On Wednesday, Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon announced that Disney’s upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast movie will feature the studio’s first-ever “exclusively gay moment.” In an interview with Attitude magazine, Condon said the scene will involve the character LeFou, played by Josh Gad, as he comes to realize he has feelings for Gaston (Luke Evans). “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,” Condon said.
Attitude’s editor-in-chief Matt Cain calls this a “watershed moment” for Disney. “By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural — and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay,” he said. LeFou will be the first character who will have explicitly expressed attraction to a member of his own sex (Moana director Ron Clements recently teased the possibility of an LGBT Disney princess in future movies).
Vulture reports that Condon introduced the character in honor of playwright lyricist Howard Ashman, who died in 1991 of AIDS and won a posthumous Oscar for his songwriting on the animated film. Condon says that Ashman believed the Beast’s banishment from the village was a metaphor for AIDS. “He was cursed, and this curse had brought sorrow on all those people who loved him, and maybe there was a chance for a miracle and a way for the curse to be lifted,” Condon told Attitude. “It was a very, very concrete thing that he was doing.”
With the announcement, Disney is also reworking the legacy of its original Beauty and the Beast movie. In the new film, LeFou, a sidekick to Gaston, “is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” Condon said. “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings.” This character development represents a significant revision to the LeFou who appears in the 1991 animated film—a one-dimensional, bumbling, oafish character whose name translates in French to “the crazy one.”
When the news was announced on Wednesday, some users on Twitter suggested they would have to see the portrayal before applauding the studio, while others griped that the studio’s first-ever gay scene would prominently feature a comic-relief character. In response to one happy fan, Gad tweeted on Wednesday, “Beyond proud of this.”
Previously, without any explicitly gay characters to choose from, LGBT advocates have had to create same-sex couple fan fiction and listicles of “actually gay” Disney characters. With this new Beauty and the Beast, it looks like the LGBT community finally won’t have to read between the lines.