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.