As Disney’s Beauty and The Beast heads into the weekend with projections it might out-gross any of the live action fairy tale adaptations the studio has done so far, a “faith-based” group has now taken aim at what it calls an “exclusively gay moment” in the Disney film. Faith Driven Consumers — which previously organized a petition to reinstate unrepentant homophobic Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson — is flogging a claim that 95% of its purported 41 million followers are less likely to see the movie. While this press release seems clearly designed to send a chilling message about the price of depicting tolerance onscreen, the group stresses “this is not homophobia or bigotry.” Which sounds a lot like following a racist slur with the caveat, “I have black friends.”
FDC says 58% of the 6,700 people polled — it doesn’t say if they’ve seen the movie, but why’s that relevant? — believe the “primary motivation” behind Disney’s decision to include this “gay moment” in the film is to “normalize homosexuality.” Reports from journalists who bothered to watch the film said the reference is so subtle that it might have gone unnoticed had director Bill Condon not mentioned in a press interview it was there as an homage to lyricist Howard Ashman, who died of complications from AIDS after writing songs for the original animated classic. Disney recently refused a request by Malaysian censors to cut the “gay moment.”
FDC insists “there are many complex realities in the world that Faith Driven Consumers simply do not wish to have addressed with their children via entertainment, especially in a family movie.”
Now, this is the same group that in 2013 launched the IStandWithPhil.com petition, when A+E suspended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after he compared homosexuality to bestiality in a GQ interview. The petition demanded A&E re-instate him on the since-canceled reality series. But The FDC claims in the case of Beauty and the Beast, “this is not homophobia or bigotry.”
The movie seems to be doing fine without this group’s “thumbs up.” Fandango reports Beauty And The Beast has set a record as the biggest family movie pre-seller in the company’s 17-year history. That’s better than Finding Dory ($135M opening) and Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War ($179.1M). The big question is whether it will pass Batman V Superman to be the top March opener of all time since last year.
Lisa de Moraes contributed to this report.