The actor who played LeFou in the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ remake doesn’t think Disney has done enough for gay representation
Josh Gad often gets credited with playing the first openly gay characters in a Disney film. But the 41-year-old actor and comedian doesn’t want a pat on the back for his work — because he doesn’t think he, or Disney, did a great job.
‘Everybody deserves an opportunity to see themselves on screen, and I don’t think we’ve done enough,’ the actor says of queer representation in Disney movies in an interview with The Independent.
Gad is familiar to anyone with kids as the voice of Olaf, the beloved, unsuspecting snowman from Anna and Elsa’s childhood in Frozen. In a later Disney film, Gad portrayed LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick in 2017’s live-action Beauty and the Beast. At the time of the movie’s release, director Bill Condon created buzz with the claim that Gad’s performance of LeFou was Disney’s first gay character.
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” Condon told Attitude in a 2017 interview. “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it,” Condon continued, promising the “payoff'” of an “exclusively gay moment” at the end of the movie.
The big gay moment turned out to be a couple of seconds of two men (one in drag) dancing in an ensemble finale. Critics called it a “blink-and you’ll miss it shot” and “much ado about nothing.”
Of course, queer people have had their hands in the magic of Disney since the very beginning, and both fans and critics have read characters from villains like Peter Pan’s Captain Hook and The Little Mermaid’s Ursula to heroines like Elsa as queer. The underwhelming gay moment in Beauty and the Beast, however, was built up as something more overt, leaving many LGBTQ+ viewers disappointed with its ambiguity and brevity.
Gad takes the side of those let down in his recent interview, saying, “We didn’t go far enough to say, ‘Look how brave we are.’”
He continued, “My regret in what happened is that it became ‘Disney’s first explicitly gay moment’ and it was never intended to be that. It was never intended to be a moment that we should laud ourselves for, because frankly, I don’t think we did justice to what a real gay character in a Disney film should be. That was not LeFou. If we’re going to pat ourselves on the back, then damn it we should have gone further with that.”
As the father of two daughters, Gad has found a lot wanting in some of the movies that he has watched with them.”It’s a tough exercise to show my daughters a bunch of movies from when I grew up,” he told also told The Independent, “because a lot of them, specifically comedies, are all about a guy luxuriating in this idea of sexualizing a girl, and fantasizing about how she can please him, and how she’s a prize to be won.”
Gad explained that it wasn’t until he saw these movies through the lens of fatherhood that these troublesome tropes became apparent. He holds his recent project, the romantic comedy-drama Wolf Like Me, in higher regard. “I think we’re done with the trope of a man having to save a woman,” he said of the series’ plot. “We’re so far beyond that.”
Not that Gad advocates for shelving old, problematic films. “I just think that we need to understand and contextualize them,” he explained. In the complexity of their storytelling, he thinks movies from the past are often superior to today’s films. “I think we’ve got bombastically dumbed down in terms of what we think an audience can handle in terms of telling a story slowly, not feeling like you have to go a hundred miles an hour in every single scene.”
The live remake of Beauty and the Beast was one in a line of tiny moments that Disney has dipped its toe into queer representation—a few other side characters and moments have been added to everything from Marvel movies to Pixar films. But we’re still waiting for what Gad wants, too. A real, thoughtful, valid, significant acknowledgement of queer people in our lives and in our stories.