Fans of extremely hairy men, spooky enchanted castles and highly catchy songs, it’s time to rejoice because the live-action version of the classic 1991 animated movie Beauty And The Beast hits cinemas today. The film is notable not just for the fact that Emma Thompson has replaced the iconic Angela Lansbury as cursed teapot Mrs Potts, while Ewan McGregor plays a French candelabra, but that it features the first-ever openly gay Disney character. Josh Gad plays LeFou, who it transpires is in love with Luke Evans’ Gaston, who in turn is after Emma Watson’s Belle, who in the end – big old spoiler alert – gets off with the giant beast who’s keeping her prisoner. It’s a Stockholm syndrome-esque storyline that probably warrants more of an investigation than the appearance of a lone gay dude who fancies his annoying mate.
The revelation about LeFou, who the filmmakers say shares an “exclusively gay moment” with Gaston, hasn’t best pleased the powers that be in Russia. The country has banned anyone under the age of 16 from seeing it, which is kind of weird as it’s a kids’ film. A Russian MP by the name of Vitaly Milonov has accused the movie of pushing a “shameless propaganda of sin”. Oh, do calm down, Vitaly. Surely you’ve got better things to be doing with your time?
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of joyless bigots have signed a petition vowing to boycott the film, and a drive-in cinema in Alabama with Christian ownership has also said that it will not be showing it. The owners have stated that punters should be “free to come watch wholesome movies without worrying about sex, nudity, homosexuality and foul language” – in other words, minus all the very best things about a night at the movies.
Disney finally including an openly gay character has been a long time coming, but the company has been hinting at the LGBTQ status of their characters for years, from The Little Mermaid’s Ursula, who was inspired by drag genius Divine, to Elsa in Frozen, a film many saw as a metaphor for coming out. Last year a petition to #GiveElsaAGirlfriend for Frozen 2 was started – something I’m much more behind than the Beauty And The Beast boycott. “I think it’s great,” said Elsa’s voice actor Idina Menzel of the campaign. “Disney’s just gotta contend with that. I’ll let them figure that out.” What we need now isn’t just more openly gay characters in Disney films, but openly gay lead characters. Frozen 2 is due for release in 2019 – here’s to Elsa being out and proud by then.