Once upon a time you could take your little darlings to a Walt Disney film and be assured of wholesome escapism suitable for the entire family, free of any overt political agenda. Like any fairytale worth its salt, the films contained moments of pathos and sheer terror (I always thought Snow White needed a 15 certificate thanks to the scenes with the terrifying old crone), which parents may decide is too much for a sensitive child, but on the whole, children wouldn’t be leaving the cinema, having been subtly introduced into thinking about the existence of homoerotic love.
The modern classic, Beauty and the Beast, is the latest of the Disney genre to undergo the live-action reboot treatment and it seems as though the producers just couldn’t resist the urge to add an anachronism into a fairytale based in the nineteenth century, and so according to an interview with one of the actors, we have Disney’s first gay character and love scene.
It’s difficult to comment without having seen the film, but this is precisely the kind of thing that folk like me are mocked over when we mention the dreaded ‘gay agenda’. It’s not enough to accept and tolerate people who have different sexual morals and values to you and to wish them well, but your children need to be introduced to the concept of same-sex romantic feelings as early as possible and unequivocally accept them as a good, for fear that they may otherwise end up a hateful homophobe. As one well-known Catholic apologist put it, ‘tolerance is not enough. You must approve’.
The sad thing about making the character of Le Fou, (Gaston’s best friend) obviously gay, is that it undermines the notion of male friendship. It’s quite possible to have two men who are firm friends, including one who idolises the other, without it having sexual overtones.
LGBT activists may be waxing lyrical about how wonderful the whole thing is ‘because children don’t see difference or diversity, they just uncritically accept, unless they have been taught to hate’. However, the point is that most children really aren’t thinking about the issue of sexual attraction at all, unless of course adults are forcing them too.
The whole idea of introducing a gay character into a children’s film is precisely to normalise the notion to young unquestioning minds. Nobody is objecting to campness; part of the appeal of the comic genius of someone like Kenneth Williams was that the whole family would find him entertaining. Children would adore the exuberance and larger-than-life characterisation, while adults would exchange a knowing smile. But there’s a whole world of difference between an outrageous subversiveness, which may cause one to speculate whether or not the actor has a colourful private life, and an explicit love scene aimed at children. It’s not bigoted to not want your children to be exposed to or think about the complexities of adult sexual attraction.
Neither is it unreasonable not to find films which contrive to add some sort of political message, particularly entertaining. My children enjoyed the re-booted live-action versions of both the Jungle Book and Cinderella over Christmas. With hindsight I can thank my lucky stars that they weren’t subject to Baloo hectoring Mowgli about the perils of global warming, or that Cinderella didn’t highlight the inherent inequality of the class system and poverty wages of service workers! Films that seek to enforce diversity tend to flop, such the recent updated version of Ghostbusters, which replaced the original male taskforce with a squad of women. It bombed at the box office and made a $50 million dollar loss.
Maybe the same will happen with Beauty and the Beast; exploiting a character’s sexuality for commercial gain in a film aimed at children, could well backfire.
As could the casting of the tiresome and wooden Emma Watson as the heroine Belle. Watson says that she will play the character as a feminist. Can’t wait, that should prove a bundle of laughs. Though one can’t quite help but wonder how feminist her decision was to pose in a publicity shot with her naked breasts clearly on display. It made the heads of the sisterhood revolve 360 degrees as they scrabbled to defend her right to pose in a soft porn shot, which got a prominent full-page billing, on page 3 of The Sun, which they had campaigned so vociferously to abolish. Exposing your breasts is perfectly okay so long as it’s done by a right-on, privately educated, multimillionaire actress, who is so traumatised by representing the feminist cause, poor love, that sometimes she can’t get out of bed!
One can only wonder what else producers at Disney have got up their sleeves. They must be scratching their heads to work out how on earth they are going to handle the problematic question of Ariel’s identity if they choose to re-boot the Little Mermaid. Will she suddenly transform into a human being because she identifies with them and wants to be one? Will her father, the patriarchal white male, educate himself that mermaids don’t actually need legs or to live on land to be classified as human?
Social conservatives need to pick our battles and so to bitterly complain about the film, particularly when I’ve not seen it, buys into every single prejudice about hatred towards the LGBT community. There is a chance that the scene could well prove harmless. It’s just disappointing that a brand synonymous with traditional family values, one which you could trust in terms of overall theme and content, has gone the way of every other liberal media outlet.
(Image: Marco Bond)