Saturday, July 1, 2017

The one where I watch Beauty and the Beast

Yes, I'm admittedly behind the times with my movie reviews.

I have a definite habit of spitefully avoiding most things people recommend to me for extended periods of time. It's one of the many hold-over coping mechanisms from my childhood that doesn't currently serve any purpose, but I can't quite completely get rid of. It was a lot more advantageous while I was growing up to know the opinion of those in charge than to try and form my own opinions about things. If I did have an opinion on something, even if it aligned with expectations, it was usually best to shut up about it. Regardless of allegiance, my thoughts on anything were regarded as pretty irrelevant. Hence, in my adult life, people make recommendations on things I might enjoy and I skeptically start gathering opinions on said thing so I'll know what the majority consensus is and how dangerous it might be not to align myself.

In any case, I had been hearing for awhile about the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast and how it was "better than" a lot of people had expected it to be. I also had a fair amount of information about the "exclusively gay moment" supposedly featured.

So when B&B (alternative title: The Re-Beastening) was available in-flight, I locked my tray table in the upright position and buckled in to see what I thought about it.

Fair warning, the remainder of this entry isn't going to be about how I thought Emma Watson did a really good job. Or how stunning the visual effects were. I'm not offering any commentary on whether or not there was more of a "feminist" angle to this version vs. the animated one (although it is something that I've thought about, and my simple answer is "no.") The remainder of this entry is going to be a total soap-box style rage about LGBT representation and how incredibly disappointing it was to be promised something "exclusively gay" and then be delivered a fey side-kick sucking on his pinky for 2 hours and briefly partnering up with another man during a fancy gala dance.

The long and the short of it: it sucks to have a marginalized identity be used purely as a marketing strategy. As if the people that produced this movie were concerned the gays weren't going to go see a musical.

It's a movie about a "weird" girl who doesn't fit in with her little backwoods hometown. You know, she like...reads books and stuff.

It all works out okay, though, because once somebody who is literally royalty gets her to assume that stereotypical care-giver role (and her a whole fucking library full of books to read when she's not busy demeaningly teaching him how to be a decent human being), she's fulfilled and the ending credit music can swell up.

Fucking pro tip. If the main character is skewed from the norm in any way whatsoever, the queers will get to it. That's what happens when a community's integral identity and sexual expression have been suppressed and villainized for the better part of...forever. Representation is found where it can be had. Belle being ostracized for reading books is a very watered-down version of how it feels to recognize that feeling of being "other." But when you're parched, even a drop of water can be refreshing.'s all in vogue now. It's so chic to be queer. I mean, LeFou was clearly, obviously homosexual. Just look at this!

That's gayer than nine dudes blowing ten dudes. And this was a Disney film. What else could I possibly be asking for?

My pinnacle of representation, my Edenic wish, was for LeFou to be gay, and for it to be a non-issue. For the film to not have wasted so much sweat and energy on making him skip everywhere. I wanted "he's 100% dedicated to serving another man" to not be inflated to insinuate anything other than lackey-hood. (Although I'm one thousand percent sure there's some pretty raunchy BDSM Rule 34 out there, if you care to find it.)

There's a perfect moment for this in the film, when Gaston and LeFou are bro-ing out and complaining about how annoying women are but how ultimately they want to be partnered exclusively with one for the remainder of their days. (That's a whole other kettle of fish, dear readers.) Gaston, in a reflective moment, asks LeFou why he hasn't found the right woman to settle down with yet. LeFou's response, "I'm clingy," could have so easily been replaced with him screaming, "IT'S BECAUSE I LIKE DICK OMG."

Okay, so maybe not actually those exact words. I get that you were kind of a school-boy perv, Walt Disney, but I won't besmirch your legacy by advising that you insert all-caps phallus references into your films.

It would have just been awesome to have representation = normalcy. Say...LeFou is Gaston's lackey, but he also makes eyes at the bartender of the hunting lodge. Maybe you see LeFou and the bartender reach for and hold each other's hands when the whole village is going ape-shit about the Beast being a real thing and the townspeople are gathering their torches and other various angry mob accoutrements. It's...effortless. An action two hetero characters could engage in without the audience pausing their popcorn shoveling. That's how representation is done well. Once you brush off all the glitter, we're just boring old humans like the rest of ya'll.

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