Beauty and the Beast

I saw the new Beauty and the Beast this past weekend with my 8-year-old daughter, her aunt and her grandmother. A girl’s day out to indulge in a girlish fairytale. Then my son tagged along even though his sister explained repeatedly that it was a girl’s thing. You see, there is a lot of separation in my world based on if you’re a boy or a girl. Boys go to monster truck shows and hockey games. Girls go shopping and to get their nails done. Many birthday parties are girls only. I’m always questioning it but that’s kind of how it’s always been and I don’t see it changing, although I did end up going to a monster truck show last year. A “girl” driver won.

So, Beauty and the Beast, 2017. They just released this live-action remake and if you’ve seen the 1991 Disney animated version, it won’t feel much different. The plot and dialogue is almost identical. There were a few new things peppered in and some funny jokes. The best and most unexpected part was casting of Josh Gad as Le Feu. Thank you! If you missed him as the unforgettable “Bearclaw” in The New Girl you need to go watch it immediately.

Here’s my take away from the movie: what exactly are we supposed to learn from B & the B?

It’s the Beauty on the inside that matters? You could say that Gaston was pretty on the outside but ugly on the inside and the beast was the reverse. But the beast started out like Gaston, then was cursed for it, then he was ugly outside as well as inside. It’s only at the end when he falls for Belle that he becomes selfless and good. The beast never seemed to be aware of what a jerk he was. He only seemed concerned with his own eternal damnation.

Women should not have to get married. They can be perfectly happy being independent? Belle makes such an argument for not getting tied down and living a provincial life. But she ends up marrying the beast/prince and settling down in the castle—even more remote than the small town she grew up in. Why couldn’t she have a career as an inventor like her dad? Or move to Paris and open a bookstore? Disappointing.

Poor townsfolk: bad. Rich monarchy: good? The other thing that I thought was bothersome was how we keep glorifying elitism. Can’t we move away from all this archaic classism? Didn’t we learn anything from Downton Abbey?

Also, was anyone else concerned that after the household objects/servants succeeded in getting Belle to fall in love with the Beast and getting the curse lifted, they all went back to being human servants? How is that a win?

I really wanted to like this movie and was willing to accept that it would be fairly fluffy, but it just left me wanting to go back an watch the version my mother took me to when I was little: Jean Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et La Bête. Trailer. Online rental.

If you’re interested, you can read a plot synopsis of the original story by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve here. It is much more interesting than either Disney version.

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