The remake of Disney’s classic Beauty and the Beast will be in theatres this weekend, and my wife and I have our tickets to go and see it. However, I know that many Christians are opting not to, and that well-meaning articles have circulated explaining why. It all comes down to a brief moment in a single scene, where the actors and director make one character’s sexual orientation clear – and he is gay.
In defense of my Christian brothers and sisters, their concern is valid. The movie makers have unnecessarily altered an established character in their remake of a classic story. While not unprecedented, it’s a transparent maneuver. There is no reason other than to normalize a behavior that, when the original animated film debuted, would have offended virtually the entire audience. And while it is done in the name of acceptance and tolerance, Bible believing Christians see it for what it is: giving one more sin the status of every day human behavior.
As it is a movie aimed at children and families, it is especially onerous, because it means that Disney knows full well they are working to shift the center in the minds of the impressionable young. Christian parents have a right to be miffed, concerned, and grouchy that, without warning, Disney would hijack a classic for the sake of agenda. Why not simply write a new fairy tale with a same sex romance at the center, while leaving the other stories be? Wouldn’t this be more satisfying to both sides? This feels like a poorly executed bait and switch.
My criticism of Disney’s choice doesn’t end with the issue of normalizing sin, though. Frankly, I think they made a strangely poor choice of character in whome to insert their péché du jour. I’ll go so far as to say that what should really offend Christians here is the utter lovelessness and disrespect with which Disney has treated the matter. For those struggling with same-sex attraction, to be confronted with it in a popular movie in the form of a bumbling, comedic buffoon of a villain sidekick would be a slap in the face. Why isn’t the LGBT community up in arms at so ridiculous a portrayal? I certainly find it disrespectful.
If you’re a fellow Christian and for these reasons or others you’ve decided you’re not going to see the movie, I am not trying to persuade you otherwise. I respect your choice, and I support you, and I love you. Please do not take the rest of the post as a critique against your choices.
That said, I’m seeing the movie. My wife is a lifelong Disney fan, and Beauty and the Beast has always been her favorite story. Belle is an intelligent, ambitious, and courageous young woman, who demonstrates sacrificial love for her father and learns to show unconditional love and acceptance for the Beast. Yes, I know we can make sideline jokes about Stockholm Syndrome and all of that, but in the end, it’s a charming love story mixed in with grandly entertaining musical numbers.
Am I sacrificing my morals or my conviction by choosing to be entertained, given the inclusion of a gay character? According to some articles and comments I’ve seen on social media, I am. But I’m not so sure. Here are a few of the challenges from my fellow believers, and how I respond to them:
- You’re supporting their agenda by giving your money to them. First of all, I don’t think Disney executives think that every movie-goer who buys a Beauty and the Beast ticket is doing so to say, “Keep adding homosexual characters! It’s just what we’re looking for!” They know that people are going to see the movie because they love the story and want to be entertained, and they know that the inclusion of a gay character is a wink and nod and little more. Second, if I were to apply this consistently, I’d need to avoid anything by Disney because whether it’s through Beauty and the Beast, Moana, or Cars 3, it’s all one company. If giving money to the company supports their agenda, then I need to expunge Disney from my life completely. Besides all that, Disney doesn’t need my money to pursue their agenda, and their agenda isn’t going to fall apart for lack of my money. I can’t stop sin by boycotting its presence – only Jesus has the real solution to sin.
- You’re condoning sin – you’re making entertainment more important than taking a stand for what’s right. Is it not possible to be entertained by something and still disagree with some aspects of it? Can I find Friends, Big Bang Theory, or Seinfeld funny and still call premarital sex sinful and unwise? Our movies and TV choices have always included some amount of ungodly behavior, from cohabitation to no-fault divorce to casual sex. Yet we justify it when we are entertained by other aspects of the story. What makes homosexuality a “special case?” Perhaps it isn’t. And what about violence, foul language, insults, gossip, humor at the expense of dignity – do we get concerned about these in our entertainment choices? We live in a sin-filled world, and no entertainment will be squeaky clean. Is it taking a stand to identify one sin among the many and oppose just that? Is there a better way to speak to our culture about sin – and about grace?
- You’re letting yourself (or your children) become desensitized to sin. Here’s the funny thing about sin and sensitivity to it – I already do a really great job of desensitizing myself to the sins I like to fall into. The danger of being desensitized to sin is that it will capture me and try to make me its slave all over again. I have a whole host of sins that I need to worry about being desensitized to that are a real problem for me, I don’t need to worry about this one. But there’s a solution to the problem of a seared conscience – and it’s not found in boycotting certain movies. It’s found in returning to the Word, that shows me the mirror of God’s Law and reminds me of the ugliness inside of me, which is what Jesus said truly makes a person unclean. As for my kids? Well, I know the sins they need to face up to as well, and I will help them face them with the same mirror. Then together we’ll turn from that mirror to the cross, where we find the solution to the problem of sin.
Now let me explain a few good reasons I have for going:
- I want to understand my culture. I’m actually blessed with the job of being a student of both culture and theology and trying to meet the one with the other. I know people who do that as a hobby, I actually have people who give me a livelihood for doing it. But the only way to do that is to see how the culture presents its values, and yes, even how it seeks to normalize its pet sins. If I step back every time the culture piles on a new immorality, I’m going to get too far back to make sense of it anymore.
- I want to engage with the world. Be in the world, not of the world. So said Paul, who spoke about his desire to be all things to all people, so that by all possible means he might save some. That doesn’t mean joining them in their sin, nor does it mean silently endorsing it. But it does mean being close enough to talk about it. Being able to sit shoulder to shoulder with someone and say, “Let’s talk about this,” rather than standing on the other side of the fence saying, “It’s awfully nasty over there, you know.”
- I want to help my children understand what they see. I will not be able to shield my kids from the knowledge of good and evil. That fruit was eaten before they were born, and they’re going to eat of that fruit every day of their lives. I can’t keep them from knowing about homosexuality. Or porn. Or premarital sex. Or divorce. Or sex trafficking. Or gossip. Or brazen disrespect. They will learn of these things sooner or later – and actually, they already know about almost all of those things. What I can do is talk to them about them and guide them in seeing them for what they are. And I can show them how to love people who fall into them. I can love my children when they fall into them. And they will. Maybe not all. Hopefully not most. But maybe some, and a host of other sins. My job is to prepare them to face those things. Now, I’m not going to parade sin in front of my boys intentionally day after day – but I’m not going to live in fear or hide them in my cloak whenever sin walks by either.
As I said much nearer the top of this, I do not fault the Christian who says they will not be seeing this movie. I’m explaining my choice, and giving you food for thought, but you might come to different conclusions. In the end, we stand in grace, under the cross of the one who set us free so that we can live in freedom.