The Problem With LeFou And The "Exclusively Gay Moment" In "Beauty and the Beast"
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The Problem With LeFou And The "Exclusively Gay Moment" In "Beauty and the Beast"

It's an issue with representation and the gay-for-pay problem.

The Problem With LeFou And The "Exclusively Gay Moment" In "Beauty and the Beast"

Since the director of the live-action "Beauty and the Beast," Bill Condon, made remarks to "Attitude" magazine that LeFou, the sidekick of villain Gaston, would have an “exclusively gay moment” in the film, reactions have been strong and varied.

A cinema in Alabama is refusing to screen the movie—you know, the one about a woman and a beast falling in love and dancing candlesticks—for the moment. Others are claiming that LeFou’s “gay moment” isn’t nearly explicit enough.

In his comments to "Attitude," Condon said this: “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.” He expanded on that, adding, “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

However, when asked about it, Josh Gad, the actor behind LeFou, said that there was no explicit mention of LeFou being gay in the script. Condon added, “I think (LeFou’s sexuality) has been a little overstated.”

So what exactly is this “exclusively gay”/not explicitly gay moment in the movie?

According to Zimbio, the moment comes at the end of the film when LeFou is seen dancing with one of Gaston’s henchmen, one who previously in the movie apparently enjoyed dressing as a woman. So the “exclusively gay” moment is a semi-closeted gay man dancing in the background with another villain, just one who likes to cross-dress.

In an interview with "ScreenCrush," Condon, when asked what he wanted the audience to do about the LeFou of it all, said, “To not make a big deal of it. Why is it a big deal?” Condon himself is an out, gay man.

There are about a million problems with this, so let’s try to do this semi-chronologically.

The first issue was with the characterization by media outlets of LeFou as Disney’s first out gay character. First of all, have you met Ursula? Second of all, Condon characterizes LeFou in his own words as someone who is “just realizing” these feelings, presumably about Gaston. Being “out” and “just realizing” are two very different beasts. Both are valid phases of any queer person’s life, but to equate one with the other is wrong. An out person has a confidence and self-assuredness about their sexuality; someone “just realizing” these things is in a messy state of life.

Secondly, if Zimbio’s reporting is factual, then this “exclusively gay” moment is cloudy at best. LeFou dancing with someone in the background who was previously dressed by a wardrobe in women’s clothing? That’s the watershed moment queer people get?

Thirdly, the primary relationship LeFou has in the movie is with Gaston, in the form of subservience. This gay man worships a brash, misogynistic, aggressive “alpha man.” He wants to “be” Gaston as much as he wants to “be with” Gaston, according to Condon.

So when people see this—a gay man at the hip of a straight man—it reinforces the negative stereotype that gay men’s primary objective is sex with a straight man. And it enforces the notion that as gay men, what we aspire to be, and who we are sexually attracted to, is the Straight Man. It’s replicated out in the presentation of gay characters on screen—they’re often played by straight actors who are lauded for being “brave.” In pornography, the idea of “gay for pay” places straight men as the center of attraction. It negates the power of femininity, of owning your sexuality, of being comfortable in yourself. Because the one thing we’re striving towards is the one thing we will never be, if you follow the LeFou-Gaston model.

Coding LeFou as attracted to Gaston reinforces the idea that gay men are after straight men, which increases the straight man’s fear of gay men. That fear leads to assault, verbal and physical, of gay men by straight men.

When I was coming out to a friend, he said to me, “As long as you don’t try anything with me, we’re good.” His acceptance of my sexuality was conditional on the false idea that as long as I was able to restrain my attraction to him, I was not a threat to him. I laughed when he said that, and answered, “I’m not attracted to you.” But that’s what he had been taught, and that’s what LeFou reinforces. That we as gay men are after straight men, that they are our primary objects of desire, and that our closeness with them doesn’t come out of genuine friendship but rather sexual predation.

I take issue with Condon’s wording with his last defense: “Why is it a big deal?” It’s a big deal because accurate representation is a big deal.

I remember being a kid and watching "The Little Mermaid" over and over again. I identified with Ariel because I thought Prince Eric was cute. And she thought he was cute, so obviously I was like her. But as a little boy identifying myself with Ariel, it enforces the idea that if the only people who can love men are women. And if I’m a man who loves men, then something is wrong. But imagine if I was growing up with someone out and gay in the movie. Someone who was fulfilled and smart and nuanced and depth-full, who had a romance worthy of him with another man. Imagine how affirming that would’ve been.

It’s a big deal because, on screen, queer people are relegated to sidekicks, so if LeFou is gay, then he is literally a sidekick. In representation, queer people are not worthy of full nuance. They are often driven by sexual desire or exist to further the plot of straight protagonists. They do not exist in their own right, but rather exist for the straight main characters.

It's a big deal because we don't have this, and perpetuating gay stereotypes doesn't mean anything but more negativity.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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