Beauty and the Beast
I just want to get this straight. America is outraged because a musical has a gay
moment in it? I’m sorry, isn’t that every musical? You take the gay out of singing and
dancing and you’re left with just polka music and a bunch of white people clapping
out of rhythm. Beauty and the Beast is a musical about a young woman who is held
prisoner in an enchanted castle by some kind of creature that resembles a cross
between a giant talking dog and a lion until she develops Stockholm syndrome and
has romantic feelings about him or, as I would call it, a typical Saturday at my place.
So, let’s get this right, conservative America is upset because there is a gay character
in a musical, but not that the heroine has a thing for Rin-Tin-Tin? Houston, I think
we have a problem here.
When I heard one of the characters in the live action version of Beauty and the
Beast was going to be homosexual, I naturally assumed it was going to be Lumière,
an ornate, smug French candlestick that strolls around the mansion without any
pants on. They would either make him gay or have him be a wine drinking, snotty
cad who chases underage feather dusters around. This is Disney, the company that
never saw a cultural stereotype they could not inflict on the American public.
No, it was the French villainous sidekick LeFou, a minor character, played by Josh
Gad in the story. Lumière gets to keep channeling Maurice Chevalier in Gigi. All the
movie would have needed was a mime that waves a white flag after the first bullet is
fired and the movie would have hit the French trifecta.
I was shocked to discover that a Henagar, Alabama drive-in theater was so
outraged that a gay character would be a villain that they refused to show the movie.
Wait, I got that wrong. First, I was shocked to discover there were still drive-in
theaters, but usually if a movie had a villainous character that was gay that is usually
an occasion to break out the Stars and Bars, talk about how television was so much
better when The Dukes of Hazzard was on, and have a prayer meeting. It is a good
day in sweet home Alabama. Not on this occasion.
They stated on their Facebook page, "If I can't sit through a movie with God or
Jesus sitting by me, then we have no business showing it. I know there will be some
that do not agree with this decision. That's fine. We are first and foremost
Christians. We will not compromise on what the Bible teaches." That they would
continue to show only films like where audiences would not worry "about sex,
nudity, homosexuality and foul language.” You know, good old fashion movies that
show bullets ripping off people’s head, gratuitous violence, and people punching
each other. You know the kind of movies that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, would love.
If you honestly think Jesus would be more upset watching a movie where a person
has a potty mouth or expresses love, than someone getting punched or beaten, you
might want to reread your bible. I somehow doubt Jesus would ever say, “I was
okay with Rambo killing 76 people with a machete. But when he held Col.
Troutman’s hand at the end, I vomited in my mouth.”
Henagar, Alabama is a town of 2,344 people in the middle of nowhere, literally
nowhere. It is located on top of Sand Mountain. It took them nearly a half a century
after founding the town to get around to building a school. Which I am pretty sure is
the reason their own post office misspelled the town’s name when it was built. The
town’s name is Henagar, not Henegar, after an early settler named George Henegar.
I am not making that up. Please feel free to look this up if you don’t believe me.
Everyone there appears to be white, except for three Hispanics, two Native
Americans, and someone who identifies themselves as a Pacific Islander, which I am
guessing is just some redneck with a good sense of humor or an individual who
wakes up every morning wanting to blow their head off. The biggest cultural event
of the year there is their potato festival.
The front page of their city’s website is proud to let visitors know that they have a
drive-in. No other businesses or tourist sites are mentioned because “[y]ou just
never know what you will find in Henagar.” Given that it is poverty central, I am
guessing a couple of meth dealers, six or seven Baptist churches, a few dozen broken
down muscle cars sitting in people’s yards, a dollar store, and some streets named
after dead Confederate war generals, but I might be wrong.
