LGBTQ+ Milestones in American Entertainment

With the announcement of Disney’s first openly gay character in the live-action rendition of “Beauty and the Beast,” the controversy of gay representation in the media arises yet again.

Story by Alexis Tatum

Lefou, the sidekick of antagonist Gaston, will be played by Josh Gad. The movie will feature a subplot in which Lefou begins to question his feelings for Gaston. In honor of this historical moment in Disney’s history, here are some of the most important LGBTQ+ milestones in media history.

 

Ellen DeGeneres—1997

  Courtesy of TIME Magazine

Courtesy of TIME Magazine

On the cover of TIME magazine and in a 1997 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres revealed to the world that she is lesbian, becoming the first leading character on a television show to be openly gay. She instantly became a champion for the LGBTQ+ community and has maintained this role for the last two decades. In 2008, after the overturn of the same-sex marriage law in California that outlawed the legal union of same-sex couples, Ellen married actress Portia de Rossi. DeGeneres remains a lovable television personality and hosts her own talk show, “Ellen,” where she promotes love and kindness to everyone, no matter who they are or or who they love.

 

NBC’s “Will & Grace”—1998

  Photo Courtesy of Will & Grace Club

Photo Courtesy of Will & Grace Club

“Will & Grace” was a sitcom that centered around the lives of two gay men and two heterosexual women. It became extremely successful, lasting eight seasons and earning 16 Emmy Awards. The show remains one of the most popular programs that NBC has ever aired, and it contributed heavily to the normalization of gay people and non-heterosexual relationships.

 

Brokeback Mountain—2005

  Photo courtesy of snopes.com

Photo courtesy of snopes.com

The major motion picture starred Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as cowboys in a hidden homosexual relationship. In the movie, the pair continued their affair for over 20 years, despite being married and having children with their wives. This Oscar winning film was significant huge because it was sympathetic to “closeted” gay people, breaking boundaries and sparking political debate about masculinity and sexuality across the nation.

 

Neil Patrick Harris—2006

  Photo courtesy of wetpaint.com

Photo courtesy of wetpaint.com

When Harris revealed himself in People Magazine as a “very content gay man,” it was rather shocking, as Harris is well known for his portrayal of Barney Stinson on CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother.” In the show, his character e is a womanizing, sex-obsessed, heterosexual businessman, often using “plays” from his “playbook” to have sex with women. Harris is now married to his long time partner, David Burkta. The couple are also coparents to an adorable pair of twins, Harper and Gideon.

 

“All My Children” Airs First Same Sex Legal Marriage—2009

  Photo courtesy of afterellen.com

Photo courtesy of afterellen.com

ABC’s television program, “All My Children,” featured the first legal same-sex marriage in the history of American television with the matrimony of beloved characters Bianca Montgomery and Reese Williams. The couple also broke the barriers of onscreen intimacy, showing a level of physical intimacy between a same sex couple that had never been seen before in American television.

 

“The Fosters”—2013

  Photo courtesy of FreeForm.

Photo courtesy of FreeForm.

“The Fosters” is well known for its LGBTQ+ representation, revolving around the life of a lesbian couple, Lena and Steff, and their children. The FreeFrom show teaches tolerance and inclusion despite background, and is credited with the youngest same sex kiss in American television to date. The youngest adopted child of the Fosters, Jude, begins questioning his sexuality early in the series pretty early on as he begins to develop feelings for his classmate and friend, Connor. The boys shared a kiss in the 18th episode of the second season and the couple remained strong for many episodes to follow. The inclusion of this young love was impactful because it encouraged the normality of same sex couples in young adulthood, proving that LGBTQ+ people don’t choose who they love.

With these LGBTQ+ milestones in mind, we are reminded that the new “Beauty and the Beast” movie and its newly included gay representation is not a new concept, but a retelling of a classic story with a reminder that all love deserves validation. It is Disney’s way of adapting to the times, and LeFou is the vehicle used to send this message: the LGBTQ+ community exists and deserves to be seen, too.