The best thing about the recent live-action Beauty and the Beast is that watching it has caused my three-year-old son to become obsessed with the classic animated movie. Because that’s the one we own. And to be honest, it’s the only one I ever want to watch again.
Okay, yeah, it’s pretty cool that Emma Watson’s Belle invented a rudimentary washing machine so she could spend her laundry time reading and teaching other young girls to read. And that extremely brief glimpse of two men dancing together at the end (which if you ask me had been blown way out of proportion by so many critics) is admittedly an important step for Disney to have made.
But the pacing, character development, and action sequences that make the original a timeless classic, in the remake just completely miss the mark. The overall feel of the live-action movie is just wrong.
Still, let’s start with positive changes the live-action version made. Its take on drag, for instance.
The animated B&tB would have us believe that dressing a man in women’s clothing is humiliating and horrific.
But in the remake, three men are dressed in beautiful gowns and one of them, Stanley, appears to enjoy it. Stanley is later seen dancing with LeFou at the celebratory ball when the curse on the castle has been lifted.
As for LeFou himself, I personally struggled a bit with his character arc. Like many of you, I heard the news that LeFou would be gay long before this movie was released. So I was disappointed to see that his relationship with Gaston was still that of a bully and his lackey.
The way I saw it, LeFou had not changed at all. He didn’t want Gaston – he wanted to be Gaston. No different from the animated version.
It wasn’t until I read an interview with the director Bill Condon that my opinion on LeFou changed.
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings.”
LeFou is me, ten years ago. Because when you’re so repressed that you can’t accept wanting to kiss a person of your same gender, you over-correct by wanting to be that person. Leading to self-hatred because you’re not that person, and you never can be.
At least, that’s how it was for me. Even now that I’ve completely embraced my sexuality, remnants of that self-hatred still haunt me. But now it manifests as a knee-jerk reaction to hate fictionalized characters whom I see myself in.
So you can imagine how I felt when I read the above quote. Suddenly, LeFou was not just a lackey, or a villain, or even comic relief. Suddenly, LeFou became a reflection of myself – an insight to the vulnerability and brokenness of my own relationship to sexuality.
If you are where LeFou is at the beginning of the live-action Beauty & the Beast, where I was ten years ago, I see you. Your feelings are valid, and you can heal your psyche. Once you stop fighting who you are and start embracing and loving every aspect of yourself, you will find that you can be happy.