I didn’t want to write about Beauty and the Beast and the gays.
I’ve been trying to ignore all the back and forth, the angry evangelicals, the angry liberals, the snarky commentary, the Twitter wars. The argument itself made me mad, cranky, bitter.
Just let me have my movie.
Beauty and the Beast was one of the first movies I ever saw as a little person, and I don’t remember seeing it for the first time, only rewatching it, again and again and again on a worn out VHS that my grandmother had found in the $5 bin at Market Basket. That fairy tale sunk so deeply into my five year old brain and soul that I swear to God, twenty-five years later, when I have nightmares, they still involve wolves. That story about love and self-sacrifice and kindness and heroism and bookworms was one of my first stories, and our first stories are the ones that form us in the deepest places of our identity.
And now I’m nearly thirty, and the trees are blossoming and it’s barely spring and it is too good to be true that Hermione, the other idol of the brainy, bookish girls of the 90’s, is going to be Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Too beautiful. Too lovely. Much too good to be true.
So I just wanted to ignore all the fuss around The Gay Character. I just wanted to have my movie.
And honestly the fuss is ridiculous and I didn’t have a lot to add to it except frustration and exasperation. For goodness sake, anyone who watched the original with half a brain knew that LeFou was crushing on Gaston. He drools over his chest hair. We all knew this little man didn’t just want to be Gaston, he wanted Gaston. It’s not a secret gay crush – he sings a love song to him, y’all. And on top of that, I frankly am not interested in the evangelical response to very much these days, because it’s absurd that 80% voted for a president who brags about surprise squeezing women’s pussies (which isn’t a problem because a president doesn’t have to be a moral leader, that’s not his job, guys) and then get on a high horse about a gay character in a Disney movie (which is a problem because movies DO have to have to be moral leaders oh wait what were we saying). The Disney movie might confuse our children about what moral sexuality is – as opposed to the leader of our country who will not confuse our kids about what moral sexuality is? Let’s just be honest that we don’t mind heterosexual rape because it affirms male/female gender roles and we don’t really care as long as women aren’t trying to be men or love women or vice versa or anything immoral like that.
So I wasn’t going to write about that.
I just wanted to sit in the theater while the lights went out, and buy a huge box of Whoppers which is what I ate at the first movie I remember seeing in theaters, and cuddle up with every good memory from my growing up years and not let vocal internet evangelicals have the satisfaction of ruining something so nice and beautiful.
But while I was reading about the original Beauty and the Beast in preparation for my Friday Morning Treat YoSelf Brunch Showing, I started reading about Howard Ashman.
Howard Ashman was the lyricist for Beauty and the Beast. He collaborated with Alan Menken for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and his work even shows up in Aladdin.
He died of complications from AIDS before Beauty and the Beast was released to theaters.
His partner, Bill Launch, got up on the stage to accept his Oscar for the song “Beauty and the Beast.”
I was just a kid in the 90’s, and barely born in the 80’s. I was homeschooled so I didn’t learn about the AIDS crisis. Thousands of men, an entire generation, wiped out. Just eliminated. And no one did a goddamn thing. Everyone just watched, because it was the “gay disease” and we can just watch gay men die because we didn’t give a shit.
We took their music. We took their art. We take their literature and dance and fashion and yes, even their Goddamn theology, as long as they don’t make “their lifestyle” explicit, as long as they don’t “shove it in our face,” as long as we don’t need to look their partner in the eyes, as long as they keep it a secret, as long as they are “repenting.”
We took the original Beauty and the Beast and made it part of our culture, we lived it and loved it and gave it to our children.
But the guy who wrote it? The guy who made it sing? The one who gave the words to Belle and the Beast and Gaston and Lumier?
He’ll just die quietly of complications from a disease the US government couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to. He’ll die quietly, because the person he was in love with wasn’t a woman.
And in thirty years, we’ll update his movie and we’ll take away the wink wink nudge nudge of a possibly gay character and boldly say out loud “oh hey, guess what, kids? Sometimes people fall in love with people of the same gender as themselves” and Christians will lose their collective shit because we want what the gays can give us, we just don’t want the gays themselves.
Give us whatever you have, and we’ll take it. But just don’t give us yourselves. We don’t want you.
I’m still going to have a Treat YoSelf brunch with my childhood memories and Whoppers and sit in awe and delight that Hermione is singing the songs that gave me an identity as a little girl who read too many books. I’ll still see all the beauty and truth and wisdom and kindness in a fairy tale about how love can save us all. But it’s hard not to be sad, and angry, too, that we live in a world that still doesn’t believe that love can save us all.
Y’all never understood this movie anyway.