When it Comes to Gay Visibility “Beauty and the Beast” is Downright Ugly

12 June 2017 by , 1 Comment

Now that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is out on iTunes, I finally got a chance to see the live action remake of the animated classic. Before the movie came out, much fuss was made over the fact that director Bill Condon let slip that the remake would have Disney’s first out LGBT character and would even feature a gay “moment.”

Yeah, not so much on either score. “Moment” is all we got in the “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” split second when LeFou accidentally dances with another man at the very end of the movie. Sorry, Bill, it’s 2017, not 1997.
While that’s the movie’s only explicit gay moment, Beast has plenty of other coded gay content, but unfortunately it is all either horribly stereotypical or outright homophobic.

Coded gay villains are about as old as movies themselves, and Disney’s been as guilty as anyone of using them to scare audiences. Captain Ratcliffe in Pocahontas, Scar in The Lion King, Ursula in The Little Mermaid, and Jafar in Aladdin (to name a few) all trade in gay stereotypes to make the audience dislike the big baddies even more. These characters are all butch, effeminate, or flamboyant to different degrees, and it’s always done to make them seem even more evil.

Ironically, not having a coded gay villain is perhaps the one thing Disney gets right in Beast. Here the villain is Gaston, a super macho, self-absorbed straight guy.

Yay, I guess.

And yet the lack of a gay villain doesn’t keep the film from using gay stereotypes to make audiences intensely dislike another character — the Prince whom Belle eventually falls in love with. At the beginning of the film, the Prince is a self-absorbed, mean twit who turns an old woman out into a raging storm while he’s throwing a fabulous party at his castle.  In other words, definitely not a good guy the audience likes.

How is the Prince portrayed at this point in the movie?

He’s flamboyant, effeminate, and bitchy. He’s also at a costume ball and wearing more makeup than a drag queen. Because, you know, ewwww.

These are all things contemporary Americans pretty much universally understand to be bad. Note, I am definitely not saying being effeminate or wearing makeup is any way bad. There isn’t a thing in the world wrong with it, IMHO. But in American society, these are not valued traits. In fact, they can still get you beaten up. And the movie in no way subverts these stereotypes as being something good. Nope, these are standard, tired movie cliches.
So how is the Prince portrayed at the end of the movie after Belle’s love has saved him?
He’s pretty much conventionally masculine. Well, as much one can be while wearing the French fashion at the time.
So the cinematic shorthand in Beast is that effeminate and gay equals bad, while masculine and straight equals good. Great message for a young, effeminate gay kid seeing Beauty and the Beast to go home with.

If you don’t think I’ve got a point, try this thought experiment. Imagine that at the start of the movie, when the Prince is a terrible person who deserves to be cursed, he is portrayed dressed normally and behaving in conventionally masculine ways. Now imagine that after Belle’s love has transformed him from the Beast back into human form, he is wearing make up, dressed flamboyantly, and acting effeminately.

Yep, that would never happen.
Making all of this even worse is that director Bill Condon is gay himself. How he didn’t see what he was doing is beyond me.
The movie also missed opportunities to show that the world of Beauty and the Beast included LGBT people in other ways. In numerous scenes, the village is full of people. Why couldn’t we have seen a lesbian couple living together? Or how about at the dance at the end of the movie where dozens of couples dance together. Except for the brief moment LeFou dances with another man, it’s all straight couples when it would have been incredibly easy to have a gay couple. (And don’t even get me started on what a cliche LeFou is. Let’s just note his character is the only one that the promotional materials show as being fabulously flamboyant.)

Some people might argue that the movie is only about Belle and the Beast, and their falling in love. And that would be true except for one thing: at the end of the movie when the servants are all transformed back into real people, they are all reunited with their love interests. Yup, all of the secondary characters get to be in relationships except LeFou. Because the value of heterosexual love is to be reinforced at every moment, while gay love is still way too much the love that dare not speak it’s name.

Great message for that little gay kid in the audience. And for this I’m supposed to be thankful, Disney?

Thanks, but no thanks.

One Response to “When it Comes to Gay Visibility “Beauty and the Beast” is Downright Ugly”

  1. JemGirl 26 June 2017 at 4:26 am #

    Ok, I will say that I was disappointed with what they were whispering about for so long. In fact, I was willing to say that we were lied to about there being someone gay or even a gay moment in the movie.

    But then I thought it was LeFou who got hung up on Gaston and even through what he felt for him, he would help put and end to what Gaston wanted done with Belle and Beast.

    I was indeed disappointed when he didn’t do a bit more a little sooner. But I understand that they could only do so much to keep it inline with the first animated version.

    As for the end of the movie when he danced with the other guy, I didn’t see it as an accident. And for how the movie started, I considered it very period.

    He was a self absorbed prince. They had parties. This is what their parties looked liked most of the time. And of course he changed in the end. The whole point was that the prince changed.

    I don’t see either state as being exclusively gay or straight.

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