Your Honour, I stand before you to explain my reasons for this horrible crime.
You see, Beauty & The Beast is, after The Shawshank Redemption, my absolute most favourite movie, and certainly my most favourite Disney movie, so, when I found out that the movie was being re-released in theatres (remastered and in glorious 3D no less!) I knew I just HAD to go see it – and paying full price too! I went on a Saturday instead of Tuesday, this was serious business.
Anyways, some time before going, I had a… disagreement with somebody I knew over whether or not Beauty & The Beast was a good movie. My debating opponent was of the opinion that it was a bad movie because it taught a poor lesson, and that Belle was a horrible role model who encouraged abused women to remain in abusive relationships “because they feel they can change their man”. Now, it goes without saying that I am a very outspoken feminist, I could NEVER do some of the things you hear about from abusive relationships – I couldn’t even consider THINKING about it – and I honestly believe men hold too much power in the world. So, it goes without saying that I was incredibly insulted when I heard that argument. I, quite frankly, did not want to reside on Terra at that particular moment. However, I decided to keep my mouth shut, and ignored it briefly, intending to deal with it after seeing the movie, and remembering every detail about it.
So, I went to the theatre, paid my $15 to see the movie, and I intended not only to watch one of my favourite movies (for the first time in theatres – I was 1 when it first came out), but to flesh out an argument for the movie, analyzing both titular characters for their pros and cons, to write about on my blog for all to see.
Because, what better way to celebrate SOPA being tabled than to exercise Fair Use of a Disney movie? But I digress Your Honour.
Anyways, the movie started out with the exposition on The Prince (The Beast, not the artist) with some updated visuals, and a VERY nice remastering of the castle exterior. Anyways, we learn that The Beast Formerly Known As Prince is a jerk.
Analysis of Beast: A jerk, no heart of gold – no heart at all. BAD PERSON
Now, we cut to the Song About Belle – which not only introduces us to Belle, Gaston, and Lefou, but to the village’s opinion on Belle (that she’s a weirdo) – So, already we have a questionable movie from a feminist perspective, but, since I have the gift of critical thinking, and I can tell that this movie is obviously from a time when almost nobody could read anyways – seeing Belle as odd because she CAN read is at least understandable because it’s historically accurate. Does that mean I approve? Hell no, but it’s a required plot narrative so we can properly get to know Belle.
Analysis of Belle: Nice girl, loves books, wants better than what she has. GOOD ROLE MODEL
Skipping along the movie, we see Belle very harshly reject Gaston’s advances (which I, and most fellow feminists I know, believe is a good thing). Cutting to when she meets DA BEAST she (sorta) willingly gives up her freedom (and her dreams of a better life) to save her father.
Oops. Now we’ve got some issues here. I say sorta willingly because she really didn’t have a choice. She could have left her father to die in the castle, but that wasn’t really an option, because what would she do? She’s a woman in 18th (19th?) Century France, she can’t really live out on her own, she has no friends in the village, so she COULD leave Maurice, but that would leave her with a lonely life, and no choice but to marry Gaston (which we’ve previously confirmed is a bad thing). Essentially, from the moment she entered the castle, her life was over.
Analysis of Belle: Still a strong female character, but now placed in a very bad situation. No change in her character other than despair, and most girls wouldn’t want to be in this kind of situation. Goodish role model.
Now, The Beast wants to woo Belle, and break the spell, and we already see him sorta trying to redeem himself, BUT it’s for a pretty selfish reason at the moment. Right now it’s not about love, it’s about becoming human.
Beast: Still a bad person – but he’s at least willing to make himself sorta better.
Cut to the scene in The West Wing when Belle sees the rose for the first time. Beast is pissed. Scares the crap out of Belle, she runs away.
Belle: In a bad situation, gets the hell outta Dodge. GOOD IDEA
Beast, however, almost immediately realizes he made a HUGE MISTAKE that he regrets immediately, so he runs after her to stop her (not so good – he didn’t know about the wolves)
Beast: Still a jackass, but he’s willing to now try to fix it… and then he runs after her to drag her back. JACKASS
Anyways, wolves, Belle holds her own, almost dies, Beast saves her (brownie points for that, until you realize it’s domination behaviour, and he loses said brownie points). Now, at this point, Belle is in a good(ish) situation. The Beast is now laying in the snow dying. She has a means of escape, her father is safe and back in the village, she could run away, and go back to her old life just long enough for Maurice to recover, and they can go to his promised better life from the beginning of the movie. This is what she should have done – forget the Beast, go back to what she had before, and honestly, people probably wouldn’t judge her.
