Here’s what’s actually in “Beauty and the Beast.”

The media hype over a character controversy, was…hype

Therese Bussen

Well, that was exhausting.

After all the media hype surrounding the “exclusively gay moment” in Disney’s latest live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast,” it turns out that the hype was, well…hype.

That “moment” that the director referred to isn’t really what it was made out to be — at all. While there is somewhat subtle innuendo (and I mean subtle — we’re talking winks and nods, and a few lines of dialogue), it is by no means the devastating show of immorality many were afraid of.

Here’s what actually happens. Throughout the film, it’s clear that the character of LeFou really admires Gaston (just like in the original). He’s a bit flamboyant. There are a few jokes. When the villagers storm the castle, the armoire throws dresses at a few men, who are then dressed as women (which also happens in the original film), and one of them enjoys it. And then at the very end, LeFou is seen first dancing with a woman, and after that, with the man who was shown enjoying his dress.

So, sure, there’s a little innuendo there. Those kinds of jokes, no matter what gender it’s referring to, are best left out of kids’ films. But it’s by no means an explicit agenda-pushing attack.

In reality, the movie is really entertaining — and worth seeing, because the best stories are worth being told more than once. There’s a reason the 1991 “Beauty and the Beast” is a Disney classic. I remember watching it over and over (and over again) from the time I was a toddler. I didn’t know why the story stuck with me all these years, but I think, just maybe, it has to do with a story where love redeems all, even the most hopeless of causes.

I’m sure that sounds familiar. Maybe Lent was a good time for “Beauty and the Beast,” directed by Bill Condon, to release.

Sometimes remakes are a hit or miss. While Disney’s 2015 “Cinderella” remake gave a new flavor to the old story, even focusing on deeper themes that carried it further in the truths it presented, “Beauty and the Beast” is a near shot-by-shot tracing of the original film.

Is that a good or bad thing? You can decide. On the one hand, everyone loves nostalgia. I know I do. So many moments in the film (especially the Beast’s transformation, or the “Gaston” song) brought me back to my girlhood, enchanted by the magic onscreen and the beat-for-beat lyrics to the classic songs.

Seeing it purely from the cinematic side, however, it falls a bit flat. You can’t compare it to the original, of course, and since the original was already perfect, it didn’t need anything extra added to make it better. Especially a few of the somewhat cringe-worthy songs that were added in.

The singing in general was somewhat lacking, and, despite the talented cast members (Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson to name a few), it was more like they were fitting into old shoes that didn’t really quite fit, or at least have the same magic that the original cast of voices had. It was stiff; there was no way they could really become the characters. Rather than seeing “Belle” the character, you saw Emma Watson saying Belle’s lines. It wasn’t really Lumiere, it was Ewan McGregor with a fake French accent.

Still, it’s really fun. It’s a Disney princess story. It’s worth seeing. There wasn’t really anything new about the story, no new themes explored. But the same themes you see in the original, themes of true love being shown as a love that’s freely chosen, love as sacrifice, love as redeeming — that’s all still there.

More importantly, depending on the age of your children, I think watching this film with your kids presents a good opportunity.

This movie can be a conversation-starter for you and your children; no movie should be the one teaching them about the world. Parents are the primary educators, and this film can be a teaching moment.

Homosexuality is something they will be not able to hide from in the world; even if they don’t see this movie, they will see it everywhere else, and avoiding the topic may just teach them to avoid people they meet in everyday life.

On the other hand, if your children are old enough to have a talk with you, you can use this film as a starting point to discuss the Church’s beautiful teaching on human sexuality, and how to see this topic — and more importantly, people who struggle with it — through the Catholic lens.

By doing this you will equip our next generation of Catholics with a truly Catholic way to encounter the world, which is to engage it, both through thoughtful, educated discussion, and through unconditional love.

COMING UP: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.