First, a quick check-in. Are we still excited about Beauty And The Beast, or beaten down by unending press stories about it, or both? Assuming it’s the latter, today’s is more than just the average story; director Bill Condon announced that the character 'Lefou' will be revealed to be gay. I originally wrote the character would be ‘openly gay’, but deleted that because I think some of the language used in the quote means the character’s figuring it out in the moment, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as ‘out and proud’. Which, in itself, is kind of cool.
Any way you slice it, this is a big, big deal. Disney has never had a gay character before, despite the campaigns to #giveElsaagirlfriend. Given what a huge movie this is poised to be, the fact that it’s 2017, and that in different contexts and interviews, the stars have talked about how Belle and the Beast are both persecuted for being openly ‘different’, there’s no doubt that the messaging here is going to be really positive overall.
My first reaction when I read this story was that I wished it were a different character – I had assumed it was one of the people-slash-objects in the Beast’s house. That has its own problems, of course (for another article, let’s talk about the etymology of ‘objectifying’, HA), but I did raise my eyebrows a little bit at the idea of the first gay character being named ‘Le Fou’.
The technical translation of the name, Google tells me, is ‘the fool’, but ‘fou’ in French also means ‘crazy’ when it’s on its own. To have that name, combined with Josh Gad’s goofy nature, and the fact that the character is a Gaston stan… I feel like maybe the first gay character isn’t necessarily someone all the kids will want to be like. I wish there was a little ‘aspirational’ in the character… though I say that not actually having seen the movie yet.
Sarah had a slightly different take, thinking that if LeFou has a crush on the untouchable Gaston, he’s like everyone who’s ever had a crush on someone unattainable—I guess, in that context, LeFou becomes totally relatable, especially since the director nods to a payoff at the end that’s an ‘exclusively gay’ moment.
I’m of two minds. Obviously this is great, especially for a movie that is (born of, anyway) a ‘children’s’ picture, and especially since we’re giving the character more development and more nuance than he had in the original. But I hope we don’t have to ‘wait and see how this goes’ before we hear about the next gay character in a Disney movie. I want to hear that there will be not just one more, but several more LGBTQ characters in the works, and that they are leads, not just tertiary characters. It’s a big jump… but at the same time, we’re here. Moonlight did win Best Picture. It’s not at all a lot to ask.