A tale as old as time that still gives us headaches to this day.
There are some things in this life that are certain, things that we cannot escape no matter how hard we try. Benjamin Franklin once said the two certain things would always be there for us would be death and taxes. However, we see that other things like movie reboots are becoming a mainstay of popular culture and our lives as we see films and other intellectual properties become remade for the younger audience. But with any reboot, either for the intent purposes for telling the younger generation a familiar story or a pointless cash grab, controversy can be found with its production. We have seen this films such as the female led Ghostbusters reboot that led to online protests and spikes in hate speech, primarily targeted at Leslie Jones, the director and producers of the film for what many people consider to be ‘the death of their childhood’.
Today, let’s talk about Disney’s inevitable live action reboot of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ which comes out this month on March 16th 2017. Bill Condon, the director of the film has stated in an interview with Attitude magazine that one of the subplots of the movie will be about LeFou (Gaston’s right hand man and supporter played by Josh Gad) will be gay in the film and has to come to terms with his love for the musclebound, egotistical Gaston who has his eyes on Belle (played by Emma Watson). The announcement of this inclusion has caused controversy on the right which has led to a southern cinema in the United States to bar the film for promoting an homosexual views and standing in the way of Christian morals, while Russia considering banning the film for promoting homosexual propaganda. However, it has also caused controversy on the left for not being inclusive enough with people asking the question “Why not make Beauty and the Beast gay with a male Beast and a male Beauty?”
As a bisexual male in his twenties, I have to ask the important question: Why can’t we just enjoy a movie with it becoming incredibly political? I realize by saying this, I sound like one of those apolitical people who would just want to ignore the issues at hand. But having a debate over the decision to make a pre-existing fictional character’s character arc focusing on sexuality going to the extremes of banning a film on that premise alone is incredibly backwards minded and incredibly stupid. This is not the first film to be banned in a country or taken out of theaters for its content and ideas. We have seen Farewell My Concubine banned in China for its homosexual content until it received enough rewards that the government decided to look the other way and we have seen Monty Python’s Life of Brian banned in the United States at one point for its controversial views of Christianity.
As time goes on, movies are going to continue to be progressive and forward thinking. Ethnic minorities and LGBT+ individuals are going to be represented in film in growing roles, they will be put in people’s faces, whether they like or not, and a message will ring out. It is a message that proudly proclaims that cinema will not return to the days of harsh stereotypes that were used as blanketing ideas for entire communities. The film industry is and always be the one that pushes the envelope of progressive ideas and will be the ones who help start conversations, whether for better or worse. Is Hollywood perfect? Hell no, they are far from it. There are still problems with under-representation of minorities and women as the protagonist in films and award show judges are still being bribed to support certain films. But a silver lining is that Hollywood is learning to change.
Is everyone going to accept this? Probably not. Countries are still going to ban films based on their content, whether they are too violent or have controversial ideas, people are going to speak out against films that have viewpoints that oppose theirs and reboots are still going to be made. As nihilistic as this sounds, it is not pointless nor is it the end. People can still continue to talk about films and their ideas. The idea that banning a film will keep people quiet or ignorant is wrong, if anything it brings more attention to it.
As for people who are complaining about making ‘Beauty and the Beast’ with gay leading characters, realize that the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is in the public domain. This means that anyone can make their own variant story of the original, which we have seen over the years which ranges from the Disney movie that most people are familiar with to a 1978 television show featuring Ron ‘Bad-ass’ Perlman. Will such a film get as much attention as a Disney film? No, but it can leave an impression. Even the most obscure movies can inspire people and help them in their daily lives.
So, what are the final thoughts about the controversy of Disney’s life action remake of ‘Beauty and the Beast’? Personally, I think that the change in LeFou’s character does not warrant the vile reaction that people give it. If you watch the original, LeFou’s adoration of Gaston goes past an admirer or even a yes man. He praises him over anything such as his hunting to the size of his neck. Gaston throughout the film has shown to be narcissistic, egotistical and abusive as he only cares about himself, seeing Belle as a human trophy with the only purpose is to be his housewife and mother to six boys while LeFou is his punching bag. LeFou even waits in the freezing winter after being threatened by Gaston for Belle’s return despite the inherent danger. That goes beyond adoration and leans into psychotic obsession. While he does glance at the three blonde women during the opening song, he does not try to pursue them, focusing only on Gaston. This could suggest that LeFou is bisexual and the apple of his eye is Gaston.
Regardless, I still plan on seeing the movie with my coworkers when it comes out in China on March 17th. Here’s hoping this movie will go better than The Great Wall.