5 questions we have about Disney's first explicitly gay character.

In an interview with "Attitude" magazine, Bill Condon, the director of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" dropped a bombshell — the film will feature the studio's first-ever explicitly gay character.

Photo by Walt Disney Pictures.

Condon announced that LeFou — Gaston's obsequious sidekick (played in the movie by Josh Gad) — will be portrayed in the live-action remake as pining for his boss, culminating in an "exclusively gay moment" for the character toward the end of the film.


"It's somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away," Condon told "Attitude."

On the one hand, it's great that Disney is finally putting an explicit LGBTQ character on screen, even if it has been a long time coming. It's even cooler to know that this is just one of many ways that Disney has updated the classic "Beauty and the Beast" story for a more modern era — including making Belle the inventor, instead of her father. Featuring an LGBTQ character is totally a step forward, and we certainly hope LeFou won't be the last.

On the other hand, Condon's statement was vague (albeit intentionally so), and we have some concerns about the decision to make LeFou, of all characters, the first.

1. Will LeFou be just another "gay villain"?

Photo by Walt Disney Pictures.

The trope of the "deliciously" evil antagonist has been around a long time — as explained incisively by this unsparing stand-up bit from 2011 — and Disney has been a prime perpetrator in advancing it. "The Little Mermaid's" Ursula was explicitly modeled on the famous drag queen Divine; "The Lion King's" Scar is, largely, a bundle of preening, limp-wristed, stereotypes; and "Aladdin's" Jafar certainly sends some mixed signals, to say the least.

LeFou isn't the movie's primary villain, but he's unequivocally, definitely on Team Bad. Thus, the studio's first gay character is someone we're primed to pity, laugh at, and root against.

Not only is LeFou not a great guy, he's essentially a sideshow — the antagonist's funny sidekick. Which also makes one wonder...

2. Will LeFou's apparently sincere feelings for Gaston be played for laughs?

LeFou isn't exactly the most three-dimensional character in the Disney canon. In the original animated feature, his appearances are pretty much limited to heinously sucking up to his boss, getting punched in various directions, and generally making a fool of himself.

Will his crush on Gaston be treated as a joke — an extension of his comic relief role? And if it isn't, will that just be ... kind of weird? What would that even look like?

3. If LeFou is, in fact, bisexual, as the filmmakers suggest he might be, will it be portrayed as weird or deviant?

"LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston," Condon explained in the interview. It's a quote that suggests LeFou might, in fact, be bisexual or at the very least confused about where he stands.

And that's OK! Representation of people who are bi, queer, or simply sexually fluid are also lacking on screen. But LeFou is a clown. Will his confusion be treated as pathetic and odd? We hope not, but given Hollywood's frequent inability to take bisexuality seriously, it's fair to be concerned.

4. Is Gaston and LeFou's romance doomed, as usual?

Photo by Walt Disney Pictures.

At the climax of the original, animated "Beauty and the Beast," after losing his knock-down drag-out brawl with the Beast, Gaston [26-year-old spoiler alert] falls to his death, much to the delight of children everywhere.

Too frequently, romance between gay men on screen isn't allowed to just be. It has to end tragically (cf. "Brokeback Mountain"). Thankfully, that's starting to change (cf. "Moonlight,"), but assuming Disney hasn't reinvented the ending of "Beauty and the Beast," the story of LeFou and Gaston's one-sided romance is going to be the same old tragic gay love story.

5. It's 2017 already. Why did this take so long?

True, he does get to sing the movie’s best song (fight me!), but aside from that, LeFou is a pretty marginal character. His primary purpose is to skitter around after Gaston, making a fool of himself. LeFou's name literally translates to “the fool.”

Openly gay characters have been a fixture on TV and in film for going on two decades now.

This was 20 years ago. Photo by Stewart Cook/Online USA Inc.

It’s not particularly meaningful to slap the “gay” label on a random henchman with a few lines and call it a day, especially one as buffoonish and cartoonish as LeFou. If Disney really wanted to demonstrate its commitment to on-screen equality and not just checking boxes, they’d let an LGBTQ character take the lead for once — perhaps even one of their vaunted princesses (paging Elsa?)

Hopefully the movie addresses these concerns, and if it doesn't, hopefully Disney learns for the future.

It's certainly impossible — and unfair —to judge how the movie handle's LeFou's sexuality before anyone has seen it. But as nuanced, three-dimensional portrayals of LGBTQ people become the norm and not the exception, it's important that Disney — ubiquitous and beloved as its films, TV shows, and characters are with children and parents all over the world — comes along for the ride.

Getting a gay character up on screen, even at this late date, is a good start for the studio. Hopefully it's the start of more frequent and substantial LGBTQ representation to come.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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