by Joseph B. Weyel
Disney will release its live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast — in theaters everywhere March 17 — to frenzied protest, fear and anticipation. My wife and children have been swept up in the excitement as they await the remake of their favorite Disney animation — and, I must confess, I too have anticipated the release. Fueling our anticipation, we saw a preview of the first eight minutes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during a recent family vacation at the Disney World Resort.
As with almost every big movie release in recent years, Beauty and the Beast is generating a lot of buzz in the secular media. The promoters have also successfully engaged the religious press with a calculated leak that character LeFou struggles with his sexual identity and feelings for his leader, Gaston, in a coming-of-age subplot. Of particular note, is the director’s comment that the wrap-up of the LeFou story is a “wonderful gay moment.”
Movies and television are accused of shaping culture, but they equally reflect the culture in which they are made. It should come as no surprise Disney is beginning to include sexually confused characters in their movies, even those targeted at young people. Also, the movie is coming out not long after DisneyXD aired its first gay kissing scene in children’s show Star vs. the Forces of Evil on Feb. 27.
“I wonder why I didn’t see it there before”
Disney has faced criticism for each of its full-length animated films over the past three decades as family-friendly critics have noted subplots, character flaws and lyrics not in keeping with traditional and/or biblical values.
When the original animated movie, Beauty and the Beast was released in 1991, family friendly critics complained the song written for the film’s climax was penned by an openly gay man dying of AIDS. The song included the lyric, “We don’t like what we don’t understand. In fact it scares us. And this monster is mysterious at least. Bring your guns. Bring your knives. Save your children and your wives. We’ll save our village and our lives. We’ll kill the Beast!” It was suggested that this lyric was designed to address the homophobia which was presumed to dominate American culture at the time.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989) was called in question because of the obvious advocacy for rebellion against cultural norms, parental authority, and societal standards.
Later releases continued to push the boundaries of gender roles and social standards, drawing the ire of family friendly and Christian critics, among them Aladdin (1992); Mulan (1998); Pocahontas (1995); Brother Bear (2003); and Moana (2016).
In 2016, Finding Dory received significant pre-release opposition over the rumor the move would include an “openly lesbian couple,” although it required multiple screenings and a keen eye to spot the brief appearance of two female fish with a baby.
Rather than rejoicing that Disney is granting a homosexual subplot in their latest blockbuster film, the LGBTQ community is registering disappointment that LeFou is on a journey of discovery rather than “openly gay.” Furthermore, rather than being a strong and admirable character, the original LeFou is essentially a clownish character. Ultimately, if the new movie is at all true to the original animated classic, then LeFou will play into the most objectionable stereotypes of the gay community. Even his name is a play on the French word “fou,” meaning “crazy” or “foolish.” He is a weak and foolish lackey to the strong and obviously heterosexual Gaston, aiding Gaston in pursuing the feminine beauty Belle.
Homosexuality and same-sex attraction truly is a “tale as old as time.” The Bible itself reveals the reality of homosexual lust in such passages as Genesis 9:21-24, Genesis 19:5 as well as the explicit addresses in the New Testament passages of Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9. Furthermore, history reveals that homosexual behavior was both rampant and celebrated in Roman and Greek society from the 2nd century B.C. through the 3rd century A.D. Homosexuality was also commonly practiced in the halls of the Vatican throughout the dark and middle ages, and in the palaces of England in the early 17th century.
Should Christians be concerned about this revelation regarding Beauty and the Beast? Absolutely! But not because a homosexual LeFou is shocking; rather because this continues a pattern of behavior hardly on the cutting edge of the cultural and moral shift in the U.S. We should be concerned because Disney’s marketing and production decisions are designed to reach and entertain the American people in keeping with our cultural norms.
The following well-known network television dramas include primary characters who are openly homosexual, transgendered, and/or who have engaged in homosexual behaviors: 24 Legacy (2017); Gilmore Girls (2016); Grey’s Anatomy (2012-2017); Downton Abbey (2010-2015); Doubt (2017); and NCIS: New Orleans (2016).
In some of the above instances, homosexual characters are presented in their most positive light; and in every case, their lifestyles are presented, not as an aberration, but as both normal and completely acceptable. This does not even consider the television shows and movies available on HBO, Showtime, and other more restricted viewing locations.
Not new, but still “a bit alarming”
Of much greater concern to me than any displays of homosexuality on the silver screen is the prevalence of homosexual and LGBTQ culture in our society. I do not fear my children are going to say upon seeing Beauty and the Beast, “Oh, I really want to be like LeFou when I grow up.” I am much more concerned at the growing influence of openly gay clerks at Dollar General, wait staff at local restaurants, hairdressers at beauty salons and barber shops, and teachers/counselors in local schools.
I am concerned to hear professing Christians laugh as they say, “I know homosexuality is sin, but I won’t have anyone but a gay man do my hair.” I am concerned when high visibility mega-church pastors advocate embracing LGBTQ culture and even marriage in the name of relevance and mainstream denominations invite openly practicing homosexuals into their leadership. I am concerned when Christians seeking elected office are unwilling and unable to stand on the biblical definition of sin when confronted with the LGBTQ agenda, and when nominees to cabinet-level positions feel obliged to commit themselves to defending LGBT rights as human rights.
Finding beauty in ashes
Brothers and sisters, please understand Disney is not the conscience of America or represent Christian values. It never has. Disney is entertainment. You are the voice of America’s conscience. As guided by God’s Holy Word, you are our nation’s moral compass. Boycott if you feel compelled to, but recognize that your boycott of one movie or even the entire movie industry is no substitute for openly confronting the error and sin dominating every facet of our society.
Parents, do not be fooled into allowing Disney, NetFlix, or any other media to be your child’s teacher. It is your responsibility to engage with our culture and protect your children through instructing them in the truth of God’s Word. You cannot bring them up in a world without sin nor can you protect them from sin’s alluring influence. But you can show them from the Word the reality and consequence of sin.
As Christian parents, we decide every day whether we will attempt to shelter our children from the harsh realities of life or deal with those realities by providing explanations and context from a biblical worldview. As already addressed, even the Bible introduces us to the ugliness of the sin that pervades our world. Homosexuality, bestiality, adultery and incestuous relationships are all dealt with in God’s Word. As Christians, we do not celebrate these realities — but neither do we seek to ignore or deny their existence.
We must speak truth and recognize error and discuss the struggles of the new LeFou with our children, guiding them in the application of a biblical Christian worldview. Do not be entertained by LeFou; rather, pity him and understand his struggle is a struggle with sin.
How we choose to address LeFou may shape the way our children — and we, to some degree — deal with our neighbor, co-worker or classmate struggling with homosexual feelings and desires. How we choose to react to the movie may telegraph much about how we deal with the reality of homosexuality and the prevalence of LGBT culture in our society. If the best we can do is ignore the reality and pretend that we live in a world without sin, we will continue to aid the agenda of the very interests that we intend to oppose.
Joseph Weyel is a pastor and businessman in Tifton, Georgia.