Sunday, 29 January 2017

Beauty and the Beast: A Christian's comments

Beauty and the Beast is one of the films that came out of an era known as the Disney Renaissance, a time where Disney films were once again at their peak and prime, with other animated films measured to that standard at the time and some argue Tangled or even Frozen started a second renaissance at Disney but I digress.

Beauty and the Beast was nominated for an Academy Award, won a Golden Globe for best picture, garnered positive reviews upon release and was a box office hit. To this day it is remembered fondly by many around the world, praised for it's animation, songs and writing, myself included.

In 2014, a live action remake was announced and set for release this year.

Now why am I talking about Beauty and the Beast in this article? Well, Emma Watson is the main lead and from I gathered from other people, is herself a strong feminist voice.

A cover on Total Film caught my attention on the 28th of January 2017 when I went to the shopping centre and I saw it's cover had the film in question (Do a google search on the poster and you'll see it.

What specifically caught my attention were the words underneath, which said "Darker, Smarter...Relevant".

I posted a comment on the Midnight's Edge Facebook group asking if the caption itself was insulting to the original film and the response, it surprised me by how many comments I got, some disagreed and some agreed.

One last thing I will say, this is not to attack Emma Watson as an individual. She has said she is a fan of the 90s Beauty and the Beast and I am willing to take that comment at face value. However, I feel she is missing the point entirely of the original film, especially from what I gathered from the people at Midnight's Edge, namely that Emma Watson having some requests, namely no flat shoes, no twirls because it means it makes her (I think she is referring to Belle) submissive, or wear large gowns and corsets. I could cringe at those decisions.

I also looked at an article last year (And posted that to Midnight's Edge too). You can find the original article here: http://heroichollywood.com/belles-backstory-changed-beauty-beast/

Here are Watson's comments:
"In the animated movie, it’s her father who is the inventor, and we actually co-opted that for Belle. I was like, ‘Well, there was never very much information or detail at the beginning of the story as to why Belle didn’t fit in, other than she liked books. Also what is she doing with her time?’ So, we created a backstory for her, which was that she had invented a kind of washing machine, so that, instead of doing laundry, she could sit and use that time to read instead. So, yeah, we made Belle an inventor."

Here's the thing, Belle reading books was there for reason.

Belle loved reading, it was a form of escapism but more than that, it gives the viewer an insight into one of her goals. She was seeking a better life and someone to love her for her rather than mould her into something she is not. Her words in one of the songs in the film was "There must be more than this provincial life."

Let us also look at the contrast between the Beast (called Adam in a CD-ROM triva game that came out years later: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101414/faq) and Gaston.

First, Gaston. He is an egotistical, narcissistic individual who loves the attention the townsfolk give him. He sees Belle as a potential wife, but not really someone whose feelings who he cares about. Belle even rejects his advances on him and shows him the door. Gaston grows increasingly more selfish and more of a viable threat, especially when he threatens to throw Belle's father Maurice into an asylum unless he agrees to marry her, which makes Belle be repulsed by him even more. Eventually this leads to Gaston's destruction when he makes the final assault on Beast's Castle and tries to kill the Beast but ultimately fails. His one consuming passion turns him ironically into a monster with violent hatred toward the Beast.

Second, The Beast himself, who started out as a selfish and spoilt prince who turned an old woman away at the door, who turned out to be a beautiful enchantress, who curses him into a chimera and the servants are transformed into household or castle objects, but still sentient. The Beast would have to learn to love and be loved in return, lest he remain a Beast forever, both he and the servants losing their human sentience.

When the Beast encounters Belle and her father, He is unkind and cruel. He forces Maurice to be imprisoned, to which Belle agrees to be the Beast's prisoner in exchange for her father to be free This ties into later on because eventually the Beast does regret separating Belle from her father.

The servants do their best to bring Belle and the Beast together but specifically the Beast himself learns to come out of his zone so to speak. What finally brings him to his senses is rescuing Belle from the wolves, with he and Belle chiding each other for their actions. Belle does something that the Beast never had happen to him, have someone challenge him on his behaviour.

The Beast does begin to change his ways, why? Belle wins him over by her conduct. Her compassion and selflessness starts to rub off on him and he in return reciprocates.

When the Beast starts to actually care for Belle, he doesn't try to change her or mold her, but instead gets know her and what makes her tick so to speak. He even gives the library to Belle, knowing that she has a love of literature (He wanted to do something for her and it was suggested to him the library as an idea from Lumiere and Cogworth) and after the dance when Belle looks into the magic mirror, Beast reluctantly, but willingly releases Belle from her captivity and sends her to rescue her father.

When Gaston attacks, Belle returns and the feelings between the two are strengthened, Gaston is defeated and the spell is broken. The Beast has finished his journey.

Belle's selfless and caring nature wins the Beast over and changes him, both on the inside and back to normal on the outside.

It's clear Gaston was not interested in Belle's feelings whereas the Beast eventually understood what would make Belle happy and learnt to be less selfish and he could be someone to care for and cherish her rather conform her into someone shallow, like the triplets who sigh at the mere sight of Gaston and have no interest in him as a person.

This reminds me of 1 Peter 3:1 (though not exactly the same) where wives are to win their husbands over by their conduct. I am not saying Beast and Belle are Christians, I am saying that Belle doesn't score cheap points with the Beast and go down to his level, but rather through her actions and words, he is brought to her level, becoming a better man for it.

David Pawson even has stated that God is more interested in character than achievement, that he' rather have a conscientious taxi driver than a careless missionary.

The comments by Emma Watson sadly miss the point of the original Beauty and the Beast Disney classic entirely and to be honest there is no need to make Belle an inventor, (though there is nothing wrong with the idea in and of itself), but in the context of the story, It's Belle's character rather than her achievements that gets the audience invested in her. Sadly, the remake in light of Watson's requests if they are real requests, may destroy the remake. We'll have to see when it comes out.

A woman of good character (specifically biblical standard of good) is someone who is the strong woman and empowered, the feminist regardless of their intentions is not helping the cause of empowering women.

Jesus Christ is the one who elevates men and women, not through violating and breaking the gender barriers, but strengthening their roles as men and women.

Answering Judaism.

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