The Meanings of Beauty and the Beast: A Handbook that the two major film versions of "Beauty and the Beast", by Jean Cocteau (1946) and Disney (1991), "essentially present it as a gay version." When I read that I wondered how in the world you could conclude that from seeing the movies. With all the modern versions challenging society's views of gender roles and sexuality, these movies seem to be some of the more traditional ways of telling the story.
While I don't think a gay advocacy is obvious from plot points themselves, there is some very telling information about the creators of the films I had never heard before.
Griswold provides movie summaries; for the purpose of this post I'll just assume you're familiar with the movies' basic plots.
I think the logic there is pretty weak. But what I do find interesting is the ending. I was always bothered by the fact that the Beast turns into the Avenant character, who is clearly a villain. Griswold seems the whole ending scene as intentionally ridiculous-from the cheesy lines to the costumes. Audiences tend to be disappointed at the ending, and Griswold thinks this intentional, which I think makes more sense than taking the ending at face value. Cocteau may have been making light of the traditional storybook ending, man + woman = happily ever after.
Also fascinating-Cocteau was suffering from several "painful and disfiguring skin problems" during the shooting of the film, including boils, carbuncles, eczema, and impetigo, so he may have found himself relating to the Beast physically. Not only was he homosexual, but his lover was Jean Marais, who played Avenant/the Prince. Definitely changes how you view the film to know that.
In his analysis of both films, Griswold sees the chauvinist male characters (Avenant and Gaston) as messages about the dangers of male heterosexuality. Sure there's dangers, but that doesn't mean all male heterosexuals are dangerous.
So while "Beauty and the Beast" won't pop up in your Netflix cue under the gay and lesbian film sub genre, the Otherness of the Beast can definitely be a way to see the Otherness of the gay community. I have to admit this is not an area I feel qualified to write about-I am very attracted to my fiancé Tony and none of my close friends are gay, but I'd be interested to hear what this fairy tale means to people who are ostracized for being gay, if they feel a special connection to the story.
And as always there's much more in the book, this is just a summary of a few main points, I highly recommend it to any BATB fans.