How Disney Played Christians like Gaston Played the Villagers

Gay LeFou

This past weekend Disney debuted their live-action version of the timeless classic, Beauty and the Beast, in theaters across the globe. The movie was so highly anticipated that it smashed the record for a March opening night with a staggering $170 million coming out… er, uh I mean, debut. And that’s to say nothing of the $350 million the movie earned worldwide (and, to be fair, I’m writing this on a Sunday afternoon, so that amount doesn’t even account for the whole weekend). And all that in the midst of a call by Evangelical Christian leaders, well one in particular, for Christians to kill the Beast.

Kill the Beast

The call to boycott the film came after Disney’s announcement of the inclusion of an “exclusively gay moment” involving Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou, played by Josh Gad. And what was this “gay” moment? Well, I haven’t seen the movie, yet, but my wife has. So, I know what it is and don’t want to spoil the surprise. I will say that the big gay moment was so subtle and quick, that if you leaned over to grab some of your neighbor’s popcorn, you would have missed it. But, that didn’t stop Christians from taking up pitchforks against the “happiest place on earth.” For me, the call to boycott, though I think it silly, isn’t the issue. My issue has to do with when the boycott was called for.

The announcement about LeFou’s moment was made on March 1st and the boycott was called for on March 3rd, more than two weeks before the movie opened. That is my issue. Christian leaders called for us to boycott a movie they had not seen and based on a, likely deliberately, vague announcement. When the movie premiered, this “moment” was literally a moment and so subtle that most of our kids wouldn’t have picked up on it. And, even though I have a huge problem with this latest “fall on our sword worthy” fight against Disney obviously trying to “corrupt” our children; the hypocrisy of that isn’t even the point of this post. If you want to read a great article in that vein, check out the one Jonathan Merritt wrote for USA Today.

We Got Played

Instead, I’d like to go another way and suggest that Disney played Christians, for their benefit, and we took the bait. What I mean is, Disney already had a ton of hype surrounding the release of this movie. A whole generation of adults could not wait to see their beloved cartoon brought to real life. They also couldn’t wait to share it with their children in a way that they never dreamed possible. People were going to see it no matter what. There was no reason Disney had to reveal any information about the “special moment.” They could have let it be surprise. Likely most people wouldn’t have noticed it. Those who did, without a Disney confirmation, would have just been stretching. So Disney didn’t need to release that, but they did. Why? Obviously I don’t know for sure, but based on Christians history, it is easy to speculate.

I think an obvious part of it is likely that they want the LBGTQ community to know they support them. I also think, based on how Christians have historically reacted to this type of news, Disney knew this would cause a firestorm and ignite a huge public debate. My news feed was certainly consumed with the movie tagged in statuses, news articles and blogs. To me it seemed as if Disney put out this vague announcement about some sort of “gay” moment and then sat back and watched the internet lose it. And the discussion spanned the whole spectrum, with people both praising and demonizing Disney for “normalizing” the lifestyle. But, while there were a lot of people happy to hear about the scene, the loudest voices came from Christians who were angry about it.

Boy, Oh Boy…cott

And that’s the point I want to make. We, as Christians, have become so predictable about how and what we will respond to negatively that we were played. And whether Disney did it on purpose or not doesn’t matter. In today’s social media driven culture everyone knows that any publicity is good publicity. Companies know that if you can get people talking about their product, most times it is a good thing. So Disney put out some vague statement and sat back and watched everyone talk about it. Ultimately the boycott did nothing. In fact, I actually heard people say that one of the reasons they wanted to see it more than they did before was to “see how far” Disney went with the scene. Then, when the movie premiered, the scene was so subtle it made Christians look ridiculous and the boycott even more so.

The truth is, the world will continue to move toward worldly things and we are not called to stop it. Jesus will when He returns. Our job, while we are here, is to be His witness to people, not governments or corporations. We are called to make individual disciples, not reorient constitutions and business strategy. Introducing people to Him changes heart and that will be what ushers in the Kingdom of God. I’m not saying not to boycott or protest, do it if you want to. I am saying it is a waste of time and energy if you want to follow Jesus the way He called us to. He called us to love and serve others in hopes that they may know and come to Him.

Boycotts won’t stop people from seeing the things we disagree with, but they may just stop them from seeing Jesus.

