The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Beauty and the Beast": Reclaiming the Beast as the Good Guy


Watch the prologue to get you started :)

The idea for this blog post came to me when I was watching Beauty and the Beast with my roommates.  Somehow, we started talking about some of the negative interpretations people have towards the movie, and I found myself defending the film.  I don’t even remember how the conversation started, but I felt so strongly afterwards that I knew I had to share my perspective with the world.  So, lucky you all get to read it.  First off, I will admit to a bias: Beauty and the Beast is my FAVORITE movie…ever.  I have the lines and songs memorized, and collected various toys and figurines in my childhood (and present young adult life) that had to do with the movie.  Bias aside, though, I think it is a movie worth defending.

I'd be pissed off too if I had to spend my teenage years looking like this
The common negative message that is taken from Beauty and the Beast is “if you love him enough, he will change.”  To people, this movie seems to imply that a girl can change her man even if he is in some way abusive.  This is obviously not a message that we want to give to our young people, especially young girls, but I honestly do not see that in Beauty and the Beast.  Okay, okay, I suppose I could see the whole “her love will change him to a human” thing running along those lines, but I think a lot of people give the Beast a hard time, and he doesn’t deserve it.  Belle changes what he looks like, but not who he is.  I would like to offer a more positive interpretation.  Let me break it down for you.  First off, let’s look at the Beast instead of Belle.  If you pay close attention to the movie, you figure out that the Beast was eleven when he was cursed (the rose is supposed to wilt when he is 21, and in the song “Be Our Guest”, Lumiere sings “ten years we’ve been rusting…needing so much more than dusting…”).  Not only does the enchantress’ actions seem a little hasty (what eleven year old is really going to know what love is?), but you realize he spent his very confusing teenage years as a beast with no other human interaction (because, you know, everyone else in the castle is a piece of talking furniture).  OF COURSE HE IS PISSED OFF!  Also, wouldn’t you be wary of travelers when the last one to visit your home changed your species?  So, forgive me if I am willing to forgive the Beast’s couple of temper tantrums in the beginning of the movie.

Let’s bring Belle into the picture.  Does anybody else notice that she doesn’t fall in love with him until after he becomes less of an asshole?  He doesn’t change his behavior because she loves him and her love has some magical healing quality, he ultimately changes how he acts because he loves her…he just doesn’t know how to show it.  It has been ten years since he has encountered a human, and he probably never had many encounters with women before Belle.  He doesn’t know how to act, so he is demanding and yells a lot at the beginning because it is what he is used to.  When he sees that his actions actually drive her away (she literally runs into a wolf-infested forest in the middle of the night to get away from him) he realizes he needs to rethink his behavior. 

The Beast is never a bad guy, and really has a huge heart.  He is just awkward and very self-conscious in the beginning of the movie, angry at the world and what has been done to him, and it makes him lash out at those around him.  Belle is the only person who doesn’t take his shit.  He has lived his whole life with servants jumping at his commands, and people being afraid and intimidated by him.  When Belle refuses his command to attend dinner their first night together, his response is a temper tantrum because no one has ever refused him before.  He also is in a panic because he is running out of time to break the spell, and Belle is most likely his last chance.  He overreacts, but this is in no way appealing to her.  She is actively trying to avoid being around him.

The major turning point for the two is when Belle runs away.  Again, she willingly rides into a dark, dangerous forest in the middle of the night to get away from the Beast after he goes berserk on her for sneaking into the West Wing, his private domain (which he forbid her to go into).  She is attacked by wolves, but had she not been, she would have kept going and would never have gone back to the Beast ever again.  The wolves surround her and she tries to fight them off, but there are too many.  Suddenly, the Beast appears out of nowhere and begins fighting off the wolves.  There is a bit of “why was he following her?” floating in the back of your mind…he could have realized she would fall into danger, or again, panic that he wouldn’t be able to break the spell without her could have motivated him.  Whatever the reason, it doesn’t negate from the fact that he risks his own life to protect her.  I’m not going to lie…this is my favorite part of the movie.  Then, when he has won and collapses into the snow because he is so hurt from the fight there is a moment where she almost leaves him there!  She turns back to her horse as if to keep going, but hesitates.  Finally she goes and drags him back to the castle to tend to his wounds.  So, what lesson can we take away from the movie so far?  If a guy is a jerk to you, leave his ass!  And unless he does something epic like SAVE YOU FROM A FREAKING PACK OF WOLVES, don’t give him another chance.

