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But I have the right to…..

Okay, let me start here by saying that I hate confrontation. For most of the election season, I kept quiet on all topics. I tend to shy away from debate. Maybe I’m a people pleaser. Maybe I am just not strong enough on the debate side. I really don’t know. I just know that I usually shrink back into the corner on all things politics/debate/controversy.

There’s been a real uptick in people who are involved in politics and registering their opinions. Social media has given everyone a platform to say what they like and believe. In many ways, this is a good thing. It’s given people a voice. But the downside of this concept is that it’s very loud in that arena.

No matter what your beliefs are, I believe you have the right to speak them. Everyone in America has the right to speak what they believe. Even if you happen to disagree with it, they still have that right. I don’t believe anyone should ever be told that they can’t speak about their beliefs. This is what my husband (and our family!) joined the military to protect. Freedom.

However, having that right doesn’t mean that it’s free of repercussions. If you are someone who pubicly represents a company and you say or do something that embarasses that company, you may get fired. You may not. But it’s entirely possible that there will be repercussions.

On a different level, if you are someone who makes money from the general public (seeing movies, buying books or products, coming to speeches and appearances, etc.) you have EVERY RIGHT to say what you believe. No one should tell you that you can’t. However,if you’re an actor representing a project or a salesperson who does an interview with the media, they may tell you to avoid certain topics. They want their focus on their product. And they are paying you to be there. So that might not be the time for you to share your opinions on something that could affect the product or sales. This isn’t stopping your right to free speech. You still have that right. But when you are under contract, you may just need to wait for a different venue.

Another side to this issue is purely business. Again, you have the right to say it. I’m not saying you don’t! (I have this sick feeling that no matter how many times that I say it throughout this article, it’s still going to have someone, somewhere, say that I’m censoring opinions. I promise I’m not!) It feels like there’s an important dynamic that has been lost somewhere along the way recently, and that’s the fact that you can totally express your opinion without insulting the other side. If you don’t agree with the LGBTQ lifestyle, you have every right to say that in public.  It’s possible to stand up and say you disagree with the lifestyle without insulting, demeaning, and shredding those people just because they don’t agree with you. Likewise, if you disagree with people who are more conservative than you are, you can say that you support the LGBTQ lifestyle wholeheartedly without totally tearing apart Christians or families who don’t.

During the election season, I privately shared with all of my clients that for years, they paid me to gather their audience. I spent years in some cases helping them to draw people in, bring people to the table, and get people supporting my clients.  Several of them decided to get heavily into politics and that was their choice. But when they chose to do that, they were sacrificing a huge amount of work that we had put in over the years. A few were okay with realizing they were going to alienate some part of their audience. They felt that by being political, they could bring in more like minded people. That works as a concept, but it also diminishes potential audience. A few decided that it wasn’t worth it to alienate that audience and decided not to get into the political realm. That was also their choice. I didn’t say they couldn’t do it. I just explained that no matter who you are voting for in the election, you could possibly lose at least half of your audience by the way you handle politics.

Right now, I’m really distressed over the Beauty and the Beast thing. It wasn’t the inclusion of a gay character. My family and I all sat down and talked about it when the news broke. Honestly, LeFou has always been represented as someone who could be gay. It wasn’t a huge stretch. And from everything I’ve heard, it’s not really a big scene. It’s a split second that your kids may or may not have even noticed if it hadn’t been pointed out.  I have no issue with people deciding not to see it. Going back to that ‘they have the right’ discussion, this is the land of freedom. If they want to spend their money elsewhere, then AWESOME. Do it.

What bothered me when things released wasn’t the news of the gay character. It bothered me that it felt like a heavy media/marketing push about a fast scene. It came across as courting a very specific group of people and I was uncomfortable with the media drive behind that. It felt like Disney was really wanting to push that agenda and show people they were going to. Even with that, Disney is NOT a Christian company. They never have been. Yes, they’ve spent decades sharing entertainment that aligned with my values, but really, for a long time, they haven’t aligned with Christian values. My 17 year old daughter has repeatedly asked me about why no one is bringing up that Lumiere expressed some unsavory behavior in the cartoon. And there have always been little jokes that adults get but kids don’t. So we all sort of pictured this scene in that way.

Until this week, we were still planning to see the movie. And it’s really, really hard for me. My 15 year old daughter wanted her birthday party around this movie, so we delayed her celebration for over a month in order to take advantage of the film coming out. We were planning to take a big group of people to a local drive in next week and I was planning a special date for her and I on opening night.

What happened this week? Well, the media tour for the movie came out and with it, a ton of reporters trying to create click bait at their sites waded into the fray and shoved the issue directly in front of the stars. If you listen to the interviews, a lot of them were practically salivating over the issue. Many times, the wouldn’t accept a non-controversial answer. They’d push until someone said something that the media could craft into a soundbyte that would trend and bring in massive clicks. That’s what it’s all about. And that’s exactly what happened.  Earlier this week, I heard about Ewan McGregor going off about the people who are upset over this homosexual clip in the film. He dropped the f bomb multiple times and completely shredded anyone who didn’t agree with him. As a publicist, I was horrified that a star representing Disney would be lauded for dropping the f bomb in an interview promoting a children’s movie. As a longtime fan of Ewan’s, I wasn’t surprised at his beliefs. I’ve followed him for years and adored him – despite the fact that we disagree on many things. But I was immensely disappointed that he couldn’t just say “Hey it’s up to them.” or “Let them make their choice” and leave off without the insults. It is still possible to say “No comment” as well although I’m guessing they will be shredded on social media for not standing up loud enough. That’s certainly happened often enough. Anyone remember the Super Bowl? People were really angry that Lady Gaga just performed instead of being political or openly inclusive. So I guess it is a no-win for them these days.

This morning, I caught several more clips from a variety of other actors on the film and it was a big blow for me. I heard from these actors that people who disagree with them are stupid, racist, backward, idiots. (Again – this is paraphrasing from this entire group of people.) Disney should realize that they do have a pretty large conservative fanbase here and that insulting that fanbase isn’t going to help the sales on this film. I wish they’d say something to offer an olive branch. But then again, this seems to be what they wanted, isn’t it? I don’t know.

I do know that until then, my daughter and I were still going to go to the movie tonight. We had shifted plans for her party as she had a lot of friends who weren’t going to attend. So we weren’t having a big group that we were going to take. But we were still going to go – just the two of us. Then all the interviews came out and she and I talked about it. I could see the hurt in her eyes.  She so wanted to see this movie. It’s something deep in her. Belle has been her princess forever. But now she is totally conflicted. So am I.

Honestly, both of us are still going back and forth on it. One minute I say “Let’s just do it” and she’ll say “I don’t know if I can.” Or I will go the other way. And let me reiterate, it’s not because of the homosexual scene/clip – whatever it is. She nailed it precisely when she said, “How can I enjoy what they’re doing on the screen when all I can hear is their voice telling me that I’m stupid?” And my elder daughter said “Why would I give them a paycheck for saying I’m a stupid idiot that doesn’t know anything? They may think I don’t know anything, but I know enough not to hand my money over to people who hate me.”

It’s a good point and it’s hard to argue with it.

I still don’t know if we’re going. She and I will still keep talking through it.  The money in our home is hard earned. We choose the movies we see in the theater really carefully because it is a big expense for us. We go a couple of times a year at most. If we do go see it, I promise to write a review and post it as quickly as I can.

I’m also not completely sure about the impact of people not going. I’m not sure if enough people are on with it or if it’s just a small group. Or are there more like me? Will it actually send a message? I guess we’ll find out when the numbers come out on Monday.