‘Beauty and the Beast’ Shows That LGBTQ Characters Are Good for Business (Guest Column)

This weekend, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” scored a huge victory at the box office, earning $175 million, making it the biggest March opening of all time.

But it’s more than a box office victory — it’s a victory for everyone who believes that we all deserve a chance at happiness, no matter what you look like, who you love, or whether you’ve been placed under a curse by a powerful enchantress.

The film’s lesson is just as salient today as it was 25 years ago when the animated version was released: When we get stuck on the skin-deep traits that divide us, we miss out on the chance to know people who can shape and change our lives. When we’re open-minded and inclusive, we have a much easier time finding the adventure, joy, and love we seek.

This version of the film drives that point home for the LGBTQ community with director Bill Condon announcing a “gay moment” for one of its characters, LeFou (Josh Gad). LeFou’s happy ending may be a small moment in the film, but it’s a huge leap forward for the film industry, and for inclusion and acceptance for all LGBTQ people. That’s why we at GLAAD asked our supporters to join #TeamLeFou and share photos of their families seeing the film on opening weekend.

Of course, whenever art and popular culture take steps to be inclusive of LGBTQ people, there’s narrow-minded blowback (now that’s a tale as old as time). But these anti-LGBTQ groups masquerading as “pro-family” are small in number and reach. The massive box office success of “Beauty” indeed marks another milestone: showing how obsolete and out of touch anti-LGBTQ activist groups truly are today. Americans are more accepting than the film’s intolerant critics would have us believe.

Even before it opened, the movie became the fastest-selling family film in Fandango history, with more than 1,000 showings selling out in major markets like New York and Los Angeles, as well as in small towns from Montana to Texas.

Questioning whether it’s appropriate to include an LGBTQ character in a children’s film is frankly absurd. Kids see LGBTQ couples and families in their everyday lives — we’re their moms and dads, their teachers and neighbors, their uncles, aunts, and grandparents. And “Beauty and the Beast” is hardly the first all-ages show to include openly LGBTQ people: PBS’ “Postcards from Buster” started the trend back in 2005, current hits like Cartoon Network’s “Steven Universe” and Nickelodeon’s “The Loud House” earned critical praise and GLAAD Media Award nominations, and treating LGBTQ characters the same as everyone else helped propel the film “ParaNorman” to an Oscar nomination. Just this week we learned that the new “Power Rangers” will feature a queer female superhero. Media reflects the world that we live in, and today that includes LGBTQ people and families.

Including LGBTQ characters doesn’t just demonstrate good values — it’s also good for business. TV shows like “Empire” and “Modern Family,” and movies like “Star Trek,” have been tremendous global hits. At a time when only 17.5% of studio films include LGBTQ characters (according to GLAAD’s latest Studio Responsibility Index), and only a small portion of those have any meaningful screen time, we hope these heartening small steps will inform studio heads that audiences are ready for more inclusion in our movie theaters and on our TV screens.

Entertainment is one of America’s biggest exports, so these characters make a real difference not just at home, but all over the world. We live in a country where LGBTQ people have the right to get married and start families, but think of what seeing LeFou will mean to youth in countries where that’s not the case. Some of those young adults will see this movie and know they don’t have to change their identities to fit someone else’s definition of who they should be.

Roger Ebert once said that movies, at their best, can be machines that generate empathy. At a time when too many people are looking for ways to divide Americans, I’m grateful to Disney and all the studios that continue to work toward a world filled with more empathy, more acceptance, and more love. In my mind, that’s the happiest ending of all.

Sarah Kate Ellis is the president and CEO of GLAAD.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Jamile Wenske

    Jamila Wenske Leaves One Two Films to Head Achtung Panda! in Berlin

    German producer Jamila Wenske has left One Two Films to head Achtung Panda!, a Berlin-based film production company. Wenske succeeds former managing director Helge Albers, who left Achtung Panda! to become the new CEO of regional funder Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein. Wenske partnered with Sol Bondy and Christoph Lange to launch One Two Films in 2010. [...]

  • Tuva-Novotny

    Tuva Novotny Questions Monogamy in 'Diorama' Pic (EXCLUSIVE)

    HAUGESUND, Norway  — Actress-turned-helmer Tuva Novotny thrives on big challenges. Her feature debut “Blindspot,” Norway’s entry for the 2019 Nordic Council Prize, was shot in real-time in one take and illuminates mental health issues. Her sophomore mainstream Swedish pic “Britt Marie Was Here” –slated for a Sept. 20 U.S. release via Cohen Media Group –  [...]

  • Seizure

    Writer Megan Gallagher On Her Viaplay Supernatural Nordic-Noir 'Seizure'

    With outposts in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, Miso Film has become one of the most influential film and TV outfits in Scandinavia. On August 19, the company’s Norwegian arm lifted the curtain on its series venture, the supernatural police drama “Seizure” by premiering the show’s first two episodes at the Haugesund Film Festival ahead of [...]

  • Thoma-Robsahm

    World Partners Board “a-ha The Movie” as Helmer Tells It All (EXCLUSIVE)

    HAUGESUND, Norway  — Pitched at Haugesund’s New Nordic Films confab, Thomas Robsahm and Aslaug Holm’s doc “a-ha -The Movie” won’t hit screens before November 2020, but an array of new production and distribution partners have already boarded the project. Clementina Hegewisch of Neue Impuls and Matthias Greving of Kinescope Film in Germany are now co-producing [...]

  • “@Chica-Chile-Norway”

    Miso Film Norway Unveils ‘Tainted’ Details, Drive to Target Youth Audiences (EXCLUSIVE)

    HAUGESUND, Norway  — Miso Film Norge, the Oslo-based arm of one of the most prominent of Scandinavian production outfits whose credits include “1864,” Warrior“ and Netflix’s “The Rain,” has part lifted the curtain on its latest scripted venture, the teen revenge-thriller “Tainted.” The TV outfit produced the 8×30 series in collaboration with Norwegian public broadcaster [...]

  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

    Film News Roundup: Stephen King's 'Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon' Movie in the Works

    In today’s film news roundup, a Stephen King horror movie is in the works, “Downton Abbey” is seeing strong sales and a project about Revolutionary War soldier Deborah Sampson is in development. KING ADAPTATION Stephen King’s “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” has been set up as a movie at George A. Romero’s Sanibel Films, [...]

  • Moviepass

    MoviePass Confirms Security Issue With Customer Records

    MoviePass, the struggling movie ticket subscription service, has confirmed a security issue may have exposed customers’ records. In a statement, MoviePass said Wednesday that the security lapse was recently discovered and its system was immediately secured. News of the data breach was first reported Tuesday by TechCrunch, which alleged that tens of thousands of customer [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content