(Adds reaction in para 8-12)
By Anna Pujol-Mazzini
LONDON, March 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Disney will feature its first gay scene when a character is seen struggling with his sexuality in the live-action remake of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, according to the film’s director.
The film’s stars will be heterosexual - British actors Emma Watson and Dan Stevens play the title roles - and manservant LeFou, sidekick to the film’s macho main man Gaston, will grapple with his own sexuality.
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” director Bill Condon told gay magazine Attitude in an interview published on Wednesday.
“He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realising that he has these feelings. It is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie,” he told the British magazine.
Attitude editor-in-chief Matt Cain said it was an important step towards fair representation of LGBT people in the media.
“By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural – and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay,” he said.
‘Beauty and the Beast’ tells the story of a prince who is transformed into a beast, and a young woman who is imprisoned in his castle, as he tries to win her love.
“It’s sad that we still haven’t seen a lesbian, gay, bi or trans lead character in a Disney film,” Stonewall, an equality campaigns group, said in a statement.
“We must see the film industry as a whole become more diverse, which means actively hiring more writers, directors and producers whose lived experiences represent all communities.”
The decision to update a Disney classic, however, drew criticism in some quarters, with one commentator in an online discussion forum saying “gender politics has no place in children’s entertainment. Leave the classic stories alone.”
It is not the first time Disney has updated its films to reflect changing times and drawn a mixed reaction.
In a drive to promote racial diversity on screen, Disney featured its first black princess in the 2009 film, 'The Princess and the Frog'. Reaction was mixed; some critics voiced concern that her depiction only strengthened racial stereotypes. (Reporting by Anna Pujol-Mazzini @annapmzn, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)