The great part about this whole rescue thing is that Belle doesn’t swoon at his feet and say, “I’m now madly in love with you!”  She is not an idiot.  In fact, they get into a fight almost right away!  Belle is cleaning the Beast’s wound that he received from the wolves, and he is a bit of a baby about it and yells at her, but she yells right back.  He blames her for going to the West Wing, and she shouts back that he should learn “to control his temper”.  Belle is no pushover, and the Beast knows she has a point.  The next section of the movie shows a blossoming friendship between the two.  Belle realizes that the Beast is not as rough and beast-like as he first appears, and the Beast recognizes that if he acts more like a human being, she will treat him more like a human being.  He acts a little more civilized, though he definitely stumbles along the way, and starts wearing shirts.  They come to care for each other, that much is for sure, but neither make mention of love yet, and the Beast seems to be falling faster than Belle.
Let’s pause in the storyline to do a quick comparison with the other suitor in Belle’s life.  Gaston is, by all accounts, a dick.  He wants Belle only for her beauty, and would rather see her barefoot and pregnant in his kitchen (or giving him foot-rubs by the fire as he quite bluntly puts it) than living out her dreams.  Gaston, early on in the movie, even criticizes Belle for her constant reading, saying “It’s not right for a woman to read.  Pretty soon she starts getting ideas…and thinking!”  The Beast, on the other hand, knowing how much she loves books, gives her his WHOLE FREAKING LIBRARY as a gift.  In a scene that was cut from the original movie, the Beast even takes her up on her offer to teach him to read.  Gaston thinks Belle’s father is crazy and uses Maurice to try and manipulate her into marrying him.  The Beast realizes that Belle cannot be completely happy if her father is not well, and he lets her go at an incredibly crucial point in the story to be with him (more on that later).  Gaston is handsome and everyone fawns over him (except Belle of course), and this just feeds into his considerable ego.  The Beast is, well, a beast and people tend to fear him before they get to know him, so he is cautious and unsure of how to act around others.
This. Is. Adorable.
So, let’s return to the actual storyline, when things start to reach their climatic end.  Everyone remembers the lovely scene of Belle and the Beast dancing together in the ballroom with Mrs. Potts singing “Beauty and the Beast” in the background.  Classic, wonderful, but it’s the scene that comes right after that I am most interested in right now.  The Beast asks Belle if she is happy…because he gives a damn…and she says yes, but she misses her father.  Wanting to make her happy, the Beast gives her his magic mirror to check in on ole’ Maurice with.  Maurice, having set out to find and rescue his daughter because he believes the Beast to be a monster, is seen collapsing in the wood from sickness.  Belle is obviously concerned about her father, and wants to go to him.  The Beast…wait for it…let’s her go!  Even though she is still technically his prisoner having promised to stay at the castle for the rest of her life, and even though letting her go pretty much guarantees his curse won’t be broken and he will stay a beast forever, he lets her go.  He.  Lets.  Her.  Go.  Why, do you ask (because Cogsworth certainly does)?  The Beast’s answer is simple.

“Because…I love her.”

 The Beast has fallen so selflessly in love with Belle that he is willing to give up his very humanity so that she can be happy.  He is willing to give up the humanity of everyone else in that castle as well!  Belle doesn’t know about any of this…she doesn’t know staying with him and loving him will break the curse.  He doesn’t tell her.  The Beast never tells her about the curse and how it can be broken.  She leaves…and she leaves so easily, without giving any indication that she will come back, that you wonder if she is actually in love with him yet.  The Beast’s heartbreaking roar as she gallops away doesn’t even make her pause.  Of course, she eventually does come back after being locked away by Gaston, who then leads the townspeople on a man-hunt…or beast-hunt, as it were. 

Now things are really getting intense.  The Beast doesn’t put up a fight, initially, when Gaston barges into his room and shoots him with an arrow.  Really, though, what is there left for him to live for?  He can’t change back into a human because the woman he has fallen completely in love with has left.  Sure, he could try to live out the remainder of his days as a beast, but the past ten years of it haven’t been that great, and the townspeople knocking down his door to kill him just because of his appearance is probably not that reassuring either.  It’s only after he sees Belle charging towards the castle that he gets a little pep in his step and starts whooping some serious butt.  Do note, dear readers, that unlike many other Disney movies (or lots of non-Disney movies, because it’s a popular theme) the Beast is technically not saving Belle from anything (except maybe a crappy marriage).  She was captured, but the teacup Chip got her out.  Did she have to go back to the castle?  Nope.  No one was guarding her, or had put a spell on her.  She didn’t have a prince coming charging in to fight her dragons.  Belle goes back to the castle to try and stop Gaston from killing the Beast.  She wants to rescue the Beast!

I , for one, would not want to be on the receiving end of that!

