The Dragons are Out There

I would like to begin the morning today talking about a mild and relatively uncontroversial issue: the representation of gay characters in children’s media and the people who boycott them.

Let’s dive in kids.

If you haven’t been made aware of this recent issue, here’s the overview: In Beauty and the Beast, there is a character named LeFou—henchman/bumbling sidekick/doofy abused underling of the excessively masculine and egotistical Gaston—and in the new Beauty and the Beast movie releasing here soon, LeFou is, from what I’ve come to understand, noticeably skewed more homosexual and less goof than his animated counterpart. This has raised some ire, most notably from two sources: Billy Graham’s son Franklin, and the Henagar Drive-In movie theater in northern Alabama; why those two in particular I don’t know, but this is the hand that was dealt.

Both sources raise the question on religious grounds, that either they personally (with regards to the theater) will not be showing/viewing the movie due to their Christian views, or that they believe all Christians (with regards to Franklin Graham) should be taking a stance of avoidance.  Graham’s stance runs a bit deeper—here is the text from his FaceBook post outlining his view:

Disney has aired a cartoon with same-sex couples kissing. It has also been announced that their new movie “Beauty and the Beast” will feature a gay character in an attempt to normalize this lifestyle. They’re trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children—watch out! Disney has the right to make their cartoons, it’s a free country. But as Christians we also have the right not to support their company. I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney. I met Walt Disney when I was a young boy—he was very gracious to me, my father Billy Graham, and my younger brother when we visited. He would be shocked at what has happened to the company that he started.

If you agree, comment below and share this with others. Let Disney know how you feel.

Ever since, I have been seeing, not a wide outcrying from the greater parental community but, a handful of comments, in my view, somewhat ignorant, of how large this issue should be.

“Disney is a children’s company. Our children are impressionable. They can’t understand such complex concepts at their age—they only know how to imitate.” And…yes, that is true. Up to a certain point, children are often unable to grasp complex and abstract thought. Literal simplicity rules their mind for a number of years before complexity is even considered, but that isn’t the issue here. The view hiding beneath the argument that children shouldn’t be exposed to this is one wherein the parents are afraid, genuinely, that if exposed to something as icky as a homosexual, then their children will, in some way, have been corrupted in the process.

That’s much of why this post exists in the first place, not because the anger over Disney is so widespread (at least in the social media circles I frequent), but because the argument for why is so weak.

Take the Drive-In for example. In a FB post outlining the why behind their decision to not show Beauty and the Beast in their theater they said,

If we can not take our 11 year old grand daughter and 8 year old grandson to see a movie we have no business watching it. 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. We will continue to show family oriented films so you can feel free to come watch wholesome movies without worrying about sex, nudity, homosexuality and foul language. Thank you for your support!

Let’s operate under the assumption that this theater is like any other theater: the showings are broad, the ratings are varied, and the genre of movies range from the typical Disney film to something more suited to the adult audience. Pretending as though every movie without homosexuality or blatant sexuality in general is of the Bible is wrong. There’re romantic comedies with adultery, crime dramas with…well, crime, and while those showings may not be most suited to children, there’re filthy kids’ movies too. Aladdin has theft, The Lion King has murder, Toy Story offers up lies and deceit and the betrayal of ones friendship to others. It isn’t as though these movies glorify these traits, but they’re honest about the situations life throws toward us. Sometimes we get mad at our friends, sometimes we get mad at our families, sometimes we’re desperate and do something wrong to keep ourselves going despite our circumstance. And sometimes, in the case of LeFou, we are different than those around us, made fun of for who we are, and are forced to choose between the person everyone would like us to be and the person we’ve always been.

G.K. Chesterton said,

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

Every film has the bad, more or less, but films, especially Disney films, rarely ever set out to inform us that a problem exists—that people, that kids, are struggling in some way, because we already know that. Rather, they set out to inform us that those struggles can be conquered, that our mistakes can be moved on from and our triumphs can be celebrated. The irony here is that homosexuality is not the dragon. The dragon is a life spent thought of as less than, suppressing the person someone actually is for the person they think they should be.

(NOTE: To the best of my understanding, Henagar Drive-In is a much more family friendly skewed theater experience. While I don’t necessarily agree with them, they are privately owned and should be applauded for being very civil about their opinion rather than screaming hatred from the rooftops.)

That leads me to Franklin Graham, and the rest of the arguments of protest for that matter, much of them being a variation of: if my child sees this movie, they may imitate or adopt a homosexual lifestyle because of their inability to properly process these concepts.

I don’t want to keep rambling along about every little facet of this issue, but I do want to raise a counterpoint. I live in the south where football is king. I have seen good, young men work hard day in and day out in school, on the field, all for a shot at glory, or a dream, or whatever their reasoning may be, and do it all with an ethical aplomb that should be celebrated wholly. But alongside those men I’ve also seen others, men who fall prey to the fame, who take their status and lord it above others as they desperately claw upward toward the next rung on the ladder. These, to so many children, are role models, and while there is some part of it, some aspect of the greater whole, that most everyone agrees is less than good, we encourage our children to dismiss that which we don’t agree with for the good in the part we do.

The problem? We set a precedent when we say something is good, but worth boycotting for little to no reason than a character being representative of another group of people. We set a precedent when we say that the same treatment shouldn’t be wasted upon something like football. We set a precedent when we say that being gay is unforgivable, but being excessively masculine, egotistical, and attention seeking is more desirable in comparison and the precedent we set opens the opportunity for confusion, or anger, or hatred later on when our children are faced with the issues we’ve hid from them.

This article wasn’t written to convince you that if you are boycotting Beauty in the Beast you should reconsider, but rather, it’s purpose is to say that perhaps there’re other issues more worthy of your attention. Because there are. International Women’s Day is today. Equal rights is a good one to start with; there’re plenty of others as well.

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