Why I’m Glad LeFou is Gay
I’m a little late to the party, but let’s talk about Beauty and the Beast. A few weeks ago, Disney revealed that the character of LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick, would be gay in their live action version of the classic animated film. This prompted an enormous backlash from evangelical circles, with many calling for all good Christians to boycott the new film. I’ve seen plenty of arguments on both sides of the debate, from people who feel betrayed by Disney, and from people who argue that having a gay character in the film is no more or less objectionable than violence, language, or any other sinful activity. I’m going to take a side here, and it’s one that I haven’t heard from any other Christian sources, but I think it’s an important one to consider. I’m not just neutral on the matter, I am glad that LeFou is gay, and I think other Christians should be too.
Now that I’ve gotten your attention with my controversial stance, I hope that you’ll hear me out. I’m not going to backpedal. This isn’t clickbait; I meant what I said, and I have thoughtful, biblical reasons for my position. That said, I will start with a disclaimer. I am not telling you whether you should or should not see this movie. That is not my place, and I would not presume to dictate what entertainment you ought to watch or support. Each person must decide for him or herself whether they can in good conscience watch or support any given film. For that part of the debate, I direct you to the previously mentioned articles both in favor and opposed to watching the film itself. I am going to explain why the fact that there is a gay character in this film, or any film for that matter, is a good thing. (Please also keep in mind that Disney is not a Christian company, and they do not owe you anything in regards to the content they produce, just as you do not owe them anything in regards to the content you purchase.) Let’s start with the issue of representation.
This is one of the largest, often underlooked, issues in entertainment. The types of characters that are portrayed in media, books, and games, and the manner in which they are portrayed, matters immensely. As an average white male, I don’t usually have much of an issue finding characters with whom I can relate in stories, but for people who are part of minority or stigmatized demographics, this is not the case. The representation of non-majority groups shows people in those groups that they matter, that they are worthy of respect and empathy, and that they can do great things, just like the heroes of their favorite stories. If we deny representation to a group, then what we are essentially saying to them is that they are not worthy of respect, not capable of doing anything worthwhile, not fully human.
If you think I’m being hyperbolic, just imagine if you were bullied and tormented on a daily or weekly basis because of some feature that placed you outside of the majority norm. Now imagine that in every story you read, every movie you watched, every TV show and comic book, all the characters were just like the people who were trying to make you feel like you were not as good as them. People like you don’t show up in stories at all, or if they do, it’s only as stereotyped, incindental throwaway characters, or one-dimensional villians. After a while, you may begin to feel that those bullies are right, maybe there is something fundamentally wrong with you, and you just aren’t as good or worthy of love and respect as other people. Even if you do manage to maintain a positive self-image, I guarantee that you would feel rejected and ostracized by the society that refuses to even grant you the same level of empathy they give to their pets.
Representation matters. And it doesn’t just matter to me, God cares about it too. Why else do you think that Jesus went to the marginalized? Why else did He tell the apostles to spread the good news to the ends of the earth, not just their own country? Why else did the Apostle Paul say that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, but we are all one in Christ? God loves us, not because of some outward or biological marker that shows we are part of a certain group. He loves us not because we only engage in sins we deem acceptable. He loves us only because of his great mercy. So we ought to take any avenue we can find to show that same mercy to others, and we ought to do so gladly. Christ’s message is one of representation. He represented us on the cross when he paid the price for our fogiveness. He represents us now before the Father, interceding for us. He tells us that we are loved, that we are respected, and that in Him we can do great things. Representation matters to God.
That leads me into the second reason I’m glad LeFou is gay: it gives us a chance to share God’s love. Let me explain.
A Second Chance to Show Love
I don’t think it’s any big secret that the Church has not had a good track record of showing love to people who identify as homosexual. I don’t want to get into the issue of whether it’s a choice or a biological thing, because for the purposes of this discussion, it really doesn’t matter. The fact of the matter is, many Christians have adopted a policy of rejection and hostility to anyone practicing a certain subset of sin that they have deemed worse than all the others. Not only so, but many people have employed an “us vs. them” rhetoric when discussing this issue, which does nothing at all to help discussion. In fact, I believe that this attitude is actually sinful. You see, God commands us to share the good news with the world. It is his number one priority for us, and when we stigmatize and alienate an entire group of those with whom we are supposed to be sharing the gospel, we are going directly against that commandment. No one that I’m aware of was ever successfully introduced to Jesus by someone shouting at them that they were evil and going to hell. When we paint our fellow humans as the enemy, we are making a huge mistake, and losing any chance we might have had to get to know them and share God’s love and message of grace with them. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood.
Here’s where I can be a little hopeful, however. Because every time there is an issue like this that comes up in society, we have a chance to change our response to be more Christ-like. Whenever there is a character in a prominent movie that is gay, we have a chance to alter the nature of the discussion from one of war to one of peace. What if we started to respond to the lost and broken world with compassion instead of anger? How many more of our unbelieving friends and family would begin to feel safe discussing these sorts of issues with us? But maybe we don’t want to have those discussions, because it’s easier to just spew vitriol and platitudes than it is to be real, open, and respectful to others.
“But wait!” Someone will exclaim, “Aren’t we supposed to speak truth to people? We can’t just act like what they are doing is okay!” I agree, we do need to speak the truth. But there’s a piece missing if that’s all we do. Ephesians 4:15 says we are to speak the truth in love. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us, but to do so with gentleness and respect. We can speak truth until the cows come home, but if we aren’t loving and respectful, who is going to listen? And remember, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the world of sin, not yours. God has called us to be ministers of reconciliation, as if He were making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) That message will only be received if the messengers show God’s love.
One last note, and then I’ll end this long post. On the subject of platitudes, can we please, PLEASE stop saying “love the sinner but hate the sin”? PLEASE. That particular phrase comes up over and over in the conversations I hear about the issue of homosexuality, and it is the farthest thing from helpful. Not only is it unhelpful, but it is poorly worded and not all that biblical. Let me explain. The concept of loving sinners is of course biblical, God loved us when we were still sinners, this is very true. The concept of hating sin is also biblical, God hates sin, and he makes it very clear. The problem arises when we tack these two ideas togther and make it seem like they are opposites, some sort of strange oxymoron we must somehow balance in our lives. That is the farthest thing from the truth. The truth can be found in the reason why God hates sin. God hates sin because he loves sinners. He knows the consequences of our sin and he wants to save us from them. He doesn’t have to struggle with some internal dilemma over loving sinners and hating what they do; he hates what we do because he loves us and knows that sin is quite literally killing us. So when we say, “love the sinner but hate the sin,” we are actually misrepresenting God. Because, I guarantee you, when a non-Christian hears that phrase, it makes them feel like we’re saying, “I love you, but I hate everything about you.”
So, in conclusion, I’m glad LaFou is gay for two reasons: Representation matters, and it gives us a chance to show love and grace. That’s my two cents on the issue. Will I go see the movie? Probably. Should you? Who am I to say? But Whether you see it or not, please don’t use it as a tool to heap on more hatred and alienation to an already contentious discussion. Use it as an opportunity to show people that they are worthy of respect and consideration, and that you are willing to listen to them and love them, just as Christ loves us.