Monday, September 16, 2019

Beauty and the Beast Revisited

Beauty and the Beast has long been one of my favorites. The movie is among the best of the Disney animated films, and I am always drawn to that theme (it's much the same story, essentially, as pieces like Jane Eyre, which book I have referred to as being my soul). It's funny watching videos from Fresh Baked (that YouTube channel where they go to Disneyland every week to share the Disney winds with everyone) because David isn't a fan of the message that Beauty and the Beast can get across.

The thing is, I get it more now than I did before. That is, I always saw his point and simply could argue that that wasn't the only way to view the story. But maybe now I see it. It's especially true if you look at just that movie--whereas I have been looking at the movie, at Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve's novel (which is more a marriage plot story typical of the time period than a fairy tale, even with the fantastical element), at picture books of the story, and at all the Beauty and the Beast type stories (like Jane Eyre or Twilight or a million others). So now I realize that looking at all of these other things in addition to the movie was making me miss the key difference.

In Disney's movie, the Beast's character changes after he meets Belle. That's great: it's great for us to help our fellow people. He had to learn to love and that's great. But those themes are mixed in and confused with the theme of loving the inner person rather than the outer person. That's where the issue is.

If you read the story of Beauty and the Beast, the Beast keeps proposing to Belle and she keeps saying no until one day she realizes that he's the Prince from her (literal) dreams and so she can say yes because he isn't a monster, just a man, and when she says yes, the spell will break. So Belle (actually, she's usually just literally called Belle; the translations also translate her name) is truly learning to look beyond the Beast's exterior to see that he is a person.

Movie Belle also does that. And of course the film makes a big deal about the inner versus outer person. Gaston, of course, is the handsome one with the unpleasant interior. But Belle loves Beast as she sees him change and become a different person. Initially, he was on the inside that same Beast that he was on the outside. It's with Belle that he becomes a little kinder. So that's why David has an issue with the movie sending the message that you can change another person, that you should look at a person as someone you can change--versus loving (or not loving, romantically speaking, of course) a person as they are.

I kind of tend to agree with him now and the movie is slipping a bit in its perfection (I mean, I also have a bit of an issue with the demeaning view toward small towns). Still, though, you could argue that Belle did see the Beast as who he was the whole time and she wasn't trying to change him or make him into something else. He was raging and tyrannical and abusive . . . and when she saw that he had changed, then she fell in love with him.

After all, the spell can be broken in the movie when the cursed prince falls in love and then earns love in return. He had to first change in order to love and only then could he be someone that another person would fall in love with.

So if you nitpick, you can come to any conclusion you want. The point of the story isn't supposed to be an unhealthy love story. (Side note: this is why in Jane Eyre, you only achieve the happy ending after Jane chooses to leave Rochester and he has a personal epiphany on his own.) It's supposed to be about having a good core, a kind center.

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