If you close your eyes and think of one franchise that has the most impact on childhood dreams, your answer would undoubtedly be Disney. And like any franchise in the 21st century, Disney is having to progress and step away from its comfort zone of old romance stories that focus solely on a prince saving a princess. Disney has kicked it up a notch. With their recent movies, “Brave” and “Moana,” Disney has moved away from the romance aspect of their moves, and started to focus more on the story and the powers that the characters have in their possession. While this progression is all good and dandy, Disney has not completely stepped up to the plate; its trademark plotline of a helpless princess being saved by a stereotypical prince remains. Disney has yet to produce a movie that is overflowing with female empowerment, or male empowerment and not just filled with the typical roles.
Even so, Disney has some promising works in the making, like their new live action “Mulan.” Disney has sworn to have their new live action “Mulan” have an all Asian cast. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it has been a big step for the traditionally cautious franchise. Many fans begged Disney not to mess up, knowing their history of having their lead characters played by white people, and not ruin a childhood treasure. Fans hope that Disney will not stray away from the true female narrative and try to throw in a lead male character. Li Shang is the love interest in the original “Mulan,” but I plead to Disney, please do not focus on the small romance between those two characters. It will outshine the plot and power of the movie: seeing Mulan smoke the Huns in battle. Additionally, Disney will hopefully forever more steer away from the whitewashing in their movies and shows. Disney and other mainstream movie and television show producers have started to realize that they don’t need to cast Matt Damon in every movie. They don’t need to have white actors in a movie to make it a good one.
Another problem in mainstream media is the lack of representation for different sexual orientations (although Showtime seems to be progressing faster than most outlets). Very few movies allow any other romance than one of a heterosexual nature. I mean, this year we had “Moonlight,” which blew the expectations right out of the water. Now there is no excuse to not have more homosexual (and other types of) relationships in the forefront of romance movies. I mean, progress can come in shocking ways. Right now, there are rumors and speculations going around about how Disney’s new “Beauty and the Beast” movie will have a gay character. This could be a wonderful step in the making, if done right. Unfortunately, hubbub right now is saying that the gay character in “Beauty and the Beast” is going to be LeFou, Gaston’s henchman. Now, when I heard this, my first thought was, “Come on. Everyone knows that the clock (Cogsworth) and the candlestick (Lumiere) are married. Why can’t we have them be the characters Disney has decided to portray as gay?” But no. Instead, our first openly gay character seems to be LeFou, or “the fool.” Apparently, this sideact will be wrestling with his internal love for Gaston during the film. A producer of the movie, Bill Condon said, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.” Now, I think that if done right, this could be a fine hop into the future for Disney movies, but the news that is circling the web is that the scenes where LeFou is protraying his sexualty is the butt end of a joke. Everything points to LeFou being in love with Gaston, and I cannot see Gaston’s sexuality changing at the end of the movie, so the only outcome I can see is a heartbroken LeFou. I am also still pondering over the fact that they didn’t make the clock (Cogsworth) and the candlestick (Lumiere) into a couple, because I can see that clear as day.
At the end of the day, a step in any direction can become a step in the right direction. I hope that we see more and more mainstream media stepping away from their comfort of white-oriented heterosexual love stories and give the public what it has been waiting for: more diverse representation, and not just the same old white actors.