So it has been a minute since my last post. But something has been in my craw for awhile now. It’s time to let it out.
The story of Beauty and the Beast is a crock. My oldest is in die-hard princess mode. I’m talking donning and doffing 2-3 different princess gowns during any one day, or morning, or hour. And what goes hand in hand with princess dresses? Why princess movies, of course. And thus begins my inner rage over the B&B movie. Because maybe its the newest B&B movie that’s fueling it, but everyone has been talking about the quality of this particular princess story lately. Belle is smart! What a role model. There’s a good lesson to be learned: appreciating inner beauty. This is the story and the heroine our young girls need.
I call bullshit. And here is why. For those lucky enough not to have watched B&B lately (read- this week), let’s recap the salient facts. An old beggar woman shows up at the castle offering a rose in exchange for shelter from the cold (creepy and honestly no one would be granted entrance to my home by showing up like this either. The most they could hope to get is a death threat).
Shallow asshole prince turns her away. She begs again and warns him not to be deceived by appearances, “for beauty is found within.” He rejects her again and now she’s really pissed. And as it turns out, she’s actually a super hot enchantress. As penance for his behavior, she puts a spell on the entire castle, innocent bystanders included. The spell will break if he falls in love and earns love in return.
Then years pass blah blah blah, and one day Belle shows up. Love story continues. The rose wilts. Beast falls in love with Belle. Belle falls for Beast. Spell breaks. The end. (As an aside, in both the animated and live action versions, the inhabitants of the castle, who as bystanders were punished because of Beast’s behavior, are totally cool with him after the spell breaks. Who the hell? If I am turned into an appliance for ten years because of something you did, you better hope and pray I don’t ever turn back into a human. Because upon regaining my opposable thumbs, I will rally my fellow post-gizmo comrades and exact tortuous revenge on you for the years spent in agony as a tea kettle warming your water over an open flame.) Great story, eh? Yeah, if you accept that Beast LEARNS NOTHING. Because let’s think about this. Beast was punished for being shallow. But who should stumble upon his castle? Belle. The woman known throughout the French countryside as the “Most Beautiful Girl in Town.” How fortunate for him. At this point, his self-esteem must be about .001. He has been concealed in a dark and scary-as-shit castle with talking candles for the better part of ten years. Who is bathing this monster? Who is emptying his chamber pot (given his size should we assume bucket or perhaps bystander-turned-wagon?) and who is removing the old meat bits from his fangs? He makes his first appearance wearing rags. Talk about some stank. So at the moment Belle makes the scene, anyone is going to look pretty appealing. But lucky for Beast, Belle is a 10. He falls in love with her…big surprise. And the whole castle is in on the charade to ensure she reciprocates! Lie to her, Beast. Be charming. Fool her. Kill and/or horribly maim the opposing suitor. Because my God- I’m about to live out the remainder of eternity as a fucking plunger. And sadly for Belle, desperate and bored as she is to get out of her poe-dunk town, she falls for it. This isn’t a story celebrating inner beauty. Beast gets the hottest girl in town. Belle sees inner beauty in him but that wasn’t the point of the enchantress’ spell; he was the one who was supposed to a learn a lesson. For Beast, the spell was nothing more than a temporary inconvenience. The spell suspended time while it was in effect (see cup/kid stays a kid, footstool/dog and old lady/tea pot are remarkably still alive). So that when the spell was cast, Belle was probably 8. Now she’s hot, of age, and on his doorstep. He got a 10 year pause button on life only to be restarted when a thoughtful model shows up at his house. The lesson? Piss off enchantresses so you can pause time, wreak havoc around your magical castle as a fairly badass monster, talk to clocks, and find true love with the woman of your dreams- all without adding any fine lines.
You know what would have really been an inner transformation? Two women show up at the castle: Belle and Moyenne. Belle, being the angsty bookworm that she is, is pretty but dull and fails to catch Beast’s eye. But Moyenne captures his imagination. She is comely and funny. She also lacks a few teeth (a couple of late night bar brawls). He doesn’t notice. All he sees is her spunk. Her wit! Her glistening gums. Save for her lack of enamel, she’s perfect. He turns Belle away, choosing instead the loveable gummy gal. Yes, that would have been the true test. THAT would have been an inner beauty allegory worth watching.
But here we are- nodding approvingly at another princess story who’s princess is only marginally more developed than your standard Cinderella, and who is still unattainably perfect and conventionally beautiful. I suppose anti-Belle type fairy tales don’t sell or carry wide appeal (except for maybe that little billion dollar franchise called Shrek). I guess if B&B teaches our young and impressionable girls anything, its that if you are pretty and literate you could have a couple of shallow assholes fighting to the death for you (swoon!) and the world over will celebrate you for it. She’s pretty AND she knows how to read. Imagine that. Three cheers for Belle!