In a few days, Disney will debut the live-action remake of their classic 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast, and with it, their first officially gay character in the form of LeFou played by Josh Gad (Frozen). Though it is yet to be seen exactly how LeFou is portrayed in the upcoming film, most people were delighted at Disney’s small effort to support representation for LGBT characters in film…but not everyone. Just last week, a drive-in movie theater in Alabama declared its intention to ban Beauty and the Beast for the inclusion of this character, stating, “We will not compromise on what the bible teaches,” Pretty harsh, though not unexpected, and I doubt Disney is weeping over one theater in a small Alabama town.
That is, until Russia began mulling over whether they should do the same, only this time, banning it from their entire country! That’s quite an extreme move, even from a nation known for being extremely homophobic. This exclusion was mainly spurred on by Vitaly Milonov, a notorious Russian lawmaker who has spent much of his career railing against gay rights, who called the film “overt and shameless propaganda of sin and sexual perversion under the guise of a fairy tale.” But in the end, even the Russian government saw the error of its ways, so they benevolently came up with a compromise! Instead of banning the film outright, they will allow it in their theaters, but it will be given a 16+ rating, which is, more or less, Russia’s equivalent of an “Adults Only” rating (.…wait, what?).
Technically, the film could very easily be classified as propaganda under a law enacted in 2013 designed to prevent children from being exposed to “gay propaganda”, which gives Russia leeway to do this, however unfortunate it may be. We also have to remember that although we in the U.S. have made much progress towards equality for people of different sexual orientations, not every nation on Earth is as down with the cause as we are. In fact, there are many places where you can still be legally executed and/or imprisoned for being gay (Uganda, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, etc.). This is just a reminder of how far we have left to go to bring further tolerance and acceptance to the LGBT community worldwide. So on that depressing note, be sure to enjoy Beauty and the Beast when it hits U.S. theaters on March 17th!