Along with growing Marvel, Star Wars and its own animated output, one of Disney’s biggest creative movements is the live-action remakes of their classic cartoons. Following the success of the likes of Cinderella and The Jungle Book, there are now several popular films scheduled for a live action upgrade. Many are direct adaptations, such as the planned remakes of Mulan and The Little Mermaid, while others are taking a more unique approach; the upcoming Cruella tells the story of the 101 Dalmatians villain in much the same way Maleficent did for the evil Sleeping Beauty enchantress. And, coming to theaters in just a few short weeks, is Beauty and the Beast.
The newest remake has sparked a lot of discussion and even controversy in recent days when it was revealed that the character of LeFou, played by Josh Gad, would have what director Bill Condon referred to as “An explicitly gay scene” in the movie, making him the first gay character in a live-action Disney film. While many praised the decision, others felt that the scene had no place in a children’s film; one theatere in Alabama is refusing the show the movie because of the inclusion.
In an interview with ScreenCrush, Condon has talked about this reaction, explaining that the whole thing has been blown way out of proportion:
“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.”
Actor Josh Gad has also spoken about the character; when interviewed by USA Today, he revealed “There was nothing in the script that said ‘LeFou is gay.’”, suggesting that the choice is less explicit than the initial comments made out.
Indeed, the scene that everyone is talking about is a fairly subtle one (mild spoiler warning for Beauty and the Beast in the rest of the paragraph). After a few innocent moments such as giving his friend Gaston a shoulder rub and a few winks and nods in the song “Gaston”, LeFou dances with another man – one who earlier expressed some feminine inclinations – for a few seconds near the end of the movie.
Disney has been taking steps over the last few years to be more inclusive to the LBGTQIA community. An episode of the sitcom Good Luck Charlie involved two Mom’s bringing their child over to the main characters house for a play date and Finding Dory showed a presumably lesbian couple. So while not everyone will agree with the decision to give LeFou this moment, it does track with the studio’s previous behavior.
Aside from responding to the reaction, both Condon and Gad expressed a bit of disappointment that the moment will probably not be a surprise for very many people after all this press. Still, Gad says “I’m honored to have that moment as part of my character’s arc.”