally on the car ride home rather than because he or she was told that anyone who agrees with a biblical view on homosexual activity is a bigot.
Ultimately, the new Beauty and the Beast is a beautiful and entertaining film that maintains all the charm of the original while making the characters even more relatable. Because it’s live action, some of the scenes—such as those with the wolves—are more intense than the animated version and it might not be suitable for as young of an audience. That, rather than the “gay moment,” is why my wife and I are going to wait until our daughter is older to show her this film.
Whether or not your child is mature enough to see it is a decision that only you can make, but I wouldn’t let LeFou’s sexual orientation be a deciding factor. The film’s other, and far more prominent, message is too important to be drowned out by a director’s off-handed remark. So pray about it and ask the Lord to let you know what’s right for your family and to help you prepare for whatever conversations may follow. And know that those conversations are going to happen whether you see Beauty and the Beast or not. Will you be ready when they do?