It’s what’s inside that counts.
If this sounds like a cliché, it’s because that’s what it is. But I have news for you reader, clichés are just common things that people say, or events that have happened so often, that they’ve somehow been reduced to a “repetitive or obvious thing” because they are so normal. But it by no means makes them any less true, right? Stay with me, this is going somewhere (I hope).
The other day I revisited the glorious Beauty and the Beast circa 1991. If you are not a fan of Disney movies, I suggest you stop reading now (and also what’s wrong with you and when did the child inside you die?). I was a Disney kid through and through and although the Little Mermaid (1989) is my first love when it comes to the Disney realm, Beauty and the Beast taught me an actual life lesson about looking beyond the surface.
I won’t lament the obvious (not my style, or so I tell myself) and tell you why this is a good lesson to have in your back pocket (so you don’t become a shallow soulless creature who doesn’t read books because you judge them by cover and are therefore illiterate due to purposeful ignorance), but what I will do is gush about this film. And also explain why it needs revisiting if you haven’t watched it since before puberty (simpler times) and you’re an “adult” now.
First of all, the music; “Be Our Guest”, “Tale As Old As Time”, and even “Gaston” for God’s sake! It’s all musical brilliance that set the bar for Disney at its peak, only recently returning to form musically with Frozen.
Second, the examples of men and women so accurately reflect society then and now. Belle as the well-read woman who they call a “funny girl” because she wants more than a small town life where she pops out some kids and dies on a farm aged 40. Beast as the shut in with crippling self-doubt and anxiety who has zero social skills thanks to developing agoraphobia. He’s also the target for violence from an angry mob who are driven to try and destroy him because they fear what they don’t understand (eloquently sung about in the classic song “Kill the Beast”). And then of course there’s hyper masculine Gaston. Town hero, muscles abound, very sexually aggressive with far too much testosterone, crying bloody murder and sadism when he doesn’t get what he wants. He also believes women shouldn’t be educated and I’m pretty sure he would be in prison if he were real and living today.
Third and most important in my opinion, is the development of the relationship between Belle and the Beast. They don’t get along at first and understandably so; he kidnaps her father and then makes her promise to stay with him forever in exchange for her father’s life. But potential Stockholm’s syndrome aside, their growing closeness and bickering is reminiscent of many a young love story where enemies become friends and then lovers. Yes this is achieved via a montage (it’s still a kid’s film after all and their attention spans are short, not unlike mine actually), but the progression is relatively slow all things considered. Plus he shows her his appreciation of the intellectual by giving her a library (sign me up to marriage there and then), and getting her to help him get back into reading.
It’s beautiful and romantic as hell. And it reminds us that no matter how aesthetically pleasing we are on the outside, ain’t no one trying to date someone who’s a beast on the inside. I probably could have been more poetic than that, but I’ll leave that to the film itself.
Re-watch it and feel slightly weird about the fact that the Beast is way more handsome than the man he turns back into; he looks a lot more female than expected and during his transformation, light comes out of his toes, which is a pretty weird trait if you ask me.