Beauty and the Beast (2017)
On March 1, 2017, in an exclusive interview with Attitude magazine, director Bill Condon revealed that the film will contain Disney's first openly gay character: Gaston's sidekick LeFou. Attitude reports:
Played by US actor Josh Gad, the character of LeFou serves as the sidekick to the film's primary antagonist Gaston (Luke Evans), and is set to feature in a small but significant subplot of his own when it comes to his sexuality.
"LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston," reveals Condon."He's confused about what he wants. It's somebody who's just realising that he has these feelings. And 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. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie."
Gad later tweeted that he is "beyond proud" to play Disney's first openly gay character.
On March 15, Malay Mail Online reported that Disney had indefinitely pulled Beauty and the Beast from Malaysian theaters rather than cut 4 1/2 minutes of screentime relating to LeFou's character as requested by Malaysia's Film Censorship Board. Malaysia later dropped its request and the film returned to theaters.
Meanwhile, the satirical Australian paper The Chaser reported on the "Outrage at inclusion of gay character in film about woman-buffalo romance" with such choice quotes as:
"It's just wrong to expose children to such material," said one parent protesting outside a cinema this morning. "Why, if they see gay characters at such an impressionable age, they may grow up thinking gays are just regular people who are part of the rich tapestry of a society that we live in, and I hate to think what that could lead to. They may even grow up to be gay, and we all know that the lack of gay characters in children’s films is the only thing stopping people from being gay up until this point."
LGBT Cast and Crew
Howard Ashman and the Beast as an AIDS Metaphor
The film uses music from the animated film, including music by Alan Mencken and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman. Ashman was openly gay and died of complications of AIDS. The animated Beauty and the Beast was dedicated "To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950–1991."
Ashman was diagnosed with HIV while working on The Little Mermaid and told Mencken and other Disney officials while working on Beauty and the Beast. As Ashman's health failed, the creative team moved to New York in order to allow him to continue working as long as possible. Ashman was too sick to attend the first screening of the film, but the animators and other creative team members gathered in his hospital room to share what a success it was. According to a report by The Mirror:
"Who would have thought it would turn out this great?" they said.
"I would've," Ashman whispered, showing his deep belief in the project.He died four days later on March 14, aged 40, from complications due to AIDs.
Ashman and Menken won Best Original Song for the title song, "Beauty and the Beast", and Ashman's award was accepted posthumously by his partner, Bill Lauch, who reminded the audience that it was the first Oscar won by a victim of AIDS.
Condon has discussed Ashman's role in shaping the animated film. PEOPLE Magazine reports:
"It was his idea, not only to make it into a musical but also to make Beast one of the two central characters," Condon explained. "Until then it had mostly been Belle's story that they had been telling."
"Specifically for him it was a metaphor for AIDS," Condon continued. "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. It was a very concrete thing that he was doing."
Producer Don Hahn also discussed the connection in a 2010 interview with Den of Geek:
Interviewer: It's the Kill The Beast song that gets me. "We don't like what we don't understand, in fact it scares us"... Incredible. [...]
Hahn: I know. And Howard was struggling with AIDS at the same time. The Kill The Beast song was almost a metaphor for that. He was really dealing with a debilitating disease, in an era when it was stigmatised. And so, there were so many of those underpinnings to the movie that people may not have seen. And shouldn't have seen. It wasn't about the HIV epidemic at all. But if you study the man, and his struggles, and then look at his lyrics, you understand what he was going through.
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