Disney and Your LGBT Neighbors

In taking Beauty and the Beast from animation to live action, Disney has chosen to portray Gaston’s sidekick LeFou as a possibly gay man (the evidence is ambiguous). Some people are outraged.

Yet apparently no one is bothered that Lumiere in the original animated version was a womanizer.

Lumiere the womanizer

Nor with the even more problematic main theme which is that Belle is in an abusive situation that can only be put right if she stays committed to it so that her true love will eventually transform the beast into someone who treats her right.

Putting the abuse dynamic and Lumiere’s character aside for purposes of this post, Disney’s decision to bring a possibly gay character into a film is clearly another indication that being gay or lesbian is losing its pariah status. Does Disney’s choice also demand a response from those who belong to Jesus Christ?

I think so, but my suggestion might not be what you’re expecting.

Looking to Jesus as our example of how to embrace people

Who were among society’s pariahs when Jesus ministered in Israel?

Prostitutes – Jesus allowed one to touch him in ways that shocked the religious leadership.

Gentiles, especially women – Jesus healed the daughter of a woman who kept begging for a miracle until he said yes.

Enemy Soldiers – Jesus declared one Roman officer to have more faith than anyone he’d met in Israel.

In each of these situations consider how the Jews around Jesus must have responded, especially that last one where they heard that Jesus considered a foreigner to have more faith than any of them!

So what should we do when it comes to the ever-increasing visibility of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and other people who identify as LGBTQIA, a classification that some still consider lesser people, a group that some still want to treat as pariahs?

Get ready to love and embrace

One thing to keep in mind is that there were people in Bible times who were also gay and lesbian. Can you imagine an army the size of David’s with not a single gay soldier in it? The statistics make the odds astronomical, at least. And all those crowds who came to hear Jesus preach; surely some of those thousands were lesbian or gay. Think too about people in your own life today. Are you sure no one at work, no one you went to school with, no one in your family is gay?

The real issue is not that movies portray gay characters, because art has always imitated life. Actors, plumbers, lawyers, football players are each professions with all sorts of people in them. In fact, take any profession you like and you’ll find LGBT people are members of it. It’s no good pretending otherwise; you’d just be denying reality.

A lot of people find this topic uncomfortable. Perhaps you were raised to think this should never be spoken of, to wish you never had to think about it, and you’d like never to have to talk to your kids about it. Yet that would mean ignoring the people God has put in your life. God calls you to love them just as you love people you’re comfortable being around.

So do as Jesus did. Spend time with people, get to know them, and show them God’s love. After all, it’s not really like you’re going to meet anyone new. Gays and lesbians and others are already among your family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances, and among people from church as well. It’s just a matter of now knowing that.

And of showing people what it means to have a relationship with Jesus, who loves them just as much as he loves you.

***

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27 Responses to Disney and Your LGBT Neighbors

  1. “Spend time with people, get to know them, and show them God’s love.”

    I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing, too:

    https://livingliminal.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/love-does-not-look-like-judgement.html

  2. Vashra Araeshkigal says:

    Yeah. Fine. But you miss the point that when Jesus spent time with these people, He *changed* them. The prostitute He turned into a disciple, if not an apostle, did *not* follow Him all over the Midfle East while keeping her “night job.”

    One cannot accurately teach the Gospel of Salvation while ignoring the *necessity* of repentance. It’s a journey, not a light switch, sure, and people get lost/sidetracked all the time…but…we need to acknowledge there is still a very narrow way we are expected to travel.

    • Tim says:

      I never said otherwise, Vashra. The point of the post is to embrace people. If a womanizer like Lumiere needs to change then God will work in his heart.

  3. maureenkj says:

    The folks who are upset about a gay character have not yet mentioned the glaring problem of encouraging a young woman to have a relationship with an animal.

    • Tim says:

      He’s not really an animal but a man throughout. Appearing as a beast is allegory. Gaston, on the other hand, looks like a man but is beastly on the inside.

      • maureenkj says:

        Right – just adding (piling on?) to the absurdity of the rising call to boycott over this issue. Thanks for your post today!

  4. I appreciate this post very much, Tim. I don’t think you missed the point at all; I think you got right to the point in addressing what is really important in the way we … I was starting to type “deal with people,” and even that sounds so impersonal and cold. “Spend time with people, get to know them, show them God’s love.” That is what Jesus did.

    • Tim says:

      Tjanks, Jeannie. I know some people will read this post with set ideas of what they like or don’t like about the movie. I’m glad you saw that I’m going in a different direction than the two basic positions (i.e., aack-a-gay-character and yay-a-gay-character.)

  5. Kathy Heisleman says:

    A great application of logic as usual! Thank you for your post; gives us all rational talking points on this emotionally fraught topic.

  6. Lea says:

    I’m pretty sure that song sung to, by and about Gaston is my favorite in the cartoon, and while thinking about it, I see some parallels in the way LeFou is hero worshiping Gaston to the way some of these comp fellows think about stereotypical traits they deem masculine (he uses antlers in all of his decorating!).

