Beauty and the Gay Best Friend
Church leaders in Singapore have made headlines recently for warning against the homosexual content of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. IndigNation Queer Film Festival's Muslim Sahib caught it in cinemas this week and reports on the furor for CINEMQ.
Luke Evans and Josh Gad as Gaston and Le Fou in Beauty and the Beast (Disney)
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers.
“It is needful that you alert your congregation about the homosexual content in Disney’s re-make of Beauty and the Beast...” This was part of a statement the President of the National Council of Churches Singapore (NCCS) made to pastors and church leaders on March 12th. Rev. Rennis Ponniah warned against the gay agenda, and showed deep concern over LGBT representation in the movie and called for children to be protected.
Such statements from religious groups are not surprising anymore, but expected. But is such are action warranted? Beauty and the Beast was given a PG (Parental Guidance) rating with advice for mild portrayals of violence. Interestingly enough, the rating issued by InfocommMedia Development Authority (IMDA) did not include advice on homosexual themes for the movie. Across the causeway, Disney has pulled the movie from distribution after a request was made by Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board to cut the “gay moment” from the film. What is this "gay moment" that has been creating all this hype? I went to see the movie over the weekend, armed with my nachos and large ice lemon tea, prepared to catch that gay white elephant.
You know the Disney magic has begun as soon as you hear the fluttering of a flute and a pretty cartoon girl singing— Little town, it's a quiet village
Every day like the one before
Little town, full of little people
Waking up to say…
The opening number was grand in scale and choreography, the synergy between music and movement magical. It’s here we meet Gaston, the suave bad guy, and his best friend, LeFou. And in just a few short few seconds, I can tell LeFou is LeQueer. From his mannerisms to his clear affection for Gaston, he reads like a queen. And that was it. Actor Josh Gad has a nuance to his gayness, and by the end of the film, LeFou was a fully fleshed-out gay character. There was nothing else. Disney claimed this “gay moment” was at the end of the film, but I had a hard time finding it. The closest I could see was an earlier scene where LeFou and another man accidentally bump into each other while dancing and exchange a smile. To the trained eye it read queer, but really it looks more like a comedy of errors than a “gay moment."
Statement from Bishop Rennis Ponniah, 12 March 2017
I have submitted many different gay-themed films to IMDA for ratings as part of my work with IndigNation Queer Film Festival in Singapore. Some received an M18 rating, others an R21 and even limits on the number of screenings allowed. These films range from documentaries about gay life to films with more explicit sexuality. From my experience, Beauty and the Beast deserved its PG rating.
If the “gay moment” is so mild as to be non-existent,what then does LeFou represent? He is a gay man who falls in love with a straight man. He does everything for him. He goes as far as to be complicit in Gaston’s scheme to kill the Beast. I have been in LeFou's shoes, as have so many others. The things that we do for the men we love, even though they won’t love us back. LeFou is lucky…he realises that he deserves someone better when Gaston leaves him for dead during a battle at the castle. Many of us are not so lucky. It is too early to know the impact of LeFou. Beauty and the Beast has already made big money for Disney, but perhaps it will need to reach Frozen's success before we can see if it will shape ideology. Does Disney really want to join the fight for the everyday queer person? Whether the "gay moment" was an artistic choice, a publicity move or a genuine desire for progress, the queer community and others are paying attention. We are just like Belle, the heroine of the movie; a most peculiar mademoiselle who sings and wonders what a wider, more open minded world might offer —
There must be more than this provincial life!
Editors note: Since writing, Malaysia has chosen to screen Beauty and the Beast uncut in cinemas.
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