By: Amber Leventry
The owners of the Henagar Drive-In Theater in Alabama have cited religious reasons for refusing to show Disney’s newest installment of Beauty and the Beast because “first and foremost” they are Christians. And, according to the owners of the theater, Christians do not watch or celebrate homosexuality nor do they expose it to children. They are sticking to the word of the Bible and have promised their supporters they will only show family friendly films, which are “wholesome” and devoid of “sex, nudity, homosexuality, and foul language.” I hope the Bible also gives them tips on how to run a successful business while discriminating against a population with nearly a trillion dollars in buying power.
In an article written by Jeff Green for Bloomberg, Bob Witeck, of Washington-based Witeck Communications, reported that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender buying power, or disposable personal income, climbed to $917 billion in 2015; this fact coincides with the 7% of U.S. adults identifying as LGBT. Those numbers in combination with the growing number of people supporting same-sex marriage (60%) with nearly 75% of millennials supporting LGBT rights means there is a lot of money to be gained by including LGBTQ individuals, couples, and their kids in mainstream media.
Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung are LGBT friendly companies and are doing just fine. So are Twitter, Gap, and Starbucks. Coca-Cola may lose a few customers with their new commercial featuring a brother and sister fighting for the attention of a hot pool boy, but those customers are little more than the evaporating fizz at the top of a bottle of Coke. Their inclusion of gay characters and storylines invites more business than it risks losing it. Disney has put itself in the same position.
I am not saying we shouldn’t applaud big companies for taking a stand in support of diversity, but we should also chastise them for not taking a stand more often. A few notable commercials or a supporting role in a major movie is not enough. Representation matters, and for those of us living very visible lives, we want to see reflections of ourselves when we open books and magazines, turn on the television, or go to the movies. We want our stories to be seen and heard. We want our important, but everyday lives to be stories seen and heard every day in all forms of media. A man falling in love with a man is no less important and no more earth shattering than a man falling in love with a woman. But when Disney gets slapped around for introducing us to a gay LeFou, it should tell them and other big companies to include more LGBTQ characters.
Some Americans need to be reminded that gay men are not deviants that should be kept away from children. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are everywhere, but may understandably avoid living in certain parts of the country or even stay in the closet because of closed-minded people like the ones in Alabama choosing not to show Beauty and the Beast because of a gay character. Disney has the power to reach all Americans; they have the power to normalize love between men, to create a character with two moms, and to tell a story that shows the beautiful transformation of a young transgender girl. They also have the power to take all of my money.
We, the members of the LGBTQ community and our allies, want more. And especially as we have kids and add more consumers to the market who will spend their money where they feel included, respected, and supported. Our values are wholesome too, and while our money is green, it’s the gold at the end of the rainbow. Money talks and our money will speak louder than the amount kept in the wallets of ignorant people asking Jesus to make their financial decisions.
Photo credit: YouTube