This article contains very mild spoilers for Beauty and the Beast and Power Rangers
Recently it was revealed that Power Rangers will feature the very first big screen LGBTQ superhero and that is a huge step forward in representation. In addition to this inclusion, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast drew heat for their choice to play the character LeFou (Josh Gad) as gay. These characters are two recent examples in which people of different sexual orientation are represented in major studio films. They represent the need for acceptance and their inclusion is not only beneficial to the films, but also an extremely telling element of our changing cultural landscape. The importance of inclusion in entertainment is more relevant than a lot of people even realize. The power that film has over people is a powerful tool that has the potential to do great things.
There couldn’t be a more perfect place for an LGBTQ character than in Power Rangers. The film looks to be about the awkwardness of being a teenager and oftentimes LGBTQ youth face harassment from fellow students, teachers, and sometimes even their parents. The suicide rate among these youth is high because of said bigotry. With this in mind the importance of having an LGBTQ superhero to root for could be extremely beneficial to the health of many of these young individuals. When you’re acknowledged, you feel like you are worthy and that your life matters. The allure of ending one’s life is high when living in a world where you’re hated because of the way you were born or how you identify. The Power Rangers series was always about regular teens dealing with huge superhero problems, but also more personal teenage troubles. The new movie does the same thing, but this time explain issues that are a lot more serious and a lot more relevant to the cultural environment of 2017 by making the yellow ranger a lesbian. Her coming to terms with her sexuality will play a big part not only in the film, but in how people who may be going through similar things react to it.
The Beauty and the Beast controversy as of late serves a purpose to highlight how far we still have to go for tolerance and love to be the dominant trait. The films scenes were so incredibly mild that the reaction was not at all worth the trouble. All throughout the film LeFou’s affection for Gaston approaches romantic interests, but nothing is directly stated of the nature and towards the end of the film, LeFou is seen dancing with a man. That’s all that was shown and the very notion of having a gay character upset many people including the Russian censors, which initially considered banning the film but ended up giving it a rating for 16 years and older. It was such an extreme response and this reaction may scare filmmakers away from implementing these characters and elements into their films. This fear is exactly why there needs to be much more inclusion. Change isn’t made by giving in, but by taking action. While films are far from the best or only instrument in implementing political changes, they certainly are able to spark discussions, debates, and if the work is powerful enough it could sway opinions of individuals. Presenting films in which LGBTQ individuals don’t exist is not an option. Attitudes on the matter have been changing and the straight relationships aren’t the only type allowed to be shown anymore.
These two films are small examples of the inclusion that has already begun. While films and television have been inclusive in recent years there has been a lack of main characters that are gay, bisexual, lesbian, or even struggling with their gender identity. They have avoided them in favor of protagonists that fit the typical hero role. There has yet to be a queer superhero in film up until Power Rangers. You would think it would have already happened considering the number of LGBTQ characters that have shown up in Marvel and DC comics, but it is an area that has yet to be explored. While it has been mentioned that Deadpool could potentially be pansexual, it didn’t happen in 2016’s film. There have been a surprising abundance of television characters in major shows, but film has been slow in that regard opting for more heterosexual and cisgender characters. While this isn’t a bad thing, making room for more diverse characters would not only be a great thing for society it would also make stories a lot more varied and interesting.
Film has not always been kind to people who fall on the LGBTQ spectrum. They have often been completely ignored, or erased. If they were involved they were often made the target of many jokes. They have been laughed at and mistreated for many years in part because of harmful portrayals. There have been major strides over the last twenty years and many people have changed how they felt. This obviously doesn’t include everyone, but with the shifting cultural viewpoints now is the time to incorporate these individuals into mainstream works so that it becomes less of an oddity and more of a sign of normalcy. The individuals who struggle need to be represented accurately and with care to potentially begin to curve hatred and bigotry.
Representation is crucial. We all need someone who looks or is like us to be able to relate and thrive. Seeing a character acknowledge what it feels like to be on the LGBTQ spectrum is a huge step forward from where it has been. With more characters hitting the big screen I hope we get to see a variety of characters dealing with these issues. Whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, or anything within those categories you deserve to be represented and you deserve to have heroes and characters to look up to. It’s a fight that will continue on and hopefully more filmmakers take the plunge for pushing forward in terms of equality.
So what are your thoughts on the matter and what do you think of the representation presented in Beauty and the Beast and Power Rangers? Let us know in the comments!