    Maybe they should pay less attention to whatever is going on with LeFou, and pay attention to the fact that Gaston’s praised outward expressions of manliness are completely surface. In truth, he is a cruel, cold and vain man. He tries to control Belle. He is a ‘leader’ of the town, but not in a good way. Etc.

    • Tim says:

      To me Gaston may look like a man but he’s the real beast on the inside.

      • roscuro says:

        You got the message of Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film, ‘La Belle et la Bete’, upon which the Disney version is based. The original French fairy tale, written and published in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villenueve, doesn’t have a male villain to act as foil to the Beast. Cocteau was the one who introduced a villain who wants to marry Belle and tries to break into the Beast’s castle. [Spoiler alert:] The same actor, Jean Marais, plays both characters – Disney also imitated that in making Gaston and the human form of the Beast identical except in expression and hair colouring.

  7. Kenny Pierce says:

    I’ve had to learn to try to love those who were “other” to me over the years – the flipside of most of your respondents. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve done so by God’s grace, and I am all the richer for it. Jesus to me is the template that I follow and it’s a struggle that requires that I bear the burden of setting aside my preconceptions and past injuries, and to simply try to find truth, which usually resides outside of dogma and binary ways of imposing our will vs. that of God’s. Those who I once might have despised have come to be my greatest teachers and friends, because I gave them a chance, and they’ve come to know me.

    This post is a beautiful reminder of what grace looks like, in spite of the condemnation of Pharisees that might surround and denounce and call us to the easier (but fruitless) road of judgment.

    Thank you for this, Tim, and God bless you.

  8. Michael says:

    Thanks for your nuanced and graceful post. I did not interpret your point as minimizing the requirement of repentance in salvation, only that we should think twice about who exactly we decide to REQUIRE repentance from in exchange for “allowing” them to be saved. The “gay” controversy has a unique ability to turn otherwise normal loving Christians into legalistic Pharisees. Plus as far as boycotting Disney, I don’t see gays interpreting that as anything other than “I say I love you, but I don’t want to see you or feel required to acknowledge that you exist.”

    That’s my two bits. And I don’t deny I have to watch my own bad attitude sometimes about hypocritical Christians. But I’ll bet no one would feel compelled to boycott a movie about me.

    • Tim says:

      Great points, Michael. It’s the repeated message of preferring people don’t exist that gets me too.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The “gay” controversy has a unique ability to turn otherwise normal loving Christians into legalistic Pharisees.

      Sex not only can make people stupid, Homosexuality makes Christians crazy.

      “Even the mere mention of the word is sufficient to induce — PANIC!”

  9. zechariahzavid says:

    This is a very helpful, encouraging and challenging post Tim. You are absolutely right in saying that society needs to acknowledge gay people exist. This is a fulfillment of the command to love your neighbour as yourself. Regardless of ones interpretation of certain verses (Leviticus 18, Romans 1), one needs to acknowledge not only that gay people exist but that they are first and foremost human beings created in the image of God. Then and only then can we move on to discuss the issues at hand.

  10. muzjik says:

    A few small quibbling points of contention….
    1) I’m not sure how you can say that LeFou is “possibly” gay but the evidence is “ambiguous” when the director himself said there will be “a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
    2) I have heard a number of times the argument you make: there are and have been people who struggle with a same-sex attraction and/or are homosexual (I would argue that they aren’t the same thing).
    But existence doesn’t automatically confer positive moral standing. You (and others) seem to say the “outrage” is unfounded…kind of a “nothing to see here.” Yet gay publications are saying things like ““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 I think Christians can believe the Bible does not affirm that view of homosexuality and that doesn’t automatically make them unloving.
    3) The problematic element I see is this: the idea that if you (young boys and girls seeing this movie) admire someone, if you want to be more like the admired person, it’s likely you really “want to kiss them” (another quote from the director) and are homosexual. And there are any number of supposedly “well-meaning” adults ready to reinforce this and help kids explore their “true” sexuality.

    Hence the concern of some Christians.

    • Tim says:

      I don’t think I made point number 2, did I? I’m just trying to convince folks not to let someone’s sexuality get in the way of sering them as a person God put in your life.

      On point 1, follow the link to read why I said ambiguous.

      • muzjik says:

        I summarized point #2 from this section: “So what should we do when it comes to the ever-increasing visibility of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and other people who identify as LGBTQIA, a classification that some still consider lesser people, a group that some still want to treat as pariahs?
        Get ready to love and embrace

        One thing to keep in mind is that there were people in Bible times who were also gay and lesbian. Can you imagine an army the size of David’s with not a single gay soldier in it? The statistics make the odds astronomical, at least. And all those crowds who came to hear Jesus preach; surely some of those thousands were lesbian or gay. Think too about people in your own life today. Are you sure no one at work, no one you went to school with, no one in your family is gay?”

        Sorry if I made assumptions.

        As far as point #1..well, I relied on the director’s own words on his intent for the character.

        • Tim says:

          I appreciate the director’s quote you provided. I think the author I cited was going more on how the scene played than the intent behind it, but I completely get what you’re saying.

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