Beauty and the Beast: A Deeply Flawed Film

Crane_beauty5_optWhen I first saw the animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast, I knew that the girl singing must be one of the bad sisters in the story. After father lost his money they:

. . . did not know how to spend their time; they got up at ten, and did nothing but saunter about the whole day, lamenting the loss of their fine clothes and acquaintance. “Do but see our youngest sister,” said they, one to the other, “what a poor, stupid, mean-spirited creature she is, to be contented with such an unhappy dismal situation.”

Meanwhile, Beauty was happy and actually healthier, because she, like her father and brothers embraced the farm life. She:

. . . rose at four in the morning, and made haste to have the house clean, and dinner ready for the family. In the beginning she found it very difficult, for she had not been used to work as a servant, but in less than two months she grew stronger and healthier than ever. After she had done her work, she read, played on the harpsichord, or else sung whilst she spun.

When I heard someone singing “there goes the baker with his tray like always,” I thought of the spoiled sisters. Who else would want so much more than this provincial life?

Of course, Beauty in the story was a reader (Christian stories like readers! ), but she was not an insufferable snob, either. In fact, one lesson of the fairy tale was that one could be happy with a “lower” lot and that the Beast in his castle was not happy!

Humility, hard work, and love were some of the values of the tale, but those got lost in the animated film. I am told that Beauty in the new film is an “inventor” so at least she is gainfully employed, but note that she is doing “brain work” as opposed to those townies who make things. Gaston even hunts: loser.

So just as Donald J. Trump is elected in part due to Hollywood and other classes who live in castles demonizing the townies, the country folk, and those who make things for a living that are not artisanal or crafty, Disney decides we need a live action Beauty and the Beast. This will help, I am sure. Everyone needs to be sold the fantasy that if they read, invent stuff nobody wants, and look down on their neighbors, then they will get to live in a castle.

Next thing you know, Emma Watson will pose nude because, you know, feminism.

If that is not bad enough, there is the view of romance in the film (and sadly) in the story. It doesn’t matter what he is like, true love and spunk will save him. That is more dangerous to those of us who are romantic than even the insufferable elitism. Look ladies: if he rages and shrieks and sets arbitrary rules, he is not a prince underneath. He is a bad man. Go away. Marriage is not therapy. Being uppity when you are tiny will not protect you, because physics. 

Maybe go home and meet a baker, read a book, and invent something useful.

And, of course, we might ask if we need a “live action” version of an animated film. If Hollywood were awash in creative films serving many different audiences (think middle aged home school moms of color), then maybe they could be excused a brainless remake with stars.

Still, the music of the animated film, which remains in the live movie, is outstanding. The animation was ground breaking and, flaws and all, the animated film became one of my all time favorites. Much artistic goodness, joyful performances, and wonderful rendering, can make up for a muddled message. With luck, the live action film will get this better.  The art had better be very, very good to overcome the horrible message.


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