Disney will introduce their first openly gay character in the forthcoming live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. LeFou, played by Josh Gad, will spend much of the film wrestling with his sexuality as he acts as Gaston’s (Luke Evans) sidekick. Director Bill Condon shed some light on what we can expect from LeFou in an interview with Attitude, saying:
LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. 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. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.
Condon says the change in LeFou’s character was inspired by the late lyricist Howard Ashman, who was honored with a posthumous Oscar for the original film’s music after dying from AIDS. According to Condon, Ashman saw the Beast’s ostracism from society as a metaphor for the neglect and persecution HIV-positive people faced in the early days of the disease, and still face today.
But before we go all gooey-eyed for Disney’s seeming act of inclusivity, let’s wait and see how exactly LeFou is portrayed in the film. If Disney decides to use the character’s sexuality as a comedic device (which has happened before in many films), it will be extremely disappointing. Disney has a lot of power, making their potential impact on LGBT representation in frequently hetero-exclusive Hollywood all the bigger—they better not screw this up.
Beauty and the Beast hits theaters on March 17.