By Sexualizing Male Friendship, Disney Makes a Mockery of the Original Tale

For all of Hollywood’s recent talk about the need for art to resist politics, the new Beauty and the Beast film sells out a classic fairytale for political fashion, moral posturing and publicity.

In this Feb. 20, 2017, file photo, actor Josh Gad, left, who plays manservant LeFou and Luke Evans who plays villain Gaston, pose during a promotional event for the movie Beauty and the Beast, in Paris.

By Michael Matheson Miller Published on March 18, 2017

The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Attitude Magazine and others have celebrated Disney’s decision to modernize the new Beauty and Beast film with a more feminist Belle and first ever “exclusively gay” character. Emma Watson wants the main character, Belle, not simply to be a reader of books but an assertive, feminist inventor who wears riding boots. The newly added character of LeFou, for his part, struggles with his identity and same-sex attraction toward Gaston, the boorish frat boy that tries to woo Belle.

Adding such politically fashionable themes has indeed generated press and gained the praise of cultural elites. But the new Beauty and the Beast reveals some dark truths about Hollywood. Film makers claim to view art as a form of “resistance.” But in this case ideology, political posturing and publicity stunts trumped doing justice to the original story.

It Fails as Art

The biggest problem with adding shock value to the film is that it is just bad storytelling. Despite powerful cinematography and impressive graphics, what we end up with is not art but kitsch. Disney could have wrestled with the challenge of conveying the powerful original tale — written by Gabrielle Suzanne Villanueve de Barbot in 1740 and famously abridged in 1756 by Madame de Beaumont. Instead, Disney used as its source text … its own animated version from 1991. The original version doesn’t even have the characters Gaston and LeFou, which were added by Disney in the 1991 version.

The original fairy tale is rich in meaning and human struggle. It explores:

  • the virtue and sacrifice of Belle
  • her struggle to see beyond appearances
  • Belle’s love for her father and willingness to take responsibility for the consequences of her desires
  • the effects of wealth and poverty on the family
  • the vices of envy and avarice
  • jealousy and struggles among the sisters
  • the agony of making decisions in the face of an impossible situation
  • the redemption that comes from sacrificial, other-directed love.

The original story and the famous 1756 version, written by women, were more authentically affirming of women than the dumbed-down 2017 production.

Little of this survived in the Disney cartoon, a garish romance whose shallowness was disguised with fireworks of sentimental tunes and computer graphics.

For the new, live version, Disney “updated” the old timey 1991 version by adding a character with same sex attraction. The story thus becomes a tool to shock audiences and promote a political agenda. Story and art are sacrificed on the altar of political fashion. The actors and producers get a chance to virtue signal, as Emma Watson does in a recent Vanity Fair article showing off her feminism. It takes very little courage to be applauded as sophisticated by one’s peers. 

Bumper Sticker Feminism

The other artistic failure is the portrayal of Belle as the assertive feminist. This misses the point of her character and power as heroine of the story. In contrast to her superficial and materialist sisters, who care for nothing but themselves and their own advancement, Belle is serious and scholarly. She has interior resolve, integrity, profound courage and love that enable her to sacrifice her life for her father, to see beyond appearances and redeem the beast.

Her power is revealed in her character and her actions — not in exterior assertiveness and a willingness to buck convention by wearing riding boots. Her whole life bucks the convention of mediocrity and selfishness, which is why she is the protagonist. Instead of all the authentic character virtues Belle exhibited in the original tale, we get bumper sticker feminism and “girl power.”

The original story and the famous 1756 version, written by women, were more authentically affirming of women than this dumbed-down 2017 production.

Distorting Male Friendship

Beyond the obvious problem of sexualizing everything, the relationship between Gaston and LeFou also distorts and undermines authentic male friendship. This not only hurts boys and young men. It also hurts women because it relegates their brothers and future husbands to a frat boy “bro” culture.

