Beauty and the Power Rangers
Nostalgia has been in full force for the past two weeks at the movie box office. Beauty and the Beast and Power Rangers got shiny new upgrades for 2017, and both of them included a little somethin' gay. The small, blink if you miss it moment in Beauty and the Beast caused quite the uproar. (Get it? Uproar? Because he's a beast and that's how he expresses himself? No? It was a stretch anyway.) A drive-in theatre in Alabama decided to boycott the movie, and Malaysia as a whole country thought about banning it. Malaysia also makes it illegal to show a movie where a gay character survives the film or has a happy ending, so they've got some deeper issues to tackle. In the end, they tried to make cuts to the film and Disney pulled the release. Thank you, Disney.
Before we get to the gay moment, I have a couple issues with LeFou as the LGBT+ character. He's a bumbling mess to Gaston's overwhelming masculinity. He's a joke of a man who has a crush on his best friend (for lack of a better word). One of the oldest, dumbest fears straight people have is that their gay friend has a crush on them. God forbid someone has a crush on someone. This representation only helps perpetuate the fear, and it’s not helping anyone.
I was excited to see Beauty and the Beast for a few reasons. 1. Emma Watson's face. 2. Emma Watson's accent. 3. The promised LGBT+ representation. Honestly, I felt a little let down. Not by Emma Watson. That girl was great the whole way through. But sadly, the LGBT+ reference felt like a second thought that didn't add anything to the plot. I hate to say this because representation is so, so important (I would give my right arm for a canonical gay Disney princess), but representation like this isn't changing people's minds. I doubt it's even making them think.
If you haven't guessed it by now, I can be convinced to watch virtually anything for just a glimpse of an LGBT+ character. That’s how I found myself watching Power Rangers. I probably had a couple action figures over the years and I know the general concept, but it definitely wasn’t the nostalgia trip Beauty and the Beast was. That being said, I would die for these kids. They are the lights of my life. I laughed, I cried, and when I walked out of the theatre, I felt like I could take on the world.
The Power Rangers LGBT+ moment, like the one in Beauty and the Beast, was small, but I felt like it had more weight. This ragtag group of kids, who don’t get along when they first get together, end up having a cute little campfire and talking about their lives. One of the kids had already mentioned being on the autism spectrum, which was incredible to hear. It's one thing to imply it or only mention it in interviews, but to actually hear a superhero say "I'm on the spectrum" made me cry a little. During the campfire, Trini talks about how she doesn't get along well with her family for a multitude of reasons. One of the other kids asks if she has boyfriend troubles, and she laughs. The kid asks if it's girlfriend troubles and she's uncharacteristically silent, but there's a very sweet understanding that this girl falls under the LGBT+ umbrella.
Now you're probably thinking, really? That's it? That's all they had to do to get an A+ from Tina? Well, no, but in the context of this movie, yes. There's going to be a sequel, so this first movie was about introducing us to the characters and the world of Power Rangers. Nobody's story is deeply fleshed out. The things we know about all the kids are mostly surface, but the groundwork is laid for interesting character arcs in the future.
Queer storylines are usually shoved to the side. Beauty and the Beast's moment felt very much like an afterthought. What's different about Power Rangers is that there was no unnecessary straight romance crammed in either, because that would have been out of place too. There's a bit of flirting between Kimberly and Jason, but I love that there was no forced, awkward kiss. (Originally there was, but test audiences said it took away from Kimberly's story and the director was like huh, you're right, let's cut it.) That's how it should be. This movie didn't need a love story because the focus was on the budding friendships and the making of the Power Rangers team. Trini's "coming out" was given as much weight as the sexualities of the other kids. No one's story overshadowed anyone else's, and I have no doubt Trini's love life will be something that'll be explored in the next movie. Fingers crossed she gets a girlfriend as dope as she is.