Disney's first officially acknowledged gay character is finally here, making news and unsettling Alabama drive-ins and the Russian government alike. Meanwhile we heathens breathe a sigh of relief as Disney — a company bolstered for years by a healthy gay following — finally sees fit to include a gay man in its throng of colorful characters. And like most compromises, Josh Gad's live action take on an openly (we'll get back to this) gay LeFou is kind of a disappointment to all parties.
Medium-Level SPOILERS AHEAD!
If you see Beauty and the Beast when it hits theaters next Friday, you might miss the "exclusively gay moment" director Bill Condon teased in a recent interview. So just for a frame of reference, here are LeFou's gay moments in the movie.
1. LeFou suggests to Gaston that he forget the ladies and just enjoy all the Grade A quality time they have together.
2. Gaston asks LeFou why he hasn't found a wife yet, and LeFou jokes that he's "too clingy."
3. When LeFou sings "Gaston" he wraps Gaston's arms around him and, you know, proceeds to sing an ode to his favorite dude in the world. Gaston isn't into it. (But at this point one does wonder why Gaston spends so much time with LeFou.)
4. During the villagers' big fight with the furniture in the castle, Mrs. Potts tells LeFou he deserves better than Gaston.
5. As the characters dance and celebrate at the end of the movie, LeFou is seen dancing with one of Gaston's henchman — one who likes dressing as a woman apparently. Earlier in the film there's a scene where the sentient wardrobe attacks three henchmen by sort of spitting clothes at them and dressing them all as women. One of them walks away with a grin on his face and this is the one we see dancing with LeFou later.
That fifth one is apparently the "exclusively gay moment."
Going through that list, it's far from a triumphant coming out. It's more like a wishy-washy dipping of the toe into strange new waters. Forget a gay protagonist. Disney starts us off with a gay secondary villain — a likable one, but still. Think Bob Hoskins playing Smee in Hook and you're not far off. LeFou is a buffoon written in to provide comic relief, so he's often the butt of jokes, and some of those jokes are about him being gay.
So yeah, LeFou is gay, but does it count if you have to squint your eyes to see it? You can't really argue that LeFou is an out gay character, so Disney doesn't deserve any points on that count. Also, it would have been nice if the first Disney character officially acknowledged to be gay was a little more positive. The two moms in Finding Dory are arguably a more open and honest portrayal of gay characters and they don't even have names or lines.
Alas, progress is slow, and for now we'll have to live with semi-closeted gay LeFou dancing with a cross-dressed henchman until the Mouse House gets a little braver. LeSigh.