Gay LeFou isn’t very progressive
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There’s been a kerfuffle over Disney’s latest nostalgia-based cash grab, “Beauty and the Beast.” The character LeFou is the first gay character in Disney’s history, at least according director Bill Cordon when speaking to gay magazine Attitude.
But not really because, also according to Cordon, everything is being “overblown.” However, the movie is still apparently too gay for Alabama, Malaysia and Russia. Full disclosure, as of writing this, I have not seen the movie because it is not yet released, but neither has everyone else complaining about it.
It also doesn’t change the fact that if LeFou is gay, then he’s simply a repeat of an old “Simpsons” and “30 Rock” joke. That of the gay henchman serving the amoral and far more masculine straight guy out of some twisted form of devotion.
That’s not progress, and Disney can do better because it’s 20-freaking-17.
Sure, it sounds weird to be saying that a gay Disney character isn’t progress. After all, don’t those darn gays want every movie to be gay? “Moonlight” won best picture, aren’t they happy? Well, that’s all kind of the point.
It’s 2017. A story about a gay black man won best picture. Heck, even anime, that medium of Saturday morning cartoon fodder, is doing better than Disney in this category. No, really. One of the biggest hits from last season was “Yuri on Ice,” a whole anime centered on a romance between two male figure skaters.
When the streaming service Crunchyroll held its first-ever Anime Awards, which to be clear was a corporately sponsored popularity contest, “Yuri on Ice” won every category it was nominated in, as well as best overall anime.
But Academy Award voters and anime fans are a tiny niche, so who cares if they like gay-centric stories? And sure, that may be a good point, but I know Disney can do better because I’ve seen them do better.
In addition to the obvious Disney Channel, Disney also owns ABC and Freeform, which have some of the most gay-friendly programing on TV.
ABC and Freeform excel at trying to have LGBTQ people on the air between “Modern Family,” “The Real O’Neil’s,” “Shadowhunters,” “Once Upon a Time” and the Shonda Rhimes-produced TGIT lineup of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”
The LGBTQ characters often play major roles, with “The Real O’Neil’s” even having a gay protagonist. On top of all that, ABC recently aired the miniseries “When We Rise” about the early days of the gay rights movement.
Now, to be fair, Disney is an empire, and it can’t be assumed that all of its money-making tendrils are even really aware of the others’ existence. So, just because a massive company is good at doing something on TV, doesn’t mean the same should be expected from its films. Except, once again, it’s 2017.
I apologize for sounding like a broken record on that, but this whole kerfuffle is basically an anachronism.
It feels like a scandal from 20 years ago, when it was a total shock that Ellen DeGeneres’ self-named character on Ellen came out as a lesbian and now that show’s in its 14th season. I expect more from Disney and Hollywood because I know more is attainable. We don’t have to settle for LeFou when we could get a lesbian fairy tale.
The point of the push for diversity in media isn’t just for numbers. It’s also about the kind of representation there is. LeFou is a joke, and whatever Bill Condon’s noble intentions, his homosexuality will be a joke. I simply want and demand better because I know it’s possible. It is 2017. There are no more excuses at this point.