A drive-in movie theater in Alabama is refusing to show the remake of Beauty and the Beast as a secondary character is gay. For reasons unclear to me, this story has taken up far more space in my echo chamber than I would have expected.
It isn’t just this one theater. Disney pulled the release from Malaysia rather than edit out that scene. Russia is considering similar censorship. All these things are really just burying the real story, which is that there is still at least one drive-in theater in the world. Yes, the best technology 1950s movie theaters can offer still exists in the place fighting a war they lost 150 years ago. Honestly, I’m a little tickled at that fact. What a way to remind us all that Alabama not only is still living in the past, they are fighting tooth and nail to deny the present even exists. The character in question isn’t central to the story, to my memory. I think he gets about five minutes of screen time in the version I saw as a kid, and his personal life doesn’t really enter into the timeless tale of interspecies love, kidnapping, and Stockholm syndrome. Yet the fact that there might be an offhand reference to his sexuality is enough to remind us all not to go to Alabama.
This whole little tale goes to support what I’ve been saying since the election. Facts don’t matter. Facts have never mattered. We don’t live in a post-fact world any more than Grover Cleveland did. All that matters is the story you can tell about your world. This particular theater decided that a minor detail in a movie that few will care about in a few years is enough to make national headlines over. If it’s enough to sell a few more movie tickets, then it’s a good story for them. If they sell fewer, not so much.
In a way, this story that a tiny little theater few knew existed, and fewer cared about, shows me a few signs of optimism. The fact that it’s newsworthy and deserves some pixels in my Facebook feed shows that it’s an unusual story. The norm is to say, yup, gay people exist. Someone trying to deny that fact is what’s unusual. If the version I remember from a kid had the same character as gay, a lot more people would be up in arms. The story would be that Disney made a movie with a gay character, not that a single theater is refusing to show a movie with a gay character. The story has changed, and the way it has changed has snuck up on everybody. It’s that change that I want to explore now. So look for a few pieces on how I see society actually changes.