 

 

 

photo: Flickr/(LeFou)Jeff Kern and (Flag)torbakhopper (changes made to original images)

10 Comments

  1. Great article. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I think you made some valid points. But the Allure magazine article was where the hype started. Disney is and has been trying to normalize sin for a long time. They just crossed the Rubicon for many with this decision. I boycotted but didn’t scream and shout. I just decided not to support this film. I don’t know if I will eventually boycott all Disney but I do know that choosing to financially support a movie that seeks to make sin look okay is not what God would want. Spend some time in the Old Testament. God is compassionate and forgiving, but upholds perfect standards of righteousness. It is our job to try to reach those through our relationship with Christ. I think that we should work on how we address sin in in the media general before we cast rainbow colored stones, but I disagree that we can see any movie that glorifies sin.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. For sure the media hyped all this up. But, Disney employs a lot of very smart people and I can’t help but wonder how calculated they were to craft the phrase “exclusively gay moment.” That seems very intentional. And, because of the historic response, by Christians, toward Disney, they had to know this would cause a publicity firestorm, and it did. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, especially if it makes it seem like Christians blew it out of proportion. And, I think we should be careful what we expose ourselves to and what we support. But, while we seek God’s righteousness, our assignment is not Ambassadors of Wrath (or Justice). Our assignment is as Ambassadors of Reconciliation. The only way we fulfill those duties is by being around people who need to hear the message of reconciliation. And, I agree that we can’t just watch whatever we want, but almost everything Hollywood puts out glorifies sin. We just need to be discerning. Ultimately I thing we would do better focusing on introducing people to Jesus, motivated by love, rather than trying to change corporations, motivated by disgust. Again, thanks so much for sharing.

    • My thoughts exactly. We are missing the mark lately as Christians by pushing the message that God is love, but leaving out that God is holy. He is righteous. He does not condone the lukewarm Christianity that has come about over the years.

      • I’m not sure we can swing all the way to the other side and abandon the truth that God is love. The Bible is clear on that. I think we need to make sure that we rest in both truths. He is holy, but He is love. I think abandoning either is folly.

  3. I do not agree with this. The announcement was made after the director AND the actor Josh Gad said that this movie was meant to have a gay moment. They wrote the movie and play the character. Christians shared this message as a warning to other Christians. We have not and will not give our money to see this movie, even though we badly wanted to. Going anyway says (in my opinion) that we didn’t care that they said they meant to add a gay message to an already written and produced movie. As an effort to normalize sin. Why change a movie that has already been made? Regardless of how small this moment was, it is there and it was put there on purpose by Disney. Turning out in record numbers tells them that we don’t care about this. I don’t judge my Christian friends who chose to see this movie, but it is my conviction to not allow the devil this foothold. It’s not that one sin is worse than another. It’s that this was a test. A test to see if we will live up to our standards and convictions. I don’t care how small this “moment” was. The fact that it was there, in a movie that never had it before, makes it a no go for our family.

    • Thanks for commenting. Great part is, you don’t need to agree. Obviously it was already written that way and I agree that it was their way to normalize it. I think it isn’t as simple as saying that we don’t care about it. I think it’s far more nuanced than we want it to be. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I will be honest with you, I didn’t read the entire article, just skimmed over it. I agree with much of what you say. But I do take exception to your last statement: “Boycotts won’t stop people from seeing the things we disagree with”. I agree with this. “. . . But they may just stop them from seeing Jesus.” I really don’t see how boycotting a product or company will keep people from seeing our Lord and how is our boycotting something because we disagree with it going to keep people from getting saved. I guess I don’t get your point there. My husband and I don’t go to Disneyland and we live a half hour away or buy Disney products because of some of the stands they have taken. But we also don’t patronize other companies for various reasons. And I do know that there is probably something wrong with every company – but we have chosen to take a stand where we have. We also do not make a big deal about it either. Just my thoughts. Blessings and joy as you serve the King of kings and Lord of lords!

  5. I appreciate your article! It makes a point that I agree with totally! Disney is good at playing people! This just goes to prove that they shouldn’t be trusted for our family entertainment! My son works at our local theater, and ran the film for an employee preview. I personally, am one boycotting the movie! I am NOT ashamed of that stand. I have been boycotting against Disney for years! Judging by the numbers not many took the boycott to heart. It breaks my heart to see many people I know so called Christians, taking their children to see the movie. My son told me that the “Moment’ is very brief and hardly noticeable if you’re not looking for it. In my honest opinion, though if people of faith had actually taken a true stand, their agenda would have backfired! Sin is sin if it’s a little or a lot. Just by announcing the “gay” moment was baiting people! Even though it’s a brief moment, if they got away with it this time, how much worse is it going to be now that people have their guard down! It was once said “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing”. Just from the numbers I’m seeing. There are a lot of good men doing nothing! It makes me sad!

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