Although I am a lover of Disney, its songs, theme parks, merchandise, films and basically anything even remotely related, I’d also be the first to admit that some Disney movies are deeply problematic in a number of ways. I think it’s worth mentioning that I am wearing a Simba onesie as I write this, so my love of Disney is stronger than my critique. As the internet is buzzing with news of the live-action Beauty & The Beast remake, I consider it high time to let you know how I feel about that particular narrative.
First of all, I love it. I love the songs, because everything Alan Menken touches is gold. I love the bookish heroine. I love Chip. But there are some things I have doubts about:
This movie basically passes off Stockholm Syndrome as true love.
Belle, who only agrees to stay with the Beast to save her old father’s life, eventually falls in love with him. I don’t think that’s healthy.
Also, I think human Chip looks no older than six or seven.
So if that estimation is accurate, and the servants have all been turned into furniture and crockery for ten years, then who impregnated the teapot and how?
Something else I don’t like is that mental illness is used as a plot device. Gaston has Belle’s father put in a mental institution then tells her he will arrange for her father’s release if she agrees to marry him. That isn’t just blackmail, which is uncool, it’s also trivializing mental illness and equating it to quirkiness. I understand no one within the film condones this behavior and Gaston is the villain. I just still don’t like it.
But here is something that isn’t wrong with Beauty & The Beast: the Beast is ugly.
Buzzfeed recently reported that the Beast’s ugliness was a surprise, or even a downright disappointment, to lots of people. But what did these people expect?
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that Dan Stevens is a cutie and we all want to enjoy his cuteness. But I think criticizing the Beast’s ugliness is a sign you’re completely missing the film’s deeper meaning. The Prince is punished for his egoism with the outward appearance of a Beast. In order to regain his human exterior, he has to make someone fall in love with him for totally not-superficial reasons. Being enamored with someone’s good looks isn’t true love. True love means loving someone for their personality, which Belle ends up loving him for. The Beast’s ugliness at the start highlights Belle’s goodness, because she is willing to see past it. Also, not everything in every media outlet has to be pretty all the time. Be smart instead. Be funny. Be kind.