A WonderCon Panel Explores Queerness in Disney Films

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

As avid readers of my little column, which I hope you are, I’d like to invite you to soak in the happiness that has been the last couple of weeks. If you’re unaware of either who I am or what I do, let me catch you up real quick: I’m a massive nerd, I cosplay, I live for Disney and DC Comics and I like to write about all these things.

So, what has recently happened? BEAUTY AND THE BEAST HAPPENED AND I WENT TO WONDERCON. WonderCon is huge. It’s run by the same folks as San Diego Comic Con—which is unfortunately still about as accessible as Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings to me—and shit damn it was good. It was sensory overload. It was lots of me making high-pitched noises and chasing down genius cosplayers for photos and Instagram swapping. (I have a brand new account focussing on my cosplay, by the way. Check it out @charliequinncosplay.)

For me, the highlight was a panel for the LGBT community in Disney Fandom—color me interested in rainbow print. With the release of Disney’s new live-action Beauty and the Beast, its first film to have a gay character, the time is nigh to talk about queerness and the House of Mouse.

Columnist Charlie rocks her cosplay

As a bisexual person who runs with crowds of outsiders, this topic has always been problematic to me, as it has taken a long time for non-binary folks to be in any way normalized onscreen. Which brings me to Beauty and the Beast.

I’m going to digress for a second to say I loved this movie. I didn’t expect to. I’ve been reluctant to go and see any of the live-action remakes. I grew up in Disney’s Renaissance era and those films are definitely untouchable for me. But this one? It was the first trailer that did it. The side-by-side comparison with the trailer from the original animated movie gave me chills, and I decided to put my pride on the shelf with all my Chewbacca toys and go see it. I thought it was beautifully done. I wasn’t horrifically offended by Emma Watson’s singing, and I found her to be endearing and strong in the role. I also massively appreciated the inclusion of the lyric “there’s been a change in me,” a sweet nod to fans of the Broadway adaptation and its original song, “Change In Me.”

But about LeFou—the film’s gay character. I don’t think having him out of the closet served any purpose. We were invited to laugh at his campness, and that left me uneasy.

Much of the conversation at the WonderCon panel discussion was about the sexual ambiguity of the new wave of Disney characters, and how much more positive that is—which I heartily agree with. The focus seems to be moving from the romance of the protagonists: Brave’s Merida, Frozen’s Elsa and the titular character of Moana have no love interests at all, so their sexual preferences are left to the imagination of the viewer. This way, no viewers are alienated.

To the naysayers and radical Christians calling for Disney boycotts: Disney is not trying to shove homosexuality, bisexuality or gender fluidity down the throats of children. In the same way that we teach children about love years before we teach them about sex, we can teach them about love and identity being different for individuals from a young age, without straying into the inappropriate ins and outs of the matter.

Once again, thanks for reading, folks. I hope you enjoy Beauty and the Beast as much as I did, and if you still haven’t seen Moana, then for fuck’s sake, get your act together. Much love, your friendly neighborhood bisexual Disnerd.