What the Christian Critics Missed in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Phil Cooke

Phil Cooke

There’s been a significant amount of criticism from some leaders in the Christian community over the gay-friendly aspects of the Walt Disney Studios live action feature “Beauty and the Beast.” By now you’ve heard about or seen the character LeFou who is infatuated with Gaston, and the musketeer who likes being dressed in a woman’s gown, so I don’t need to go into the details. Yes, we’re tired of Disney knocking themselves out to be politically correct in everything – particularly when it comes to historic and beloved stories like this. The pretension is just starting to get overwhelming.

But one thing I noticed in the movie was something the critics seemed to completely miss (or perhaps not care about.) That was the village pastor (or priest.) In the 1991 animated version, Belle gets her books from a book seller in the village. But in the live action version, that character has been changed to Père Robert, the village pastor, played by actor Ray Fearon.

He’s a minor character, but we discover it’s his church library where Belle gets her books. It’s obvious that she’s been there many times before because when she asks if he has any new books, he replies he hasn’t, but nevertheless she’s happy to re-read his old ones. A few scenes later, Père Robert helps Belle pick up her laundry off the ground, which some of the more crude villagers have thrown on the street because of her reading habits.

He’s also at the tavern when Maurice (Belle’s father) accuses Gaston of trying to kill him. Then, when Gaston arranges for Maurice to be taken to an asylum, it was Père Robert that pleads for them to take him to a hospital rather than a mental institution. In other places, the pastor doesn’t speak, but his facial expressions tell us about what needs to be done.

I say all this because granted, here’s a movie with some issues for Christians, however not one review (to my knowledge) has pointed out that the same studio changed the character of the book seller into a Christian pastor, made him the most loving person in the village to Belle, and then provided the moral compass when the villagers lost theirs.

Rather than boycotting, criticizing, or being offended about the gay issues (after all, do we really expect a for-profit secular studio to follow Biblical guidelines when making their movies?) I prefer to celebrate Disney’s decision to put a pastor as the moral center, the friend, and the servant leader to the rest of the characters in the film.

Bravo to the creative team.

I seem to recall something about lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness…


Phil Cooke is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media.” Find out more at www.philcooke.com.

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