I usually shy away from latest pop culture faux outrage war distractions. Who cares about red Starbucks cups or the Ten Commandments in courthouses except journalists who need to fill airtime and column length? But yes, I will delve into this one.
Instead the debate was about Disney’s first “openly gay” character and his “gay moment” and the boycotting of the film based on that. First off, I doubt that it is indeed Disney’s first openly gay character. Characters sexual interests aren’t always on display in children’s film, seeing as they have nothing to do with the plot (Frollo et al offering exceptions). It certainly, in my opinion, isn’t the first Disney film to have a gay character. As for first “openly gay?” Maybe, depending on what one has to do to qualify as “openly.” But it seems regressive to blatantly single out that aspect of the character and call that monumental.
If we're going to explore a side character, wouldn't be more interesting to have a character struggling with never being popular/strong/handsome enough and dealing with the jealousy and idealization he has for his friend? And how does Gaston react, helping the poor guy or basking in the power he holds over him? My problem with LeFou’s added open gayness isn’t the normalizing of homosexuality or a studio pushing an agenda and evangelicals getting over-reactionary (haven’t they supposed to have been boycotting Disney since the ‘90s anyway?). My problem is that an interesting interpersonal dynamic is reduced to sex. Again.
Our culture sexualizes everything. Two people can be friends, but if they are too friendly, then it is sexual. Intimacy is a sign of sexual feelings; it is assumed everyone is repressing or expressing attraction. LeFou can’t have an obsessive admiration for another man without it being sexual. This over-elevates sexual attraction to the height of relationship. And it undermines other interpersonal dynamics of intimacy, kindredness, and friendship. A true friendship is deeper and more intimate than plain sexual compatibility. Our culture does not value intimate friendship. Deep, platonic love doesn’t sell.
I want more movies that value platonic soulmates. I want characters who love one another and are the most important person in each other’s lives and who have zero sexual interest. I want friendship properly valued and celebrated. I want sexual interest to be only a component of a deeper relationship, and I want romance to grow organically.
I know that’s a lot of ask of a Disney children’s film. But children’s films often tackle heavy issues. And they reflect the values of the surrounding culture, which is why it’s so disheartening to see the sexualization of a character that need not be sexualized. After all, who needs superfluous sexual desire when there’s “far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, [and] a prince in disguise?”