Those Who Object to Le Fou Are Fou!
I took my kids, then 6 and 11, to see “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway in 1994. Terrence Mann played the beast. It was a great musical with a good message. I don’t remember any homosexual overtones, except that one of its creators Howard Ashman died of AIDS, the same year of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast.”
Today, I went to the movie, No. 1 at the box office, and was looking for overtly gay themes that were thought to be scandalous enough to pull the film from a lineup at an Alabama theatre and shelved in Kuwait and Malaysia. Ultra-conservative religious organization such as the American Family Association) are criticizing the movie, reporting that it is “pushing a gay agenda.”
What gay agenda? In the April issue of Attitude, director Bill Condon confirmed that LeFou is Disney’s first openly gay character. LeFou, who has been to war with the narcissitic Gaston (whose name Le Fou can’t spell because LeFou admits he’s illiterate). Riding side-by-side on horseback as Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou jokes that why would Gaston want to marry the town’s pretty girl, Belle, when Gaston can have him instead? It’s a double-entendre that would go over most cisgender childrens’ heads. LeFou is a loyal friend, if somewhat clingy, to despicable Gaston. He admires Gaston, but is it a crush?
Says Director Condon, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston, (handsome and fearless,) and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings.” If you want a gay stereotype in Beauty and the Beast, look at Stanley Tucci, who is turned into one of the three cross-dressers by the wardrobe in the castle. Condon's inclusion of a gay character may have also been a homage to Alan Menken's collaborative lyricist Howard Ashman.
LeFou’s sexual orientation is so subtle in the movie that it’s hardly worth getting upset about. In the final scene of about a minute- and –a-half the former beast, now returned to his princely status, is dancing with Belle in the ballroom with all the town’s people. During this time, LeFou (actor Josh Gad) kisses another man.
Big deal! If children don’t know personally gay people, they must know of them through television, if nothing else. The under -30 set seem to “get it,” according to Pew Research. They are the ones who approve of gay marriage, gay relationships. It’s the older generation and ultra-right who make a fuss when the arts try to reflect modern values, even if it is Disney! Whose “fou,” French for crazy?