Backlash over Beauty and the Beast‘s inclusion of a gay character is apparently not limited to the U.S. According to BBC, Russia is considering banning the new Disney live-action movie to prohibit the spreading of “gay propaganda” among minors.
The gay character in question is LeFou, a secondary antagonist in Beauty and the Beast and a sidekick of Gaston, the movie’s primary villain. While LeFou was not explicitly portrayed as gay in the animated original, in the live-action version, his rapport with Gaston is interpreted as being more than platonic. The decision to cast LeFou’s feelings towards Gaston in a more amorous light has (perhaps unwittingly) provoked the ire of Russia, currently one of the places where LGBTQIA people face legal challenges and social discrimination.
Beauty and the Beast was originally scheduled to premiere in Russia on March 16. Its fate now seems less certain, as the Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has announced that they will make a formal decision on whether or not the movie would be allowed into Russia after they’ve seen the movie themselves.
“As soon as we get a copy of the film with relevant paperwork for distribution, we will consider it according to the law.”
Vitaly Milonov, an MP of the governing United Russia party, says that if the screening of the movie revealed that Beauty and the Beast contained elements that went against Russia’s anti-gay law, an all-out ban of the movie might be implemented. In 2013, Russia passed a law that severely limited the rights of LGBTQIA people and outlawed the dissemination of any information regarding homosexuality.
The “objectionable” qualities of Beauty and the Beast was first brought to attention in Russia by lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, who appealed to the Culture Minister in a letter that denounced the movie’s portrayal of the relationship between Gaston and his lackey LeFou. According to The Daily Beast, Milonov urged the minister to make further investigations to ensure that the Disney live-action movie conformed to Russia’s law against “homosexual propaganda.” If not, Milonov says, the movie should be banned.
In the U.S., the inclusion of a gay character in a Disney movie has been met with mixed reactions. While some applaud Disney for finally allowing LGBTQIA representation in their movies, others have been far less adulatory. The New York Times has reported that Henagar Drive-In, a drive-in movie theater in Alabama, won’t be showing Beauty and the Beast because the movie was, according to the owners, at odds with their religious beliefs.
Opposers of Beauty and the Beast‘s inclusion of a gay character may be surprised to find that the movie only alludes to same-sex attraction in ways so subtle that the viewers might have missed it if they hadn’t been informed of this subplot in the first place. In an interview with Attitude, the director Bill Condon describes a certain scene that serves as enlightening for the viewer in regard to LeFou’s sexuality.
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realising 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.”
Later, in an interview with Screen Crush, the director qualified his statements by saying that the gay moment in the film has been overblown.
“Oh God. Can I just tell you? It’s all been overblown. Because it’s just this, it’s part of just what we had fun with. You saw the movie, yeah? You know what I mean. I feel like the kind of thing has been, I wish it were – I love the way it plays pure when people don’t know and it comes as a nice surprise.”
For those wondering what exactly is the gay moment in Beauty and the Beast, it turns out that the moment actually happens near the end of the movie. It is not a grand declaration of love nor a scene of physical intimacy, but is instead a brief scene that shows LeFou dancing with another man, according to Cosmopolitan. Progressives may be disappointed by how small the moment actually is, especially in relation to the entire film of Beauty and the Beast, but it may still be enough to offend Russia’s censors, especially given the hullabaloo the movie has inspired among conversatives.
[Featured Image by Laurie Sparham/Disney Enterprises, Inc.]