LeFou: The Queer Sidekick

Kyle Troy Smith (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

For years, Disney has snuck subliminal messages into many of its films, like the letters “SEX” in The Lion King (1994) and the naked woman hidden in one scene in The Rescuers (1977). While humorous when spotted by adults, far more important is the queer coding of mainstream characters. “Queer coding” is the term used to describe the habit of suggesting, without saying outright, that a character would identify as LGBTQIA+ if they could. As Disney has been seen as straight-family-friendly for many years, it was not until very recently that they could have non-straight characters. In this paper, I will argue that the character LeFou was merely queer-coded in the animated Beauty and the Beast (1991), as this was the safer way to write the character then. However, much has changed in the past 30 years, and the 2017 live-action film brought us a much more obviously gay LeFou. I will show that the re-imagining of LeFou is but one example of how American society overall has become much more accepting of people who are part of the queer community.

Part of 08-01 Queering Disney [hybrid], Saturday, October 15, 10:30 am–12:30 pm