As C.S. Lewis notes in The Four Loves, friendship often begins with mutual appreciation of some thing, idea or activity. It is directed toward something. Aristotle explains that while friendship can be grounded in utility or having a good time, authentic friendship is grounded in virtue and a desire to live a life of excellence.

Beauty and the Beast’s distortion of male friendship into same sex attraction not only denies boys real friendship, it harms women by creating weak men.

Men need these authentic friendships that challenge and inspire them. It is quite normal for a young man, especially one entering manhood, to admire and look up to other, often older men. They see their masculinity and seek to emulate it — especially if it is in an area they lack, but desire to excel in. While this attraction and admiration often includes the physical, it is rarely sexual. This is the stuff of growing up, of friendship and camaraderie. It is a normal way a man learns to become himself.

Beauty and the Beast distorts this natural pattern by sexualizing it. Director Bill Condon comments that “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.”

Men are confused about a lot of things, especially when they are young. Disney exploits it. Beauty and the Beast’s decision to sexualize the male friendship of LeFou and Gaston undermines real friendship and creates confusion in young men — who might now begin to wonder if their “attraction” to a man is somehow sexual. The upshot of this will be to create further barriers to real male friendship and encourage the insipid and dehumanizing “bro” culture of the frat boys whose shared activities are narrowed to sports, drunkenness and reducing women to sexual conquests.

Any genuine sensitivity to the arts, to deep human emotion or to authentic love that respects a woman in her integrity is looked upon as effeminate, an sign of homosexual tendency. This is bad enough. But the problem is made even worse by Beauty and the Beast, which portrays the heterosexual man as a predator and womanizer. The distortion of male friendship into same sex attraction not only denies boys real friendship. It harms women by creating weak men whose only friendships are based on use or pleasure.

The new Beauty and the Beast could have been a real work of art that addressed the depth of human love and redemption. Instead it is a political puff piece. When the shock wears off, it will be forgotten. But hey, at least it made the headlines and gave the actors and writers a chance to preen to political fashion. And as we’ve seen lately, isn’t that what Hollywood is all about?

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  • Jennifer Hartline

    A thousand Amen’s, Michael! Bring back real men.

  • Gary

    I have the solution: JUST DON”T WATCH IT.

    • Triple T

      The simplest solution is often the best one.

      • Hannah

        Breaks my heart to say it, but yes…..just don’t watch it. I feel like a major piece of my childhood was corrupted.

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    Yeah, the real beast in this Disney spin on the classic tale of fantasy, faithfulness & hope is not the brass bovid antagonist so colorfully portrayed in the film. It is rather that unseen personage who for generations has ruthlessly butchered that generations perception of truth in the minds of those who like the producers of this ode to political correctness & sanctimonious gender bending have chosen to promote.

  • GPS Daddy

    You find mockery in everything that sets itself up against Christ. It may be subtle at first until it goes main stream then hold on to your hats for then the mockery in people’s hearts will be given full vent.

  • Alternative Facts

    “Beauty and the Beast,” Disney’s live action remake of its beloved 1991 animated film, made an estimated $350 million worldwide this weekend. Of that total, $170 million came at theaters in North America. The domestic total exceeded what people in the industry had expected, and it broke the record for the biggest box office opening in March. The record had been held by last year’s opening of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” It’s also the best opening weekend of 2017 so far.

    Hows that boycott working out for you?

    • Jim Walker

      I will watch it online, free of charge.

      • Alternative Facts

        Pirating a movie is stealing.

        Isn’t stealing a sin?

        • Jim Walker

          I didn’t download it, is this stealing ? If a thief display his wares on the street side to sell and I look at it, is it stealing ? Frankly I don’t think I will watch it anyway.

          • Alternative Facts

            Streaming a movie from an illegal site without paying for it?

            Stealing , yes.

          • Jason Todd

            Watching, no. Downloading, yes.

          • Alternative Facts

            A movie that just came out in theaters is not legally supposed to be available anywhere except theaters.
            A streaming video website showing a pirated movie is illegal.

            I love how Christians pick and choose what is sinful or wrong.
            Putting a gay character in a movie? Wrong.

