“In a Heartbeat.” a short film by Esteban Bravo and Beth David, is a coming of age tale about a homosexual and closeted boy—Sherwin—who has a crush on another boy. The animation quite visually shows how a heart can so desire to be with another person. Sherwin is a shy redhead who positions himself daily to watch his beloved Jonathan walk by. When he sees him, his heart beats so fast that it becomes its own anthropomorphic character (a real possibility of animated film) and the heart chases after Jonathan. He’s afraid of his heart’s eager disposition blowing his cover. The message here simple: what the heart wants, it wants. Sometimes it comes at a price but, once paid, the rewards just might be eternal happiness.
The film has screened at numerous LGBT events and film festivals. It was shortlisted for the Academy Awards for Best Animated Short Film but did not win the nomination. In A Heartbeat has received an overwhelming amount of universal praise for its animation, positive messaging, and emotional resonance. Clearly, one reason this video went viral on Youtube (with 36 million views to date) certainly resides with the dearth of same-sex love stories in animated films. The director does not mind this notable unique niche market. “From a business standpoint, it makes sense why studios are afraid to portray LGBT characters, just because there’s still part of the population that’s not accepting,” Bravo said. “But as leaders of children’s content, it’s really important for them to represent these people because not showing LGBT characters leads to a lot of internalized confusion as kids grow up.”
Slowly we are seeing more and more diversified, multinational, mass media trying to integrate more LGBT characters. At the same time, networks take note of the concerns about children being subjected to gay-themed material, as members of their viewing audience find it unacceptable to go against the grain, or so they think.
The live-action Beauty and the Beast remake won’t only serve as a major dose of nostalgia, the choice to make Gaston’s sidekick LeFou the first openly gay character in a Disney movie adds a modern twist to “the tale as old as time” but this also sparked struggles to appreciate the film.
It’s difficult to integrate a community that becomes a touchy subject for many, especially those objecting to this content in the name of their religion. Faiths such as Christianity and Islam often teach that homosexuality is immoral, while many of their followers stand as an exception to that rule, opening accepting the LGBT community as people entertaining a more liberal interpretation of the expression of love.
When “Beauty and the Beast” came out, it sparked a boycott that started in an Alabama theatre on the 3rd of March, 2017. When it was revealed that “Beauty and the Beast” will include Disney’s first-ever “exclusively gay moment” on film, the Henagar Drive-In proclaimed that it would not screen this film.
“When companies continually force their views on us, we need to take a stand,” wrote the theater spokesperson in rural Henagar, Alabama (a town of less than 2,500 in the northeastern corner of the state) announcing its decision on Facebook,and specifically citing LeFou’s sexual orientation.
“We are first and foremost Christians,” the post continued.
“We will not compromise on what the Bible teaches. We will continue to show family-oriented films so you can feel free to come watch wholesome movies without worrying about sex, nudity, homosexuality and foul language.”
An Insider Article highlighted the new and improved character saying that the “LeFou and Gaston relationship, along with their updated sense of humor and banter, are exactly the kinds of changes Disney should be focused on for these remakes. Take a previously one-dimensional character, and add those shades of grey.”
Interestingly, the initial pitch of In a Heartbeat featured a boy in love with a girl, but the creative team made the switch to two boys to make the story feel like a more personalized account of the multiplicity of love. Without a doubt, the secret to the charm of In a Heartbeat is its simplicity: The story is told without words, just music and animation, leaving us content with this newfound (and long-time-in-coming) happy ending.