Queer cinema has a long, rich heritage and now more than ever is the time to be showcasing the wide spectrum of sexualities that exist in our world. In the present day, Disney is a cultural giant. A corporation that exudes its influence on contemporary society from a very early age. This power should introduce its audience to different sexualities, especially as quite a large proportion of said audience are those who values are still in development: children. This isn’t to say Disney should start including brash scenes which overtly defy the heteronormative narrative, but it is about portraying non-heterosexual relationships in a manner that is unquestioned and is not viewed as what is called the ‘other’.
“Disney are absolutely doing the right thing.”
Disney is indeed making its first steps in presenting characters that do not fit into the traditional romantic paradigm. The hotly anticipated live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast has recently hit screens, and for the first time in Disney history, it includes an openly gay character. The character in question is LeFou, who struggles with his attraction to the villainous Gaston. This has, depressingly, caused controversy across the globe, with the film being withdrawn in Malaysia and prohibited to the under 16s in Russia. But Disney are absolutely doing the right thing; they are tackling intolerance, as well as answering a longstanding criticism that their stories are only designed for those who follow heteronormative societal structures. It may only be for what has been termed a fleeting ‘moment’, but that doesn’t make it any less valid as a development. Disney are addressing a key social issue in the face of vehement opposition, even if they only taking baby steps.
Although this is technically Disney’s first confirmed gay character, it does not mean that such a characteristic has not been alluded to in the past. Disney may never have granted the gay identity to a character, but within each animation is a long history of LGBT coding. For years, audiences have speculated and theorised about the sexuality of certain characters. One only has to look towards The Lion King for a diverse range of fan theories. For example, Timon and Pumbaa’s companionship and their adoption of the baby Simba has been said to allude to homosexuality; and then there is the position of Scar as an alpha male who has never found a mate within the pride. Of course, these theories can be viewed as superficial and tinged by stereotypes, yet they suggest that Disney has branched out before.
“It’s wonderful that Disney are making progressive steps…”
Personally, I think it is wonderful that Disney are making progressive steps to include other sexualities within their films. The inclusion of such will help to dismiss certain stigmas, as well as raise awareness of the range of sexualities. Even though the newest films does not reserve a particularly large role for its LeFou’s sexuality, it still represents an effort to better reflect the contemporary society in which these films are produced and enjoyed.