Beauty, the Beast, and Domestic Violence

BruiseThere are two kinds of monsters in the world.

The first feeds on fear. It is the unknown. We fear it because we can’t see it. Can’t name it. Can’t control it. Evil is out there. It could come for us at any moment. Let’s call it “The Others.” George R. R. Martin did.

In Christian theology, we call evil from the outside “oppression.”

The second kind of monster is born of the first. When we don’t know, we fear. When we fear, we hate. When we hate, we destroy. We become the evil required to destroy the evil. (At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.) We beat The Others at their own game.  We become “The Beast.”

Theology names evil from the inside “sin.”

Of course, no monster is black and, well, black. The best stories create evils with elements of both The Others and The Beast.

Beauty and the Beast

A loose remake of CBS’s 1987 Beauty and the Beast, now in its second season on CW, is an example of both. In this case, the beast’s “bad side” grows out of a secret government genetic-modification program called Muirfield. Vincent, the super-soldier beast, and Catherine spend the first season attempting to discover the truth about Muirfield and a cure for Vincent’s beast-side.

In the final episode, Vincent is cured, but Catherine re-infects him so he can fight for his life. The government recaptures Vincent but stays its hand from killing Catherine. She’s the daughter of both the Muirfield doctor who experimented on Vincent and the government agent who runs the conspiracy.

Last spring when it aired, I wondered if the show had jumped the shark. As soon as the writers make peace with the shadow side of The Beast and expose The Others, they tip their hand. What else is there?

Secrecy and Sin

There is domestic violence. The worst evil combines elements of fear, secrecy and sin.

I won’t describe what Vincent does to Catherine at the beginning of this season, but she doesn’t deserve it and it frightens her. By this Monday’s episode, she’s covering the bruise with makeup and a scarf, excusing Vincent’s action as an exception, and hiding the truth from her sister and closest friends.

Catherine can’t keep up the lies for long. She tells her friends and breaks it off with Vincent. When he apologizes, she forgives him but she stands her ground. It’s not love if they can’t confess the truth about the monster(s) to each other and to others.

Domestic Violence

So far, the reviews of Monday’s attempt to address domestic violence suggest it didn’t do the reality justice. Let’s give the writers points for awareness anyway. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

How do you address the sin and secrecy of domestic violence? The National Network to End Domestic Violence has some suggestions, everything from numbers to call if you need help to wearing purple, the bruised color of solidarity.

Among other things, Christian theology offers this caution: Anger makes one liable to judgment. Verbal and emotional abuse make one answerable to the jury and susceptible to eternal damnation. If this escalation is unacceptable, so much more is physical abuse intolerable (Matt 5:21–22).

And Christians claim this release: “Forgiveness is choosing not to hold someone’s sin against him or her anymore. . . . This doesn’t mean you continue to put up with the future sins of others. God does not tolerate sin and neither should you [Isa 1:15–18]. Don’t allow yourself to be continually abused by others. Take a stand against sin while continuing to exercise grace and forgiveness, . . . wise limits and boundaries” (Anderson, 222–24).

There are two kinds of monsters in the world. We can fear The Other. We can be The Beast. Or we can choose for Beauty and stand her sacred ground.

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