I have been waiting for March 17, 2017 for two years. A reasonable, intelligent person might infer I am awaiting an exciting life event, perhaps a wedding or a graduation. However, I am afraid March 17 is nothing more seemingly mundane than a movie premier. Specifically, the live action Beauty and the Beast rendition starring (the goddess) Emma Watson. Though I must justify my anticipation by saying that the animated Beauty and the Beast was my favorite movie growing up, and I can recite every line verbatim and annoy everybody watching. So, when Disney announced the live remake in 2015, I lost my mind and freaked out with every subsequent trailer. In short, I am obsessed– though there is a point to this anecdote. The fact is that remaking a ‘classic’ is often accompanied with major/minor changes that do not go unnoticed by the media. And my position as a superfan grants me the right to assess such differences in Beauty and the Beast.
Like most social movements, historical oppression sparks a movement for equality that applies to everyone from homosexuals, to minorities, to women. In the case of Beauty and the Beast, the original in 1991 was produced in a time when gays were not accepted in society even a fraction of how they are today. As a result, Disney made a major change to the live action film, by making LeFou a homosexual, that has caught worldwide attention for this newfound “gay moment.” As a result, the question of changing a classic movie– and a children’s movie at that– arises in rendering a Disney princess in the society of 2017. As America advances and society changes, should we adapt the media to accommodate those changes? Should LeFou be gay?
The answer in Malaysia is no. The Malaysian government condemns homosexual activity by way of whipping and imprisonment, and has censored the “gay moment” in Beauty and the Beast. Domestically, American citizens, especially in the southeast, are outraged with Disney. Essentially, homosexuatity one of the most controversial topics in countries like the United States, and even outlawed in countries like Malaysia. The consequences of altering the sexual orientation of LeFou have spread internationally and hashed widespread discord between people. In retrospect, is the benefit of including major controversy in a popular Disney movie worth the repercussions?
In my opinion, yes. I support the decision to introduce a homosexual LeFou for the betterment of an international problem of exclusivity. In class we have discussed time and time again the detrimental effects of microaggressions. Although the arguments about this gay character have been laced with microaggressions about the LGBTQ community, this exposes the need for reform. Even in children’s movies and other forms of media, the stories need to reflect modern society and mirror the direction of progress. The world will always be on the edge of acceptability, and every small detail to eliminate prejudice and promote equality is important for change.