Unless you’ve been locked away in a tower for the last year, you’ve likely heard of Disney’s upcoming live adaption of Beauty and the Beast. You’ve also likely heard of the recent controversy surrounding Disney’s first “exclusively gay moment,” according to director Bill Condon, which will be featured in the film.
For those who haven’t, here is a quick breakdown: the character LeFou, the bumbling fool and sidekick of the prideful villain Gaston, is supposedly gay. Throughout the film, according to early reviews, there are a few vague insinuations to that fact: there is an awkward hug with Gaston here and a magical wardrobe forcing Gaston’s henchmen into dresses there. The exclusive moment Condon refers to occurs for a few seconds at the end of the film when LeFou ends up dancing with one of the henchmen who actually enjoyed wearing a dress.
The news didn’t go over well with many people. The movie was banned by an Alabama movie theater and was recently pulled from Malaysia entirely. A petition to boycott the film even has over 100,000 signatures. Some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are among those unhappy with the film for including such a moment.
We make no judgment on anyone’s personal decision to see or not to see Beauty and the Beast. We all must prayerfully determine what media we watch and what we introduce our families to. There isn’t a clear wrong or right answer. However, here are a few things that may be worth pondering as you contemplate the controversy and what you choose to do.
Those in the LGBT Community Are Real People
Whether you are dismayed at the fact or not, homosexuality exists. We are surrounded by fellow children of God, many of whom are members of the Church, who are attracted to people of the same gender. Some choose not to act on these feelings. Others do. Some struggle immensely with their homosexuality. Others embrace it and live it with pride.
Regardless of what someone may or may not do with their own sexuality, all people are real. They may be family or they may be strangers. All deserve love. All deserve respect. All deserve to be treated as the complete, unique, complex humans they are.
It is hard, as a people who support the doctrine of traditional marriage, to tread the line between normalizing sinful behavior and loving others with differences. Does watching a movie with a gay character mean we are supporting a lifestyle that goes against the teachings of the Church? Howard Ashman, who wrote the popular lyrics to accompany Alan Menken’s music in the original Beauty and the Beast, was a proud gay man who tragically died of AIDS in 1991. Does that mean we should boycott his works? (This includes The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.) Or is it just actually seeing a gay person represented in any manner that makes us uncomfortable?
These are just a few examples of questions many struggle with. Through prayer and diligent action, we can learn how to treat all of God’s children with respect while living a life of conviction.
It Is Important to Discuss Doctrine With Children
One of the most complex concerns surrounding Beauty and the Beast involves children. What do we want our children to see? Can gay representation be family friendly?
There is no better place to learn love than in the home. God has provided families so we can learn how to distinguish between good and evil and choose to follow Christ.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World states, “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”
Each family is unique and how parents and parent-figures choose to follow this counsel is between them and the Lord. There are opportunities, however, to use cases like Beauty and the Beast to teach our children important lessons. It is natural to worry about how children will internalize seeing gay characters in a movie, yet we can take these moments and use them for good. Children need to learn LGBT people exist. They also need to learn that LGBT people are children of God who should be loved. Unequivocally, children need to learn the doctrines of the Church and where God stands when it comes to marriage.
This is a heavy and sensitive topic. It can seem overwhelming to approach. By answering questions about a fictional character, instead of a family member or real-life event, you may feel more comfortable talking to your child while building a safe environment for discussion. Foundational conversations such as this can help your child feel continued safety as he or she is exposed to other questionable circumstances in the future.
Children need to be protected and prepared. One of the most effective ways of doing this is providing them with information, knowledge, and understanding in a spiritual context.
How We React to Sin Says A Lot
Regardless of whether we go see a movie or not, we should ask ourselves why we react the way we do to controversial topics. Is our reaction able to balance remaining true to our beliefs while expressing kindness and love to all of God’s children? Do we avoid contention at all costs? Do we judge? Do we forgive?
It is easy to see sin as a disease we do not want to infect us. We shun, we run, we abhor. Jesus Christ, however, touched the leper, raised the dead man, and spent his time among those considered unclean. We too must find a way to live righteously in our world while striving to make it a better place.
Consider this quote by Spencer W. Kimball:
“Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual.”
We need to judge righteously. We live in a world full of diverse opinions, rich with varying lifestyles, religions, and beliefs. We need to avoid situations where we can be tempted or exposed to evil. But is that Beauty and the Beast?