However, instead of doing that, she saves Beast’s life. This time she DID have a choice, but she decided to continue without her freedom. This is one of the biggest problems my feminist brain has with the movie: she willing went back with somebody she knows is abusive, and whom she wanted to get away from.
Belle: Not so much a good role model now
Beast, however, is earning points, because he backed down from Belle’s scolding, and was even polite.
We also see that Belle is still a very strong personality, who is able to put Beast in his place.
Belle: Good role model again
Beast: Getting better
Now comes the montage where we see the feelings Belle and Beast have for each other develop. We see the Beast becoming more likeable, and we see that he and Belle actually share a lot of common interests (I’ll explain that point later).
Back in the village, Gaston’s still a jackass
Analysis of Gaston: At this point, he is obviously the bad guy
Back in the castle, we have the famous song. At this point, I (briefly) stopped analyzing, because this scene is just too beautiful. I have always loved the ballroom scene, and “Beauty & The Beast” (especially when combined with those two dancing) will almost always bring me to tears.
Also, the not-Angela Lansbury version (that they sung at the Oscars and in the credits) is horrible, and you should have whoever thought that was a good idea executed. But I digress
Back to my analysis
Beast shows Belle the mirror, Belle sees her father dying, she wants to leave, so Beast lets her go.
This scene right here shows that Beast, after prolonged exposure to a woman with a VERY STRONG PERSONALITY, learned that he’s a jackass, and if he doesn’t change, nobody will like him. Beast certainly changed. Belle did too, but not in any significant way – she’s still a very strong character, and her core personality hasn’t changed. The only change she had been that she fell in love with him (but that wasn’t till the end bit – but I, again, digress)
Anyways, we have the (very amusing) angry mob/defend the castle scene. Beast, now depressed because Belle left, almost dies, until Belle rides in, renewing his resolve, and he defends himself, nearly killing Gaston, but in the end letting him go (which bit him in the end, silly Beast)
Gaston’s dead, Beast is dying, Belle admits her love, Beast transforms back into
Nigel Thornbury The Prince Formerly Known as Beast.
Final Beast Analysis: A Changed man, no longer abusive, because he saw the error of his ways
And, as usual, I cried in the end when the course sang the reprise of “Beauty and The Beast”.
Not-Quite-So-Final Belle Analysis: Still a very strong female personality. Through her determination, she changed an abusive beast into a nice, loving prince. GOOD ROLE MODEL, not because she encourages girls (and guys) to remain in abusive relationships to change them, but because she encourages girls (and guys) to be strong people, and to stand up for themselves. The lesson one should take from Belle is that you should get out of dodge if you’re in a hopeless situation, but if you’re willing to yell back harder than he (or she) yells at you, and if you can yell back harder, than by all means, try to teach him (or her) to redeem themselves.
At least, that’s the lesson I took.
Now, one argument I heard was that Belle was still a bad role model because she gave up her dreams of adventure, and didn’t go out to find her ideal life. You kidding me? She married A PRINCE. They aren’t trapped in the (now dis-enchanted) castle – they can go out on adventures whenever they want. Maurice could invent things like Inflatable Boats and they can go white-water rafting. They can explore the vast lands of France. They live near a forest, if nothing else, they can host regular Calvinball tournaments.
More to it, did you not see that library. Those are books that HE collected. He’s obviously an avid reader – and as was made clear earlier – they enjoy each others company, and I’m sure he’d be willing to try out other ventures Belle holds interest in.
So, in the end, Belle is a good, but seriously misinterpreted role model, and a strong female character who worked to get what she wanted in the end.
So, I will continue to be offended whenever anybody insults the movie based on very flawed logic.
…which is what my blog post would have read, but in the theatre there were a number of loudmouths (most of them kids, and I can forgive them) – including one woman who came in after it started, and started talking louder than the movie (the techies had to up the theatre’s volume) as she arranged her entourage. Meanwhile, all throughout the movie there were three people using their cellphones, and then, near the end, the woman from before starts over-talking again. I was already in a bad mood because of arguments about Disney in general, and the children in the theatre were suddenly extremely annoying.
And that’s why I killed ‘em Your Honour.
The Judge: “…well… I honestly have no idea what to make of your argument. All I got was an analysis of Beauty & The Beast, and a complaint about a relatively bad theatre experience, and I suddenly don’t care. I find you to have a solid alibi, and you in fact did not slaughter an entire movie theatre in front of several witnesses. This case is dismissed.”
The lesson to be learned here is that there’s a reason they ask you to turn your phones off.
Also, Beauty & The Beast is a very good movie, and other than personal distaste for the genre, there’s no real reason to dislike or hate it.