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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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