Conservatives, Like Liberals, Should Stop Overreacting

Okay, I admit. I saw Beauty and the Beast this past weekend. I think that makes me an apostate, but I’m not sure, since I can’t be certain I saw the same movie I was warned to boycott, especially since that means a boycotted movie made $170 million in its opening weekend. I also expected some very different content than actually is included in the movie.

I should back up.

In the wake of Trump’s election, conservatives witnessed a whole slew of liberal overreactions. Even before he took office, there was a woman who became so pessimistic as to doubt there was any point to look for a partner anymore. Or the women who all got crazy haircuts in protest. There are more to be found here.

Liberal journalists overreacted too. Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times article in which the author has kindly listed some instances of unjustified freakouts so I don’t have to:

In the last week or so, I’ve seen journalists openly discuss: their fear of opening a package they thought might be from Russia, the prospect of being rounded up by the cops under Trump, and the sense of post-election danger one felt when the plumber who fixed his drain turned out to be white, Southern, and so may have voted for Trump.

There were a lot of #neverTrump conservatives and even Trump skeptics who were willing to be sympathetic, but couldn’t stomach the silliness with which some people reacted. Sure, a healthy fear, especially of authority figures in government, is better than apathy, as Jonah Goldberg explained recently, but there are limits that, when exceeded, make the person who eschewed them look ridiculous.

Conservatives soberly recommended critics pick their battles. Aside from the exhaustion that will result continually turning it up to 11 over the next four years, such reactions — and their effects — parallel the boy who cried wolf.

While it is amusing to see liberals lose their concentration over every little thing, like the dogs in Up when they see a squirrel, it obscures a truth that we should keep in mind: conservatives overreact too. We also fail to pick our battles well. There are #fakenews instances, like the non-existent Starbucks red cup controversy, of course, but Exhibit A for overblown reactions by conservatives, in my humble opinion, is that to the Beauty and the Beast “gay scene.”

Now, there is no gay scene in Beauty and the Beast. There is a gay two-second shot, as well as a three-second shot that could be interpreted as gay in light of the other, but there is no scene, nor much more than a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment that is not worth a passing mention by Franklin Graham.

Since anyone who hasn’t seen it yet and contributed to its record-breaking box office performance is probably boycotting it, no one will mind if I spoil five insignificant seconds of the movie. Mostly, it concerns the character LeFou, who is sidekick to Gaston, Belle’s would-be suitor. As in the 1991 animated film, LeFou clearly admires Gaston, but there is nothing else there. The five seconds are really a couple of unrelated shots elsewhere in the movie.

First, during the invasion of the enchanted castle by the villagers, the anthropomorphic wardrobe attacks three men, dressing them up as women. Two turn and run, embarrassed. One reacts as though maybe he likes it. On its own, the three-second reaction is entirely comedic.

Second, at the end of the movie, there is a ball at the castle, at which most people are dancing the sort of dance in which one trades partners each round. In one instance, LeFou ends up dancing with the man who appeared to enjoy his earlier feminine attire. If you look closely, it appears they are happy to dance with each other. If you don’t look closely (the likely scenario for anyone not primed to look for it, as it lasts no more than two seconds) it is simply a comedic moment.

The decision to include these five seconds is not due to some Disney gay agenda. It is not an attempt to normalize homosexuality. In fact, it occurs in the movie because, to Disney, the existence of gay people is already normal. To leave them out of movies is an odd denial of reality.

Of course, the complete lack of financial penalty Disney has incurred from the boycott is probably not the point of concern to most conservative Christian parents, who care less about using the market to manage Hollywood’s morality than they do about managing what their children view.

To that, I respond that though I am not a parent, I do understand the reasoning, and I can only offer my opinion as someone who has seen the movie: it is not a big deal. It will mean nothing to children too young to understand homosexuality. Those old enough to will have encountered it already in real life — and developed whatever opinion of it they will have for the foreseeable future.

LeFou, though not as unequivocally on the wrong side in this interpretation of the fairy tale as in the animated one, can hardly be considered a character to which children aspire. There is no “this is good” message in the movie, because there is no message at all.

Instead, conservatives and Christians should ponder the sort of message they are sending. Right now, it’s that five seconds of a Hollywood film are what we expend our energy on, rather than modeling statesmanship or demonstrating the life-changing power of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

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J. Cal Davenport

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