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: Q&A: Cardinal Stafford: “The Eucharist has been the center of my life”

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

On the dawn of his 60th anniversary of priestly ordination, Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, archbishop emeritus of Denver, reflects on the origins and fruits of his vocation. He will celebrate a Mass in thanksgiving with Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 17, at 10:30 a.m.

DC: What were your desires as a young man and how did God call you to the priesthood?            

Cardinal Stafford: Images of God arose very early in my life. From my parents’ encounter with Jesus in the confessional, concrete impressions developed into images. Those images spoke to me of God’s holiness and beauty. I understood that He was great and forgiving.

Reality became complex with more birthdays. The brutality of the 20th century… insinuated itself into my world-view. I was bewildered by the horror of that era… A few years later I also discovered St. Augustine’s joy in reflecting upon the beauty of the Creator of the world in his Confessions… I learned that the love of Christ transforms our unloveliness into God’s beauty.

Both the beauty of the Ancient One and the rub of evil have coexisted in my faith and experience. Jesus’s invitation, “The laborers are few”, resonated in my soul.  The fact that the priestly vocation is totally given over to the “ministry of reconciliation” became the North Star of my life.

Archbishop J. Francis Stafford blesses the altar of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Aurora, Colo. (Photo by Denver Catholic Register)

DC: What practices have helped you remain faithful to your vocation during these 60 years?

Cardinal Stafford: When awakening each morning, I recite a single verse from Psalm 51, “Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise.” Three times it is repeated. Thereafter, the grace of God sets the day on the right track. It becomes a song of praise to God. With hard practice it daily gathers momentum. It places front and center the most beautiful mystery of the Christian faith: The Triune God. The love and beauty of the Most Holy Trinity light up the whole day even when God appears more distant than near.

The psalmist has been a great catechist. He has taught me that human beings are doxological (people of praise) by nature especially in the Dark Night – not only as individuals, but also within community… Doxological prayer has led me to appreciate why St. Augustine wrote, “The goal of all Christian watchfulness and all Christian progress is a pious and sober understanding of the Trinity.”

Cardinal James Stafford holds a relic of St. Teresa of Calcutta during a Mass celebrating her feast day at St. Joseph’s Parish on September 5, 2016, in Denver. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

DC: What have been some of the challenges and highlights of your priesthood?

Cardinal Stafford: The challenges: Christians in Europe and North America are struggling with the “juggernaut” of secularization… Generally, its roots are found in the fact that most Europeans and Americans today find themselves thrust into the universe without any foundation for living. Most imagine themselves in a free-fall through space with unintelligible entrances and exits. The challenge is how to confront this unprecedented reality. The pastoral solutions have seldom been forthcoming.

The highlights of my priesthood: Visiting the home-bound. They are the hidden pillars of every local Church. Beyond the home-bound, I have always felt that Colorado’s response to the invitation to celebrate the 1993 World Youth Day was the measure beyond all measure. In other words, the event was from God… [and] God was delighted with Coloradans.

Pope John Paul II thanks Cardinal Stafford for his leadership in organizing World Youth Day in Denver, 1993. (Photo by Denver Catholic Register)

DC: Who have been your greatest role models and how have they impacted your vocation?

Cardinal Stafford: My mother and father have been my greatest Christian role models. Their love and friendship were life-long and mutual. The two were the best of friends. Their life together, ten years after their marriage, was tested severely… [Tuberculosis] struck [my mother] with extreme severity.

She required prolonged hospitalization that included three major surgical operations over a period of nearly three years. Throughout that time her faith, courage and love remained ever-present signs along the road. My father’s love for his wife never faltered during her hospitalization… His presence to her was reassuring, quiet, and unassuming.  The grace of the sacrament of marriage sustained both of them and was an enormously important witness for me.

Cardinal Stafford celebrates Mass during World Youth Day in Denver, 1993. (Photo by James Baca/Denver Catholic Register)

DC: Reflecting on your priestly experience, what practices are essential to the Catholic priest of the New Evangelization?

Cardinal Stafford: The Eucharist has been the center of my life… Over the years, I learned that priestly celibacy was related to the eschatological nature of the Eucharist.  In 390 AD bishops at the Council of Carthage underlined this connection, “That holy bishops and priests of God…. observe perfect continence, so that they may obtain in all simplicity what they are asking from God; what the apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us endeavor to keep.”

I’ve reflected for over four decades over the forthrightness of their statement. I still ask myself why the ancient bishops chose the phrase “in all simplicity.”  Their choice was related to the priest’s acting “in the person of Christ”. That’s Eucharistic and the Eucharist is doxological. Their assertion that clerical celibacy had apostolic origins surprised me.

Finally, a lay friend taught me one of the greatest graces of these sixty years, “Gratitude for the gift is shown only by allowing it to make one fruitful,” from Meister Eckhart. That is my prayer in celebrating my 60th anniversary of priestly ordination.