By Simamkele Mchako
Le Fou (played by Josh Gad), second from the right, leading people in song. (Image from: http://bit.ly/2oGF8l7 )
Bill Condon, director of the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, sparked a large amount of outrage when he announced, before the movie’s release, that an openly gay character will be featured in the movie. This revelation caused the movie to receive a 16+ rating in Russia, which means that no person under the age of 16 is allowed to see it. And also, the Henagar Drive-In theatre in northern Alabama refused to screen the movie, with the operator claiming, in a currently inaccessible Facebook post, that it was because of “religious reasons”.
People’s outrage seems to stem from some sense of ‘morality’ and/or religious values. With some audience members seeing this decision by Disney as an attempt indoctrinate their children. Reverend Franklin Graham wrote in a Facebook post, “They’re trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children—watch out!” In a display of detest and frustration, Graham continued by stating that, “Disney has the right to make their cartoons, it’s a free country. But as Christians we also have the right not to support their company. I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney”.
This outrage around the controversial topic of morality and censorship is particularly interesting, considering the fact that in the final act of the film, Gaston (played by Luke Evans) shoots the Beast (played by Dan Stevens) with a gun, and in the original cartoon Gaston himself tumbles to his death. All of which received little to no outrage, and was coined as cartoon camp. Since a significant amount of Disney animated and live-action films feature violence and death, this begs the question of what should be considered as the correct material and topics that movies primarily aimed at children should tackle. As well as, what subject matter is deemed to be too mature for younger audiences?
In an interview, director of Beauty and the Beast, Bill Condon stated that “I talked before about how we translate this into live-action. That means building out the characters. It’s also a translation to 2017…” Briefly conveying his vision for the film. Condon continued by saying, “And what is the movie about? What has this story always been about for 300 years? It’s about looking closer, going deeper [and] accepting people for who they really are.” And this theme of acceptance seemed to transcend the ‘movie world’ into the ‘real world’ with some audiences refusing to accept a gay character in a Disney movie.
In an Interview on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Ewan McGregor who plays Lumiere in the movie, stated – in disdain of the controversy- that “…he’s a gay character. It’s 2017 for f**k’s sake.” Despite this controversy, according to its IMDB page, the movie still grossed over 400 million US dollars so far, and it is showing promise of making even more money.