Beauty and the Beast
What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Disney’s Beauty and the Beast? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Stars: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers
Director: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Feature Animation
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
Beauty and the Beast’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Beauty and the Beast, the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and Best Interspecies Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards. It lost both. The film tells the story of a prince who gets transformed into a buffalo for being jerky, which is a bit of an overreaction since he’s only 11 years old and seems to have no legal guardians. Even more unfair is that the curse punishes the prince’s employees, who did nothing wrong and only want everyone to be their guest. In any event, the spell can only be broken if someone falls in love with the Beast before a magic flower arbitrarily wilts in ten years. Flash forward 9.99 years later to a nearby French town where everyone hates a girl named Belle because she likes to read. While Belle is busy getting sexually harassed by a fuckboy named Gaston, Belle’s father gets sexually harassed by a pack of wolves, and stumbles upon a castle he’s never seen before even though it’s within walking distance of the place he’s lived his entire life.
The Beast gets mad at Mr. Belle for trespassing in the castle and makes him his prisoner, effectively allowing him to continue trespassing forever. Belle offers herself as tribute in her father’s place, and the beast agrees, forgetting that he has no idea how to talk to girls. His game is so bad that Belle tries to run away, but those wolves are still hanging around, ready to help drive the plot forward in any way they can. The Beast saves Belle, which finally kicks her Stockholm Syndrome into gear. They play dress-up and throw snowballs for a while, until eventually Belle gets around to remembering that her father exists. She looks in the magic mirror that the Beast has for some unexplained reason and sees that her father lying down for a nap, having spent all this time trying to get to the castle that’s like a mile away. Instead of offering to help, the Beast tells her to go to him. So she does, but when Gaston finds out about the Beast, he gets super jelly and recruits the townspeople to go search for the castle and kill him. Seriously, it’s only been ten years since the spell was cast – why does no one in town know about this enormous castle and the prince who lived there? What is he prince of if not them? Are they so arrogant as to think they can exist outside a traditional monarchy?
The Beast refuses to fight Gaston, so Gaston takes matters into his own hands by throwing himself into a ravine. Belle announces explicitly that she loves the Beast, thus breaking the spell and turning him back into Tarzan. All the household appliances become human again, but apparently have no desire to leave the place they’ve been trapped in for a decade. Belle and the nameless prince put on their signature outfits from earlier and dance like no one above the servant class is watching. Beauty and the Beast can trace its lineage back to Cupid and Psyche, a second century story by Platonicus in which a beautiful girl falls in love with mysterious being who will not show his face but it doesn’t matter because he’s rich. Earth had a vibrant literary tradition of conventionally attractive women falling for horrible creatures, such as Edward Scissorhands, King Kong, the Phantom of the Opera, and Kevin James.
On the surface, the film appears to argue that appearance shouldn’t matter because it’s what’s on the inside that counts, i.e. whether or not your organs work. Belle’s father looks like a kook, so the dumb townspeople dismiss him as such. Gaston is jacked and has a bomb-ass ponytail, and therefore the dumb townspeople worship him. Belle is the only one who doesn’t judge a book by its cover, since she’s the only one in town who knows how to read. But the film abandons this message and ultimately concludes that while it’s great to be beautiful on the inside, it’s even better if you are beautiful on the outside too. The fact that Belle finds true love in a sensitive, caring 6 ought to be enough for her to live happily ever after, but instead the film rewards her with a hot slice of 10. Similarly, when the sorceress curses the Beast during that really explain-y intro, she is trying to teach him a lesson about not discounting a person for being ugly and wearing a weird cloak.
However, the Beast never learns this lesson, because all the film asks of him is to fall in love with the incredibly nice, intelligent, smoking hot virgin who is gifted to him on his doorstep. Belle is often touted as a strong, empowered female character, particularly by human standards. While other women in town do their chores and juggle their babies, Belle has her nose buried in a book. And not just any book — a chapter book! As she explains in her native French, she yearns for adventure. The film’s opening scene echoes that of The Sound of Music, in which a nun named Maria Poppins also hopes to expand her horizons by hearing music for the first time.
However, unlike Maria, who crosses the Swiss Rockies and saves her family from the Alt-Right, Belle settles pretty comfortably into the typical Disney princess role. She yearns for Prince Charming, even though he’s happily married to her friend Snow White. She plays the damsel in distress when she can’t even handle a simple wolf attack. And, in the end, she trades her dreams of exploring the “great wide somewhere” for a gilded cage. And knowing these guys, that cage probably used to be a butler or something. For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Au revoir!