It was a story that was much to do about nothing. I am sure if a couple of dozen
cars show up on a weekend and not one of them needs to be jumped afterwards, it is
a successful weekend at the Henagar drive-in. Disney was not going to lose any
money by the new owners refusing to show the film. Oh, I am sure three or four
people who actually went to the drive-in were outraged that they were not going to
get to enjoy a musical on crappy tinny speakers, but I am sure they could survive the
two or three months until it showed up on DVD at the nearby Walmart.
In other words, it allowed people in the larger society to express outrage.
Conservatives and liberals got to shake their fists at each other. Talking heads
rehashed the culture wars. Disney and town of Henagar got a lot of free publicity.
Those involved with the film got to take a few bows. It was a win-win situation for
Then the Russians got involved. They threated not to show Beauty and the Beast in
their country because they have a law on the books against gay propaganda directed
at children. Never mind that they have given the world perhaps the gayest image
ever seen, a shirtless Vladimir Putin riding a horse. That photo looks like something
you might have seen on a flyer advertising a gay bathhouse in the 1980s. Even
Elton John looked at that picture and said, “That is too gay for even me.” Putin has a
problem with the homosexuals.
First off, how do I say this? Gay does not rub off. No kid has ever watched a movie
and went, “I was straight before I saw this thing, but now I want to open a florist
shop and follow Cher around.”
If somehow a movie or a television show could make you homosexual, every male
who grew up in the 1970s and 80s would be flaming gay. Every game show on
television had Charles Nelson Rilley, Paul Lynde, or Rip Taylor on them. These were
men that wore scarfs. They might not have been out of the closet, but they rattled
the closet door so loudly that you sometimes could hear the question on Hollywood
All the hit shows were gay. Laverne & Shirley featured the Big Ragu, a man with a
perm in the 1950s who sang and danced in a shiny jacket, but never “vo-dee-o-
dodoed” with his girlfriend Shirley. The Brady Bunch, Sam was Alice’s beard and
Mr. Brady, please. Gomer Pyle, don’t ask, don’t tell, Sgt. Carter. The Jefferson, no
straight man walked like George Jefferson. Scooby-Doo, Fred wore an ascot and
was amazingly well groomed for someone lurking around dark, abandoned
amusement parks and haunted houses. Granted, he was always disappearing with
Daphne, but every kid knew that was all for show. It was the 80s after all and he
did not want to get beat up. The problem was Shaggy and Scooby were too high
on “Scooby snacks” to even notice. Batman and Robin, they lived in a huge
mansion, but for some unknown reason still needed to share a bedroom. Gilligan’s
Island, you are stuck on island with a gorgeous movie star and a Kansas farm girl,
and you are still sharing a bunk with your “little buddy,” gay. Bert and Ernie. I
could go on and on and on.
Turns out the Russians decided Beauty and the Beast was okay to show. But still,
I thought any movie that has fundamentalist Christians and the former commies
upset; that is a movie I must see. What was this gay moment all about? My only
problem is even though Disney films are really for adults to enjoy as much as
children, I did not want to be that creepy adult that all the other adults look at
because he does not have a kid with him. The only thing creepier are those adults
that take their kids to R-rated movies and slasher films. You know, the ones where
you look at the four-year-old kid and think, “Serial killer in training.”
So, I went to the movie late at night. What did I find? Nothing. I thought I must have
fallen asleep or something. Oh, there were a few seconds where LeFou talked about
his feelings for Gaston, but I have used the same words describing my love of pizza.
Still, I might have missed something. So, I asked the seven-year-old, who had gone
with her mother to the movie, what she thought about the movie. It was then I
learned the true horror of the movie. She did not even mention LeFou. It is a musical
that little girls love. Which means, if you have a child in your life, you are going to
hear those songs sung 500 times over the next six months until you want to play out
the Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter. You are going to hear those songs
sung in the morning, afternoon, and evening. They are going to sing them. Their
friends are going to sing them. That soundtrack will be in your house constantly
Fundamentalist Christians are asking, “What are we going to tell the children?”
The answer: In about two months, “Please, for the love of God, stop singing those