A Lesson For My Beauty
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By Jennifer Lebo
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My daughter does not love reading.  And that's putting it mildly.  Getting Brady to read has been a delicate balance of encouragement and enforcement since the first grade.  We believe part of that might have to do with a developmental or neurological issue, and we are working with her teachers to learn more.  But we also know that it does not help for Brady to be the sister between two brothers who happen to be voracious readers.  I can see any self-confidence  fade away whenever she hears her older brother going on about the latest novel he devoured, or when she watches her younger brother flip pages faster than a speeding bullet.  Scott and I have tried all sorts of things to encourage her to read.  Brady and I have had "snuggle up and read" sessions (which her younger brother always crashes!), and we've tried reading charts and rewards.  I've even tried reminding her that if she doesn't work on her reading, she'll never be able to read the love notes that her future boyfriends send her. (or are they text messages these days?  Goodness, I am not ready for that)


We know that reading will be crucial to Brady's success in life- to all three of our kids' success- but it is a constant battle with Brady, not just to get her to read, but to build up her confidence when it comes to reading.  She's kind of a math wiz, but when it comes to reading, she's so insecure.  And it's important to me that she never feel insecure about her bright and amazing self.

And so it seems a given that when a movie about a beautiful girl WHO LOVES TO READ comes out on the big screen, I'll be the first in line with my own Beauty.  For those of you who don't know who this amazing little lady is, it's Belle, from Beauty and The Beast, which is coming out on Friday, March 17.  Now this is no ordinary movie, and this is no ordinary Disney princess.  First of all, this is the real deal.  Literally.  No animation.  Real actors, including Emma Watson as Belle (whom Brady girl has loved since her Hermione days in the Harry Potter films).  How exciting to see a movie about a Disney princess that is not a cartoon.  Sign me up!


But even more so, Belle is the Disney princess that I want Brady to see.  Belle always has her head in a book!  Always!  The entire town knows her as that girl "with her nose stuck in a book"!  She's beautiful AND smart!  A reader!  And even better, she's smart enough to know the difference between the handsome jerk who wants to marry her (because she's pretty- despite her reading) and the ugly monster who has a kind heart (and offers her a LIBRARY of her very own- ummm, yes please!).  She's her own heroine, saving her father and eventually the Beast too.  She's kind to everyone, even the jerky Gastone, and is the perfect balance between beauty, brains, and brawn.  Not to mention that she's a brunette!  


This is the perfect movie for my girl.  

This seems a no brainer.


But I've been reading that others have a different take on this.  Because while the movie portrays Belle as the beautiful brainiac that she is, it also includes the first ever openly gay character in a Disney movie.  And so there are many out there who are pushing to boycott this movie.  Many out there who speak out in the same faith that I live.


Now before I go any further, it's important for me to be clear here and say that I know some of you may disagree with me, and choose to boycott the movie, where I choose to celebrate it.  And that's ok.


But that's the point.  My opinion is different than yours.  And that's ok.  I may choose to see it.  You may choose not to.  That's your choice and that's mine.


The struggle that I have here is with those pushing the boycott.  Those saying that if you stand in a certain faith, if you call yourself a Christian, than you cannot, in good faith, promote this movie, or Disney for that matter.  That Disney is trying to push a gay agenda by having an openly gay character in their movie.


And I ask, what agenda is that?


I've done a little research on this character, Le Fou, and as far as I can tell, he's still the silly little side kick for the jerky Gaston.  As far as I've read or seen, Le Fou does not make anyone else in the movie gay.  He does not wreak havoc, nor does he come off as the hero.  He's just there.  And gay.  Kind of like life.  Like our world, like our city, and our town, and our neighborhood.  Like some of our dearest friends.  Like some of my greatest mentors and coaches.  Like some of my kids' buddies.


As far as I can tell, this agenda that Disney is pushing is this: there are gay people in the world. 

As I think through this, I picture two scenarios I could have with my daughter.


The first would go something like this:

Brady asks me to take her to the movie.  I explain to her that no, I believe we should not see this movie because there is an openly gay person in the movie, and as Christians we are taught to believe homosexuality is wrong (regardless of the fact that Jesus NEVER spoke out on homosexuality- ever.  He spoke out on adultery, hatred, lust, false teachers of religion and the likes, but never homosexuality, but that's another story, Brady).  Brady misses out on a movie that is sure to be perfect for her.



Brady asks me to take her to a movie.  I say "Absolutely!  Let's go!".  We see an amazing movie about a girl who is strong, beautiful, and smart.  At one or two points in the movie a gay guy shows up.  She doesn't notice.  Or she does.  Whatever.  That's just like everyday.  And she sees him no differently than she sees every other character in the movie.


I'm going with the second scenario.  


And I want to be clear why.  It's not just because this is a great movie about a wonderful young lady, and we'll go despite there being a gay character.  Deep down, I believe I'm going as a Christian mom to this movie partly to celebrate that there is a gay character.  I am a Christian.  I am a Christ follower.  And the Christ I know and love, well He loved people.  He especially loved people who were oppressed and marginalized.  His problem was with those who told Him, and everyone else that loving those people, accepting those people, was a sin.

So I'm going to teach my children to love everyone they know.  Black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Jew, Christian.  I'm going to teach my children that there are so so so many different kinds of people in this world.  Our job is NEVER to judge them.  Ever ever ever.  Our job is simply to love.  I could not think of a better lesson for my Beauty to get from this movie.


That... and that's it's super awesome to love to read!

Leave a comment:
Lynn Handford - Well said.
Kristin Hall - Beautifully written! I truly appreciate the thoughtful examination of this subject. As someone who has been judged by total strangers for something that is none of their business, to be told that I am less than because of who I love is painful.
There has been many occasions that religion has been thrown in my face...which does not mesh with the teachings of the church I was raised in. Thank you for teaching your children to love everyone that they know.
I hope that Brady develops a love for reading in her own time, for my brother it wasn't until he was an adult and the pressure was off...I hope it is sooner for her though
Liz Gallo - I love that your insight and reflection leads you to be more inclusive and that your children are being given the gift of learning acceptance. As for the reading, my struggling students often were able to increase their proficiency and enjoyment by pairing physical books with audio books. Attending to the print while being supported with the audio often helped them break through some of their barriers with print. Your love and support is sure to build Brady's self esteem!
Susan Harvard - Well put Jen. As a Christian I hear the biblical mandate to"love thy neighbor as thyself". Period. That's a commandment that Jesus underlines. Our neighbors are everybody , not just a chosen few.
Never give up. Brady may not read much now. Only when she's ready. You are doing your research and supporting her in love.
Thinking prayerfully of you , Brady , and your beautiful family,
Genie Potters - I agree with you. Right now we seem to have a president whom is causing diversity in the United States to not be accepted. How sad. Our country is great because of diversity.
As far as seeing the movie. I think that it is a creative way to help Brady want to learn to read more.
Scott Lebo - Love you!