Friday, March 3, 2017

And Get Off My Lawn

I have a problem with the upcoming live-action version of Beauty and the Beast.

Now, since I have frequently confessed herein that I am a person mired deep in traditional Christian theism, you might think my problem comes in the form of the revelation that LeFou, who plays the bumbling sidekick to the vain and villainous Gaston, is gay. At least one theater in Alabama has decided not to show the movie because of that.

Au contraire. Sure, I can't understand the decision, since LeFou is at best an incidental character whose main job is help Gaston sing about himself. If I were a gay person, I would think that a company that really wanted to make a statement about me would rework the story so that the aforementioned Gaston recognized his macho pose as an act of denial and it was his selfless act of love that allowed the Beast to regain his human form. Whereupon they would set up house -- or castle -- together. This would have the added advantage of allowing the heroine Belle to demonstrate she did not need a man to complete her.

Instead, one of the more buffoonish characters of the movie is shoehorned into blazing this trail. A lot of television shows claim a mantle of courage for featuring same-sex relationships but make sure the couples are smokin' eye candy like in Supergirl and Wynonna Earp. The titillation factor means their claims of courage rest on some seriously sandy soil: Our shows are Brave and Daring and Diverse -- just as long as the diverse ones are also teh hawt. So too Beast is Making a Statement with a Gay Character -- as long as he's not a very important one.

But that's not what bugs me about this movie. What bugs me is that it's being made at all. What will be added to the classic story by reprising the 1991 animated smash only with human actors and computer-generated imagery? Lumiere is no longer a hand-drawn animated candelabra voiced by Detective Lenny Briscoe. Now he's a computer-generated animated candelabra voiced by Obi-Wan Kenobi! Cogsworth is no longer Major Charles Emerson Winchester III; he's now Gandalf/Magneto! (And as regards the sexuality of characters in the movie, maybe a gay Cogsworth would have been a more fitting tribute to the gay actor David Ogden Stiers, who voiced him in the animated movie.)

But what about seeing Emma Watson as Belle? So what? Belle doesn't diverge widely from Hermione Granger, the Harry Potter role that made Watson an international star. Trying to say that in this movie she's a different independent, bookish, smart young woman who thinks for herself and doesn't pay much attention to whatever tradition says her role is supposed to be? And frankly, Watson's own intelligence, independent-mindedness and strong character make her close enough to Belle that in every trailer I've watched, I've never thought of the character as Belle -- only as Emma Watson.

Anything can be adapted; Beast was a smash Broadway musical and paved the way for several similar staged versions of Disney movies. So it's not as though there aren't other ways to experience amazing stories like that brought to life by Mouse Magic in 1991. But in its best work, among which Beast is surely numbered, Disney didn't put forth awesome and iconic animated movies. It put forth awesome and iconic movies, period. The definitive version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast has been made, and it was released in 1991.

So if you ask me in the next few weeks if I plan on seeing Beauty and the Beast, my answer will be "Probably not. I've seen it already."


Jennifer Dipboye said...

Gandalf/Magneto is also gay.

Friar said...

A great point, and all the more reason to have looked at Cogsworth first if this idea was supposed to represent anything beyond virtue signaling -- although since the movie is yet to be released it could be that the "moment"producer Richard Condon promises involves him as well.

Todd Bergman said...

I had not followed up on the announcement of which character was coming out. But as we discussed it last night on the way to Logan, I made the exact same comment. Cogsworth would have been the more logical choice to out.

Friar said...

In the interview I linked, Stiers even notes that some of his delay back in '91 had to do with not wanting to "brand" Cogsworth who was already kind of flamboyant and could have been seen as a stereotype.