There is nice little mini-lesson that can be learned from the Beast and Gaston’s showdown.  When the Beast starts fighting back, he obviously is going to win because, come on…he’s a beast.  However, when he has his hand around Gaston’s neck and is dangling him over the edge of the castle, pretty intent on dropping him, he doesn’t.  Even though it ultimately would have saved him a knife to the back, the Beast releases Gaston and snarls, “Get out”.  That’s a positive message.  No matter how much you are provoked, just walk away.  Of course, Gaston still ends up falling off of the castle and dying anyway because he stabs the Beast, who rears back in pain and knocks Gaston into the air.  That’s an accident though.  The point is, the Beast is a role model.
The ending then, of course, has the Beast dying with Belle kneeling over him.  As he breathes his last, tears spring to her eyes and she begs him not to die, softly proclaiming her love.  Then magic marbles fall from the sky, the Beast turns into a Prince, and they live happily ever after.  The End.  It’s nice and sweet, and everyone is happy.  So, yes, her love does change him in the end…but it changes him physically, not mentally or emotionally.  He did that all on his own, and Belle would have happily walked away and never looked back had he not changed his treatment of her.  She was able to get past his beastly appearance to see the big heart he had always had underneath.  That is the intended message of this movie.  Look beyond the physical to the beauty beneath.  And that is a message I think our world really needs right now.  So, let’s give the Beast a break…he isn’t the bad guy.

Until next time!
Erin Broich

Enjoy the original theatrical trailer before you go :)


  1. Are you saying that your romantic goals are to be with a man who orders others around, but when he orders you around you ignore him?

    What advice would you give to a woman who goes through what Belle goes through with the Beast?

    1. In no way are those my romantic goals, and while the Beast orders his servants around, he also does listen to them. The best example of this would be when he is waiting for Belle to come down to dinner a Mrs. Potts and Lumiere start telling him how he should behave if she comes down. The difference between Belle and everyone else he orders around is that she isn't a servant...he has no right to tell her what to do. Also, Belle doesn't simply ignore him, she stands up to him and lets him know what's what.

      My advice to a woman going through what Belle goes through with the Beast? If he is a legit jerk, do what Belle does in the beginning and leave! Like I posted above, don't give him a second chance unless he does something like saves you from a pack of wolves (or something to that equavalent). The problem with comparing a relationship in the real world to Beauty and the Beast is that it is very unlikely a girl will stumble upon an enchanted castle and find a prince-turned-beast with trust issues and a big heart. But seriously, if a guy is trying to order you around when he has no right to, stand up to him and tell him is behavior is unacceptable. If he doesn't stop, get out of the relationship. If he then changes his behavior and tries to get you back, its your judgement call as to whether or not you will. Ultimately, though, a woman has to be in a relationship that is healthy, comfortable, and with a man (or woman, we like them all here) that respects her.

    2. You certainly have a point there. I admire what you pointed out in that post. What I also admire is the paragraph that you typed about Belle not being a pushover due to her standing up to the Beast putting him in his place by giving him this attitude:

      "You better be thankful that I repaid you for saving me! Otherwise, you would have died out there. And just 'cause you're the boss of the castle, it doesn't give you the right to treat me badly. I mean, how would you like it if I mistreated you?"

      Like you, I admire Belle because she's like me in these ways:

      1. She's intelligent.

      2. She likes to read.

      3. She stands up for what's right.

      4. She can see the bad in others who antagonize on purpose.

      5. She doesn't care much about appearances.

      6. Shes more interested in people who accept her for who she is and not try to change her than those who hate her for who she is.

      7. She has been antagonized for being different like I have.

      8. She's an introvert.

      9. She sticks up for those who aren't very fortunate.

      10. She was forced to do things that she didn't want to do.

      11. She felt lonely because not many people accepted her as herself.

      12. She isn't too traditional.

      13. She rejects those who terrorize her.

      14. She's not one to suffer jerks lightly.

      15. She thinks for herself.

      I guess that those all the reasons I can come up with.

      One other thing that I do know though is that Belle was treated the same way that many nerds and geeks were and/or treated by jocks and other bullies like Gaston. As I pointed out earlier, I've hated Gaston due to my being antagonized by people like him. Another thing that I hate about him is how he's a villain.

      If you ask me, Gaston's an example of how stereotypical athletes treat nerds and geeks. And that sickens me to my stomach because of my experiences with bullies. Therefore, I'm pleased that you insulted him. Besides, who wants to be with a guy who's shallow, manipulative, spoiled, overly judgmental, narrow-minded, spoiled rotten, and ruthless enough to get whatever he wants no matter what?

  2. I'm glad that you support the Beast. But how can you sound like you also support Gaston? Do you not see what a hypocrite he was? The Beast showed him mercy but he refused to give him any.

    Sometimes when you're provoked, you have to fight back big time. If you ask me, walking away from a fight doesn't always work because it could cause your enemy to continue to antagonizing you. That's something I experienced for more than once.

    Its' true that the Beast accidentally killed Gaston. But I wish that he did that on purpose for all the evil stuff that hunter did. Hell, I've hated Gaston for a long time due to my being antagonized by people like him. Why, my dad is similar to him in terms of personality, except that he's much smarter than that fictional villain.


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