I took my mom to Beauty and the Beast on Saturday. Having been a longtime fan of the original, I’d already felt my interest piqued, but I decided to go after hearing about the boycotts. It turns out that there was a gay character complete with a gay scene, and a great many ultra-conservatives were kicking up a fuss. Therefore, I had to see it in theaters.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that there’d be a good heap of nostalgia involved, but that was about it. As it so happens, the movie was good. It was a fairly light-hearted story that extended the original rather competently. There’s all the songs we know and love–this time in live-action. The Gaston song was particularly campy. Despite the longer screen time, the movie’s pace never seemed slow, and the momentum built well. The weird curse on the beast was clarified (because it never really made sense in the original), and Belle’s back story was extended. Her dad (as played by Kevin Kline) grew a lot more as a character. Kline might not have been given a great many lines, but he made the most of them. The visuals were amazing, and the CGI wasn’t too distracting. Plus, you had Emma Watson, and she never fails. I say this as a long-time Harry Potter fan. Emma Watson is just awesome.
However, I’ve got two complaints, although they’re pretty minor. First of all: Belle and the Beast have amazing chemistry while he’s a beast. There’s a playfulness to the Beast and an emotional strength to Belle that really makes their relationship a lot more believable. Then, he turns human, and it felt like they were going through the motions. Seriously. He pretty much just turned human to walk through the standard happy ending with very few lines. He kissed Belle, they danced, and the story was over. I just wish there’d been a conversation or something between them, you know? It felt forced. Who knew bestiality would feel more natural?
My second complaint is more complicated. The supposed gay character and gay scene were a total let-down. Let me rephrase that. Gaston’s lackey LeFou is the gay character. He really wasn’t the let-down. Hanging onto Gaston’s every word, LeFou even added a number of cheeky words of his own. He was self-aware, fantastic, and in possession of a conflicted moral compass. For such a minor character, he made quite the impact. The gay scene, though, was pointless. In the big dance number at the end, there was a two-second shot as LeFou started dancing with a guy. That’s it.
Arg!! After all that hype, that was it. That was the most minimal gay controversy ever. So…my beef with this is…if they knew that theaters in conservative towns would refuse to play this movie simply because there was any gay content at all, why didn’t Disney make the most of it? You know, add in a whole relationship? Maybe even a kiss. It’s not like there’s never any gay characters in Disney movies. The first full-length animated feature Disney made was staffed by seven guys all sharing the same room for heaven’s sake! I’m of course referring to Snow White there. Let’s also remember Timon and Pumba from The Lion King, Flora and Fauna from Sleeping Beauty, those Siamese lesbian cats from The Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan and his lost boys, Cogsworth’s crush on Lumiere in the original Beauty and the Beast, and those mice from Cinderella. Having queer characters in Disney movies is kind of normal. For once, they should have announced it loud and proud. Disney should have presented an openly gay character and rocked it.
Other than that, though, the movie really was good. It wasn’t super-deep, but then fairy tales rarely are. Such tales are an escape from reality, although I was pleasantly surprised by the racial diversity in this version. For once, we saw a fairy tale that wasn’t entirely staffed by white people. The biracial couples were a nice addition, and no one in the story brought up the matter of race. It was simply an accepted part of the cast, which was an attitude I found quite refreshing.
I guess in the case of Disney’s acceptance of social progression….this is a matter of baby steps. Not bad. Certainly an improvement over their botched take on Pocahontas back in the ’90s.
Picture from digitalspy.com