Earlier this week, Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon sparked controversy by saying there was “an exclusively gay moment” in the film. He’s now backpedaling on his comments, in such a way that it appears this supposed moment is essentially nonexistent.
UPDATE: A reader graciously sent me a link to an article written by someone who has seen the film. That article indicates that the “queer subtext” referred to in my original article below is more pervasive than I had at first believed. I encourage you to read all articles linked here to make the best informed decision for your family. I have also changed the title of this post to reflect the more measured perspective that I believe this calls for.
In an interview with ScreenCrush, Condon clarified his comments by saying if you go into the film blind, you’d never know anything of the sort was intended.
“Can I just tell you? It’s all been overblown. Because it’s just this, it’s part of just what we had fun with. You saw the movie, yeah? You know what I mean. I feel like the kind of thing has been, I wish it were – I love the way it plays pure when people don’t know and it comes as a nice surprise.”
With that said, the article does refer to some elements that, as the article puts it, alludes to “queer subtext.” For that reason, I would probably recommend parents still screening it before taking their kids. But my guess, based on this information, is that it will probably go way over the heads of the vast majority of children.
This turn of events highlights, I think, two important things about the way Christians interact with media. The first is that, yes, secular media is trending more socially progressive. That shouldn’t surprise us – we should not expect secular culture to conform to Christian values – but it is something that ought to cause us to approach film with more caution where our children’s hearts and minds are concerned.
The second lesson is nearly as important as the first. Christians need to learn not to succumb to impulsive moral outrage in reaction to viral internet articles. This is particularly important when it comes to films that have not been released yet (save for instances where the immorality of the film is especially clear, such as Fifty Shades of Grey). In response to a director’s interview in which he was trying to encourage hype for the film (as all directors do), Christians widely called for a boycott of the film. As the Christian Post reported, Denny Burk, a professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, was one of these Christians.
“The reason is very simple. I am not going to let a movie studio communicate to my children that sexual immorality is ‘normal and natural.'”
Now if the film turned out to be exactly what media outlets were portraying it to be (through this interview with Bill Condon), I would heartily agree with such sentiments. But the fact is, we are too fast to express outrage and too impatient to wait and investigate.
This is not the first time this has happened in the evangelical community. Christians were also outraged at a supposedly gay nod in How to Train Your Dragon 2 (which was partially legitimate but extremely overblown), and a supposedly lesbian couple in Finding Dory (which had no legitimacy at all).
The lesson is this: by reacting so quickly and so forcefully, we are harming our presence in the culture. The lesson is to be thoughtful, meek, and patient, and to investigate once a film has been released, rather than buying into the unfortunate collective moral outrage of evangelical Christian culture.