“Beauty and the Beast” Reflects Changing ASW Opinions on LGBT Community

by Sara Motlik

  • Date of release: March 17th, 2017
  • Duration: 125 minutes
  • Starring:
    • Emma Watson as Belle
    • Luke Evans as Gaston
    • Dan Stevens as the Beast
    • Josh Gad as LeFou
  • Guest appearances:
    • Emma Thompson
    • Ian McKellan
  • Director – Bill Condon
  • Rated PG, 129 Minutes

 

On March 17th, 2017, the live-action version of one of Disney’s best known animated movies hit the theatres in the United States as well as parts of Europe and Asia. Fans flooded into cinemas across the world, bumping the movie’s box office to over $977 million, with over $174 million domestically on the opening weekend, according to boxofficemojo.com. But was the success deserved, or are the numbers deceiving? The ASW high school has decided.

A group of ASW high school students partook in an anonymous internet survey designed to measure their satisfaction with the new film adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. When asked to rate the movie on a scale from 1 (described as “I want my money back”) to 10 (“I loved it”), 72.3% of the participants voted 7 or higher on the satisfaction scale. This closely matches up to the Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” score of 71%.

A round of applause for the casting team is in order. If there is any actress currently in the industry who fits the role of Belle so perfectly, it’s Emma Watson. Her wits, charm, and kind heart are visible not only on screen, but also off. Here, the ASW HS community seemed to agree with me – according to 66.6% of the participants Emma Watson was either “fit for the role” or “absolutely fit for the role”.

An aspect of discussion and split views on the new adaptation is the fact that it is more inclusive. Considering that the animation was released in 1991, 26 years before the live-action version, it is clear that there is definitely room for improvement in the field of representing minority groups.

2017 is a time in which society seems to have progressed towards openness and acceptance – representation is growing in movies, TV shows, and advertisements. Despite this, there is still an underrepresentation of certain groups in the media. These include parts of the LGBTQ* community, as well as women and racial and ethnical minorities.

This year’s “Beauty and the Beast” includes Disney’s first officially gay character, LeFou, Gaston’s trusted comrade, who is in love with him. This development has caused controversy worldwide, with the movie being banned from several cinemas as well as it receiving an age rating of 16+ in Russia, after a debate about whether it should be banned altogether.

61.1% of participants of the ASW HS survey, when asked whether they were happy to see that “ the 2017 version was more diverse and inclusive than the animated version”, answered “yes”, while 22.2% were not content with this change. This included both the fact that there were people of various ethnicities and skin colours included in the film, as well as the aspect of the gay character.

When asked specifically about the gay character in the film, opinions were split. Here, the question was whether Disney had tackled the aspect of its first officially gay character properly. Answers ranged from a simple “yes” or “no” to more complex responses elaborating on why this was the case. One response stated that while including an LGBT character is a good first step, the way it was done wasn’t particularly beneficial when it comes to raising awareness to the LGBT community. According to the person, presenting a clumsy, dependent character as gay is counterproductive for the community and isn’t too much better than implementing a homosexual villain (as has been the case in the past, not only in Disney films).

Nevertheless, the movie is widely recognised for its musical compositions (and staying true to the animated version herein), costumes, and scenography. All in all, it has a specific charm to itself, which I believe is what makes it timeless and appealing to wide audiences.

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