Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ puts taboos to the test

by Dana Tsuri-Etzioni, Staff Columnist

“Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test,” goes the famous line from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Disney took it literally this time in its just released live-action adaptation.

Usually Disney sticks to conventional storylines without testing the status quo. It has been accused of “Disney-fying” original tales in order to make them family-friendly and ensure ticket sales.

This is especially obvious with the original cartoon movies, such as “The Little Mermaid.” In this film, Disney altered the original version of the tale by The Brothers Grimm and took out the part in which the mermaid has her tongue cut out by the sea witch. They also completely changed the ending, giving Ariel the happily ever after she did not have in the original story. All of this was to preserve the innocence of children.

However, Beauty and the Beast surprisingly tested the status quo and Disney didn’t seem afraid of backlash.

The live-action version of Beauty and the Beast included a gay character, Gaston’s trusty sidekick, LeFou. Although the hints were subtle regarding LeFou’s sexuality, they were prevalent enough to establish him as being gay. There was another non-heterosexual character in the movie, and although he wasn’t as prominent, it was refreshing to see the Disney broadening its sexual horizons.

Not everyone was pleased. Conservative groups boycotted the movie, and an Alabama drive-in theater even refused to show it. Although it was probably obvious to the adult audiences what LeFou’s sexual orientation was, it wasn’t as if Disney portrayed him in any more of a promiscuous manner.

It is refreshing that Disney is putting its past of conformity behind it and is being more progressive. What’s even more refreshing is the rating of the movie — PG. Therefore, the Motion Picture Association of America is also saying it is okay to normalize characters of all different sexualities on the big screen, even if that movie is meant for kids. Kids are impressionable, and to show them that being gay isn’t considered mature content is important for future generations. Bigotry is fought through education, and incorporating what used to be considered a taboo into a mainstream movie might just help counter the bigotry in future generations.

Dana Tsuri-Etzioni is a first-year communications major.