The backlash over a major gay character appearing in Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast is rising, putting a theater in Alabama and Russian government officials on common ground.
A Henegar, Ala., drive-in theater has canceled plans to screen Beauty, while the Russian government is considering a ban of the film following revelations that the character LeFou, played by Josh Gad, is gay.
Representatives of the Henagar Drive-In Theater announced on Facebook Thursday that they will not be showing Beauty because Disney is "premiering their first homosexual character."
"When companies continually force their views on us we need to take a stand. We all make choices and I am making mine," the unsigned Facebook post states. "If I can't sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it. I know there will be some that do not agree with this decision. That's fine. We are first and foremost Christians. We will not compromise on what the Bible teaches."
The post added that the theater would continue to show "wholesome" movies so patrons would not worry "about sex, nudity, homosexuality and foul language."
Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon told USA TODAY on Friday, in response to the Alabama theater's decision, that the outcry over the first gay character in a Disney movie is “overblown."
“My message is: This is a movie for everyone. I’m sad about that theater but there are 4,000 theaters showing the movie," Condon said. "I hope everybody moves past that and just goes to take pleasure in what we made.”
On Saturday, reports emerged of Russia's displeasure over the character. Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said the film would be screened prior to the March 16 release there and action would be taken if the content breached the country's internationally condemned law prohibiting the spreading of "gay propaganda" among minors, the BBC reported on Saturday.
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"As soon as we get a copy of the film with relevant paperwork for distribution, we will consider it according to the law," Medinsky said, according to the BBC.
Condon said in an interview with gay British magazine Attitude that the character LeFou, played by Gad, will explore his sexuality in Beauty in what Attitude calls a "small but significant subplot" during the film. LeFou is the sidekick to the film's main villain Gaston (Luke Evans).
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” Condon said in the interview. “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
Vitaly Milonov, a member of the State Duma (the equivalent of the House of Commons) from the pro-Putin United Russia party, urged the culture minister to hold the screening and to "take measures to totally ban" Beauty if he found "elements of propaganda of homosexuality," according to the BBC.
His colleague Alexander Sholokhov, the deputy chair of the legislative body's cultural committee, said that if the scenes violated the law, the film should be banned from cinemas.
Disney officials did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
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In an interview at the Los Angeles premiere of Beauty and the Beast on Thursday, Gad told USA TODAY that he was "really proud" to play LeFou.
"What was most important to me was taking a character that is wonderful and so iconic, but is defined by cartoon conceits in the (original) movie ... and expanding on that, giving him dimension, making him human," said Gad.