            Watching a pirated movie stream from an illegal website?
            Nothing wrong, illegal or sinful about that, right?

            Now do you realize why people call Christians hypocrites?

          • Jason Todd

            A movie that just came out in theaters is not legally supposed to be available anywhere except theaters.

            Ever hear of video on demand? It’s where films are given a streaming video release before an intended theatrical release. The 2000 film version of Left Behind was released on home video before it was released to theaters.

            Watching a pirated movie stream from an illegal website?
            Nothing wrong, illegal or sinful about that, right?

            You have to show it is morally wrong. What’s funny is how the Motion Picture Association of America, which definitely cares about film piracy, has only gone after those who create and make the pirated videos, never those who has watched them.

            I think it is funny how you, a non-Christian is trying to dictate to actual Christians what is moral or not based solely on personal opinion, and not on the Bible.

            In other words, hon, you need to know what you are talking about.

          • Alternative Facts

            Lets see..
            “Thou shalt not steal”

            Thats pretty clear cut, no need for explanation there.

            Of course i know of VOD, but this particular movie is not available legally on VOD, its only been legally released in theaters.
            Any website that streams that movie is doing so illegally, ie;, stealing.

            Once again, its funny how Christians will twist themselves into a logical pretzel to justify their own sins, but condemn others so easily.

            Its called hypocrisy, and it is one of the main reasons why people are fleeing religion in droves.

          • Jason Todd

            Lets see..
            “Thou shalt not steal”

            Thats pretty clear cut, no need for explanation there.

            In order to steal, you have to take. Watching isn’t talking, moron.


          • Alternative Facts

            When someone loses the argument, they get angry, call people names and block the person.
            I accept your surrender.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            That’s his technique every time a discussion gets too hard for him.

          • Jim Walker

            You need to understand the dangers of this world in movies and in music. To you its a few seconds of “gay moments”. but to others its about giving in now, and you will get floodgates of such “gay moments” that it can become a movie entirely about gay is ok to our kids.
            We have seen the effects of music when in the early 70s there is backward masking of satanic and anti-God hidden messages in pop songs. Then came more kids movies with more of such messages, as innocent as Barney and Friends, to High School Musical, none of these movies promote LGBTQ then. Now with this “gay moment” in Beauty and the Beast, we, as Christians see a trend, more and more the left is pushing their agenda, subtly at first, and now with people like you pushing it hard, sadly, blindly.
            If you are a Christian, you will know that this progression will lead to lawlessness, because Human beings, unlike animals are not made in the image of God and God has intended his design for a Man and a Woman to have union. Even though some may have a mind of the opposite sex, intersex etc, they have to abide by God’s design. There are OB markers in this world we live in, just as you have laws that protect you from crossing the road safely, there are God’s laws that say homosexuality is an abomination.
            As Christians, we are all preparing for the End times (or at least equip our future generation with strong moral values from the Bible), but we won’t go without a fight.

          • Johndoe

            Mr wizard strikes again lol!

          • Jim Walker

            But I’m not from the US.

          • Jason Todd

            No, it isn’t stealing. The imbecile is intentionally trying to equate the two for the purposes of indignation that does not exist.

            In short, they are an anti-Christian troll.

        • Autrey Windle

          Stealing the innocence of children is a sin, but I’m pretty sure you know and condone that. You should be ashamed of yourself, young lady?

          • Alternative Facts

            He called out Disney for being “sinful”, and then admits he will watch an illegal pirated stream of the movie.
            I pointed out stealing is also a sin.
            I should be ashamed for that?

          • Autrey Windle

            You should be ashamed for your obvious smirking at the success of the movie rollout when you are obviously also not to dumb to know you are advocating and taking joy at the theft of the innocence of children by perverse propaganda! You don’t need to play dumb with me…I see right through you.

          • Alternative Facts

            ” taking joy at the theft of the innocence of children by perverse propaganda!”

