Now that everyone knows what Beauty and the Beast’s much-bally-hooed “exclusively gay moment” was all about, it might seem anti-climactic to some. (Spoiler alert: LeFou dances with a man in drag.) To a kid not paying attention, it could still fly under the radar as a slightly strange apparent accident: LeFou cuts in and unexpectedly finds himself with a male dance partner. The fact that this is the same man who happened to be rather fond of his “new look” might not click together with LeFou’s sexuality for younger and (hopefully) still innocent viewers.
Likewise, much of the innuendo probably flew over many little heads. But, as unpleasant as it is, we need to talk about the other gay moment in Beauty and the Beast.
The String of Gay Moments
Really, there’s a string of “gay moments” leading all the way up to the promised “Gay Moment.” Actor Josh Gad’s performance was hyped as “tasteful” and “subtle.” It is many things, but tasteful and subtle it certainly is not. Some people who were rigidly searching for something blatant like a gay kiss have come out reporting there’s no there there. I disagree. Between asexuality and “gay kiss” territory, Disney has plenty of room to work with, and they certainly work it.
LeFou’s famous set piece is the smarmy “Gaston,” in which he minces about and invents all manner of strange doggerel to describe our villain’s general fabulousness. An early clip of the scene showed Gad unmistakably playing up LeFou’s gay mannerisms and physical attraction to Gaston, via eye-rolls, tush-waggling, and other such (un)subtle fare.
But it didn’t show the worst part, which involves the choice of business around the lyric “In a wrestling match, nobody bites like Gaston.” Originally, LeFou chomps down on an unfortunate bloke’s calf for illustrative purposes. This put the line in the unambiguous category of non-sexual male horseplay — two men grappling, one needs to break a hold and sees a chance to play foul. Not anymore. Apparently, it just wouldn’t be 2017 without a gag about love bites.
That’s right: In this version, LeFou directs attention to … his own chest. He sings the line while baring his stomach, and what should he reveal but a bite mark. Get it? In a wrestling match nobody bites like Gaston! Hohoho! Good one, Disney! Now everyone knows that, like Oklahoma’s Ado Annie, LeFou “sorta has a feelin’ that he won” that particular “wrestlin’ match.”
The fact that many kids will blink and miss (or just forget) is irrelevant. The image will take its place in the furniture of their minds. Every now and then, their idle thoughts might drift back to it. And they might think that it seemed kind of weird for a guy to have a bite mark on his stomach. Because it is weird. It’s more than weird. It’s disgusting.
If you will, try to picture the same gesture, in a movie with the same rating, but in a heterosexual context. Granted, the nature of a musical allows deliberately ambiguous words to overlay a scene. Still, I know and you know that even such a fleeting allusion as this would normally be out of bounds for anything with a G or PG sticker on it. If it were a woman doing the bragging, well into PG-13 territory, at least.
With Bite, Disney Shows Its Real Hunger
I highlight this moment because so many people have missed it, whether through distraction or sheer innocent-mindedness. Stephen Greydanus is the only reviewer to have pointed it out, that I’m aware of. But we cannot miss it, because it is here that Disney’s mask starts to slip. There’s a reason why all the leaked news and interviews and promotional buzz focused on the moment where LeFou and his new friend dance together. They chose this moment, because it’s a “nice” moment. Because awwwww, they’re dancing!
Sorry, but no cigar. Disney can’t have its cake and eat it too. They can’t conjure up the image of one dude biting another dude on the stomach, only to pretend they’re teaching children that gay people are just as innocent and normal and fun as everybody else.
Dissenters will protest, “But some men and women do it too!” See above. The fact that Disney felt free to include such a gag in such a film reflects the normativity of unpleasant sex practices within the gay community. Aside from the particularly disgusting details of their substitute consummation, two gay men are intrinsically set up to be rougher, more unpleasant, more uninhibitedly kinky in their sexual behavior than a man and a woman. Yes, there are women who will play along, but even a prostitute will have her limits. Without that tempering female influence, the sky is the limit.
Disney can spray around as much rose-scented air freshener as they like to hide that stench, but the truth will out (no pun intended). If LeFou is “token Disney gay, PG version,” I don’t think I want to know what the PG-13 version will look like.
Parents Can’t Afford to Remain Innocent
It’s unpleasant but true: If parents want to be able to navigate culture alertly, they can’t afford to remain as innocent as their children. Yes, they should still strive as much as possible to dwell on what is pure and lovely and of good report, as St. Paul adjures. Yet Jesus said we should also be wise as serpents. That may require us to go to some dark, nasty places. It may require us to scrutinize things young children might well not even notice … yet. But one day, they will. When that day comes, will you be caught by surprise? Or will you be five steps ahead of them? (For more from the author of “Beauty and the Beast’s Other Gay Moment” please click HERE)