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: 500 years later, who was Luther?

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Hero, villain, heretic, saint, reformer, corrupter, man of integrity, bombastic glutton. Which image of Luther should we believe? Because Luther primarily sought not to reform abuses in the Church but to reform the Church’s beliefs, Catholics cannot recognize him as a true reformer or a holy man. Nonetheless, it is widely agreed that Luther played a major role in shaping the modern world. With the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant movement he initiated approaching on October 31st, we have been given a number of new books to assess his legacy.

Paul Hacker, Luther’s Faith: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion, preface by Pope Benedict XVI (Emmaus, 2017).

Hacker’s book provides an in-depth, theological analysis of the issue that stands at the heart of the Reformation: Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone. Pope Benedict’s preface tells us that the Reformation dispute fundamentally concerned Luther’s “turning away from the center of the Gospel” (xxii). Emmaus released a new edition of Hacker’s book for the anniversary this year. It was published originally in 1970 (in English translation), the fruit of Hacker’s own intense study of Luther’s teaching on faith that led him into the Catholic Church from German Lutheranism.

Catholics agree with Protestants that salvation comes only through faith. The key issue of dispute, which Hacker reveals, is Luther’s subjective emphasis of absolute, personal certainty, which cannot be undermined even by serious sin. Hacker describes Luther’s faith as reflexive, that is turned back on oneself, by emphasizing subjective experience and personal surety more than anything else. He describes how Luther differs from the Catholic position: “Faith is the way to, or the perquisite of, salvation, but Luther makes it coincide with salvation itself. This becomes possible because he has first identified salvation with the consciousness of being saved or the certitude of salvation, and then he equates this consciousness with faith” (71). Hacker shows us how this view of faith negated the Church’s authority, the sacraments, and even the need to love God.

Brad Gregory, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape Our World (HarperOne, 2017).

For those looking for a more general and accessible book, Brad Gregory gives us a broader narrative of how Luther’s troubled conscience exploded into the crisis that tore Christendom in two. The first section looks at Luther’s own story, tracing step by step his conflict with Church authority. The second section explains how Luther’s teaching spawned a multitude of new sects and divisions, all interpreting the Bible in their own fashion. Greggory explains: “What the early Reformation shows so clearly is that scripture and the Spirt can be interpreted and applied in radically divergent ways. Once the papacy and the Catholic Church are thrown off, there are no shared authorities to adjudicate disagreements” (137). The final section looks at how the Reformation set the tone for the development of a secular culture. Though not intending these consequences, Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformers “led indirectly to a profound diminishing of Christianity’s public influence in Western societies. The religious disagreements and conflicts that followed the Reformation set the stage for religion’s eventual separation from the rest of life” (2).

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking, 2017).

Metaxas, who wrote a monumental biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, provides us with a different perspective on Luther. His book seems poised to capture the largest audience for the anniversary this year. While I can’t agree with his view of Luther as a hero of faith, I can appreciate his presentation of a more sympathetic and thorough look at a man who has inspired many Protestant Christians. It is helpful to recognize why Luther is such an important figure for so many people. This book definitely provides many more details on the life of Luther (with over 450 pages). However, I would exercise caution, because it unfortunately also contains many gross misrepresentations of the state of the Church at the time of the Reformation.

For instance, even though Metaxas shows us many ways that Luther encountered the Bible in his early life, he still claims that the Bible and Church had no connection in the early 1500s and that “the study of the Bible per se was simply unheard of” (52). Luther himself was a theology professor and throughout the Middle Ages the Bible was the primary text for teaching theology. Brad Gregory makes clear in his book on Luther that there were even “twenty-two editions of the complete vernacular Bible . . . published in German . . . by 1518” (29). Metaxas presents a false picture of Catholics as ignorant, afraid to pray to Christ, and thinking they must earn their salvation through works. Good historical research could easily dispel these myths, such as the books of Eamon Duffy, but we see Protestants continue to project Luther’s own scruples (hating God and spending six hours in Confession, 47) onto the Church of his time.

Jerome K. Williams, True Reformers: Saints of the Catholic Reformation (Augustine Institute, 2017).

What could have Luther been if he had chosen faithful reform? The answer is a saint. There is no doubt that the Church was in need of serious reform in the 1500s. We have a number of great saints who show us that fidelity to God does not contradict fidelity to His Church. They stood against corruption and initiated deep and abiding reform. The Augustine Institute has release both a book and video series on true reformers, who boldly spoke out against abuses and led to a deeper realization of the truth found in the Bible, read in harmony with the Church. These figures—Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, Ignatius of Loyola, and Charles Borromeo, for instance—continue to inspire us to take up the task of genuine reform today.