            That is an opinion, not a fact.
            Millions of parents took their children to see the movie this weekend and gave it rave reviews.
            So, no I am not taking joy at something that is not actually happening.

          • Autrey Windle

            You do know when you make absolutely no sense that you’ve lapsed from ‘alternative’ facts to no facts at all and lost the argument, right?

          • Alternative Facts

            You seem to have trouble with reading comprehension, so let me make this a little simpler for you to understand.

            You said I’m ” taking joy at the theft of the innocence of children by perverse propaganda!”

            I said that your statement is an opinion, not a fact.
            I do not see the inclusion of a minor gay character as “theft of innocence” or “perverse propaganda”.
            Neither did millions of parents and kids who happily enjoyed the movie, so many in fact that Disney broke ticket sale records.

            So I can’t be taking joy in something that isn’t there, except in your mind.

            Was that easier to understand, or should I dumb it down a shade?

          • Autrey Windle

            When you don’t see your ignorance in your bias or the fact that you are including yourself with the proud parents who took their poor children to see this just proves my point that you are not only speaking from ‘Alternative’ facts but you don’t even realize what a truth you tell about yourself when you sign in with such an obvious oxymoron. The truth is a fact. The only fact. Your ‘alternative’ to the facts speaks volumes about your open-mindedness or perhaps the ‘alternative’; your blatant close-mindedness. I would ask you to think about it, but you obviously can’t so I won’t point out your inability to seek to have an independent thought away from the alphabet police.

          • Alternative Facts

            I got the phrase “Alternative Facts” from Kelly-Anne Conway, President Trump’s spokesperson, who constantly lies so much, and yet never accepts proven fact, that she coined the term when she stated that the Trump administration was providing “alternative facts.”

            To bear false witness is a sin, and since you are against sin, logically you would be against a compulsive liar like Trump, right?

          • Autrey Windle

            so you admit that you constantly lie and never accept proven facts? Isn’t that what I just posted to you a minute ago? I don’t care who said it first …it could have been Hillary or Wasserman-Schults, but I would hope all these people aren’t your role-models either.

          • Jim Walker

            Autrey, the lies from Hillary and her cronies are on the table yet people like Alternative Facts can’t see them because they are blinded by the devil. The worst is they treat Truths as lies, NATAS is working very very hard these days.

          • Alternative Facts

            I see you dodged the question, so I’ll ask it again.

            Since you are so against sin, and lying is a sin, and Trump is factually a compulsive liar, you therefore are against Trump just as you are against Disney, right?

          • Triple T

            Why do you upvote all of your own posts?

          • Jim Walker

            Obviously you didn’t read the sarcasm in my post. Its as good as I won’t watch it, and if I had to I’d watch online streaming, not to watch any money…

          • Alternative Facts

            Again, watching a movie from an illegally pirated video on a video streaming site, while the movie is still in theaters is stealing.

            But hey, i guess its ok for you to break one of the Ten Commandments, “thou shalt not steal”,
            but its not ok for a movie to have a gay character, right?

          • Jim Walker

            Ok if it makes you happy, I won’t watch it, which was what I’m implying anyway.

          • Jim Walker

            Are you those who will be angered by people abusing animals but is Pro-Choice ?

    • Jason Todd

      I don’t care about it at all. I saw the 1991 film and loved it. Saw no need for a live-action remake. Still don’t.

      As I’ve said before, I will see this film when the Dallas Cowboys win the World Series.

    • It’s actually working great! I haven’t and won’t see it.

      • Alternative Facts

        Actually it’s *not* working great since the movie broke records in one weekend, but ok.

        • Triple T

          I don’t care if the movie makes ten billion dollars. None of it came from me. My children weren’t exposed to something I didn’t want them to see. That’s what’s important to me.

        • Actually, you’re right, but that wasn’t my point. Multiple millions of people all over America are sick and tired of secular elite shoving homosexuality down our throats. QED.

  • Christian Cowboy

    Haven’t watched anything new from Disney in a number of years. Not missing anything!

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