The fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast has been commandeered as a story of female (and now gay) empowerment. The original fairy tale, of course, was never about that.
I finally watched the new live action Beauty and the Beast over the weekend. It followed the animated version pretty close as far as plot. I was surprised that more of the original story was used. For example, the dad stole a rose to bring back to Beauty which was why the Beast got so angry at him. This plot point is in the original story.
With recent events and the #metoo movement (revolution?) this fairy tale seems all the more prevalent and requires a little update.
It is important to know why the original tale is so good and has lasted for generations and what Disney has added to it to change its message.
In the original story Beauty is a victim. She is verbally abused by her sisters and the great thing about her is not that she stands up for herself and tells them off but rather that she loves them and wants the best for them out of her pure heart.
She is the female equivalent of a Christ figure. A person who ‘loves their enemies and does good to those who persecute them’.
She searches for her father and then rescues him by giving up her own freedom for his. She is the sacrificial lamb and in so doing, saves her Father, saves herself, saves the Beast and even saves her mean old sisters.
That is what the story is about and if you look at when it was written it is not hard to deduce that this was a warning to the nobility – the metaphoric Beast. The Beast didn’t heed the warning and the bloody French Revolution ensued. France got Napoleon and one can argue, the first dictator, which led to many more wicked dictators down the road. Don’t believe me? Read ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and then War and Peace’.
So how has Disney ‘Updated’ the story?
We no longer have a nobility that acts the beast but Disney would have you believe that ‘masculinity’ is the new power structure that revolution needs to happen to.
It is not hard to see by even casting Emma Watson in the role that Disney sees the new Belle more of the enlightened female who reads books and stands up to all the stupid male characters even more so than the animated version.
The toxic masculinity of Gaston is blunted even more by his gay sidekick and the Beast.. well the Beast and here is where I felt the movie fell apart.
I didn’t really believe that Belle (Emma) fell in love with that Beast and the dude he turned into. I really think in this version he should have stayed the Beast.
I think we all know she didn’t really fall in love but Disney is smart enough to know that you don’t break the metaphor. Take out Belle’s sacrifice and her ability to love the unlovable Beast and the power of the story disappears – poof.
They came about as close as they could, though. Even one of the movie posters looks more like a divorce than a romance. Belle and the rose, with the Beast lurking in the background. Every Belle needs a Beast like a fish needs a bicycle, I guess.
Heed the warning of the original tale, though. Not all the nobility was corrupt as Carton’s character shows in ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and sadly Belle is turning more and more into Defarge every new version it seems.