In the new movie, I like Beauty. I always do.
I even like the Beast. Yes, he suffers a bit of testosterone poisoning. He manages his anger poorly. He’s rude and talks coarsely. People are afraid of him. He’s ugly.
What’s not to like?
But even though I mostly like the leading characters, I don’t like the movie.
The central theme of the movie is fine. Beauty and ugly are only skin deep. But to support that, our friends at Disney get everything else wrong.
Here’s the story, for those who were sensible enough to pretend to fall asleep when fairy tales were inflicted on them as children:
The Beast imprisons Beauty’s kindly father in his castle in the French countryside for accidentally stealing a rose from the Beast’s garden. Beauty offers to take her father’s place, and the Beast accepts her offer.
But the Beast is not really a beast. He’s a handsome prince. He’s rich too. He’s just having a bad-hair decade because a local shaman cast a spell over him for being a jerk.
But it’s not his fault that he’s a jerk. It’s the fault of his father who was mean to him before dying and leaving him a beautiful castle and fabulous fortune that enables his life of trustafarian leisure.
His servants are under the same spell. They’ve been turned into a candelabra, a clock, a coat hanger and, well, you get the idea.
Beauty is initially put off by the Beast’s beastliness. He’s violent and threatening. He eats soup without utensils and wears dark pants after Bastille Day. Worst of all, his castle is stuck in that hideous Louis XIII decor that is so 1790s/1970s.
To make a long and predictable story into a short and predictable one, the Beast is actually a nice guy, deep down. Yes, back when he was a jerk, he really was a jerk. But now, he’s a great guy.
He just needs a little lovin’ and understanding and a haircut and bath and a decorator with a palette beyond dark gray. He needs someone to see the beauty inside him — preferably someone who is beautiful on the outside.
That’s where Beauty comes in. Well, technically, that’s where Beauty is imprisoned by him.
Talk about an awkward first date. But they get past it. She just had to see him again. Really. Because, after all, she’s his prisoner.
You see where this is going. She discovers the beauty inside her ugly captor. In a textbook case of Stockholm Syndrome, she falls in love with him.
That breaks the curse and he transforms back into a handsome prince. He’s exactly the way he was before the spell was cast, except now he’s not a jerk. Best of all, his bad father didn’t come back and the good money he left didn’t go away.
Time out. I have a question. If surface beauty doesn’t matter, why does the Beast regain his? Wouldn’t the message be more compelling if he stayed hideously ugly on his outside, but Beauty loved him nonetheless for what’s on his inside?
And what message does it send that he’s rich and with money he didn’t earn?
And why at the outset is Beauty lamenting her “provincial life” but doing exactly nothing to break out of it, except reading romance novels and dreaming about a Prince Charming? Get a career, girl!
Anyway, back to the story. When the Beast transforms back into a prince, the castle gets a remodeling and all the appliances that used to be the Beast’s servants transform back into servants. They’re happy too.
Along the way, Disney pretends open-mindedness. But actually they present stereotypical portrayals of stupid country folk, limp-wristed gays, sloppy beer drinkers, crazed gun owners, heteronormative heroines, talkative teapots, vicious wolves, fat French armoires, noisy small dogs and valiant horses of pallor.
OK, I’m the father of two single daughters. In case they someday date a beast and someday read my column, I say this to them: If he’s a jerk on the outside, he’s probably worse on the inside.
He doesn’t need reforming; he needs a reformatory. He doesn’t need a prisoner; he needs a prison. Don’t walk away; run.
Notably, we know how the movie ends, but we don’t know what happens after that. Conspicuously absent is the customary “They lived happily ever after.” Hmm.
(Published Apr. 16, 2017 in the Aspen Times at http://www.aspentimes.com/news/beaton-beauty-deserves-better-than-the-beast/ and elsewhere)