by Bria Isaacson, News Editor
The Disney live-action Beauty and the Beast, set to release in Russia on March 16 and in the U.S. on March 17, has been labeled “a blatant, shameless propaganda of sin and perverted sexual relationships” by a Russian lawmaker, who is urging Russia to ban the film, reported CNN.
The film features Disney’s first openly gay character, Gaston’s side-kick LeFou, played by U.S. actor Josh Gad.
Although homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993 and was officially removed from a list of psychiatric disorders in the country in 1999, the country passed laws in 2013 prohibiting the spread of “gay propaganda” among minors, according to the BBC.
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said that the government would check the film’s content before releasing it.
He told BBC, “As soon as we get a copy of the film with relevant paperwork for distribution, we will consider it according to the law.”
Several government officials have called for further action, urging Medinsky to ban it from cinemas if he found “elements of propaganda of homosexuality,” official Vitaly Milonov told the BBC.
Concerns such as this have also made one Alabama drive-in theater cancel plans to screen the movie.
Representatives of the Henagar Drive-In in Alabama announced on Facebook, “When companies continually force their views on us, we need to take a stand…. If I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me, then we have no business showing it. I know there will be some that do not agree with this decision. That’s fine. We are first and foremost Christians. We will not compromise on what the Bible teaches.” The message was removed from Facebook a day later.
In response, USA Today reported that Beauty and Beast Director Bill Condon said, “This is a movie for everyone. I’m sad about that theater but there are 4,000 theaters showing the movie. I hope everybody moves past that and just goes to take pleasure in what was made.”
Condon started the entire controversy when he told reporters that LeFou has a “wonderful gay moment” in the film, as LeFou tries to come to terms with feelings for Gaston that swing between lust and admiration; however, Condon later said, “I think [LeFou’s sexuality] has been a little overstated,” USA Today reported.
Regardless, BBC said that Disney is calling this their first ever “exclusively gay moment” on film.
This scene, according to The New York Times, is a three second clip of LeFou dancing with another man.
To USA Today, Gad said, “What was most important to me [was] taking a character that is wonderful and so iconic, but is defined by cartoon conceits in the (original) movie…and expanding on that, giving him dimension, making him human.”
Beauty and the Beast not only premieres Disney’s first gay character, but it also includes Disney’s first interracial kiss in a live-action film. This will take place between Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe, played by Audra McDonald, and a new character, the piano Cadenza, played by Stanley Tucci, according to the BBC.
Matt Cain, editor of British magazine Attitude, applauds the film for breaking new boundaries.
“It’s a step in the right direction and I applaud Disney for being brave enough to make it,” he said to the BBC. In doing so, it will hopefully help to change attitudes and bring about real social progress.”