Beauty and the Beast

November 18, 2012 | By | 2 Comments

Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991 – two years after The Little Mermaid. Here is the backstory for those unfamiliar:

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle.  Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind.  But then, one winter’s night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the prince sneered at the gift and turned the old woman away, but she warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within. And when he dismissed her again, the old woman’s ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress.  The prince tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart, and as punishment, she transformed him into a hideous beast, and placed a powerful spell on the castle, and all who lived there. Ashamed of his monstrous form, the beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world.  The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his twenty-first year.  If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken.  If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.  As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope, for who could ever learn to love a beast?

* * *

00:01 – All I know about this movie is that Belle is the princess I can never recognize and Beast reminds me of the singer Meatloaf.

1:58 – I don’t blame this guy one bit for being mean to the old beggar lady. Being a prince, he has obviously studied up on his princess history. You know the last time a haggard looking elderly lady showed up unannounced on someone’s doorstep? Ever watch Snow White?

2:45 – A magic mirror is the beast’s only window to the outside world. Best not be asking that mirror who the best looking prince in the world is, Meatloaf.

3:40 – We have a morning. We have birds. We have a PRINCESS! Do we have singing? I need singing. Come on, Disney, we can’t have a princess in the morning without singing…

3:49 – SINGING!

4:27 – Belle is singing about a “little town full of little people”. Obviously, she studied up on Snow White too. From the lyrics, apparently every day is the same in this poor little town full of midgets.

5:28 – Belle checks out a book from the library with “far out places, daring swordfights, magic spells and a  prince in disguise”, even though she’s read it twice. Another princess longing for adventure! Singing to the birds every day gets old, you know?

6:12 – It’s confirmed that singing to birds gets old because Belle is now singing to some sheep. Just like any addiction, there is always escalation.

6:55 – A fellow named Gaston just showed up on scene and the first thing he did was to, get this… KILL A BIRD! This guy is obviously bad news. How dare you kill a bird in a princess movie?

8:45 – Gaston declares that because Belle is the only one in the town as beautiful as he, he is going to woo and marry her. In his pursuit, the first thing he does is steal Belle’s beloved book and throw it in the mud! This guy has the charm of a skunk.

16:26 – Belle’s father (Maurice) gets lost on his way to a fair and ends up at the cursed castle. He is greeted by a warm candlestick and ticked-off clock (see what I did there?)

17:30 – Beast arrives on the scene looking tall, dark and ugly and demands to know who Maurice is and what he is doing there. This is all followed by a “You’re not welcomed here!” Apparently Beast still hasn’t learned his lesson about being nice to old people.

17:56 – Back in the small town with short people where nothing ever changes, Gaston has arranged a wedding for he and Belle, before even proposing. However you feel about this dope, you have to admit that the whole inviting-your-bride-to-her-wedding-before-actually-proposing-to-her thing is kind of romantic.

19:09 – Gaston just slammed his muddy boots on Belle’s precious book and is getting uncomfortably aggressive in his advances. This guy needs to take a time out and cool off for a little bit in the corner.

19:47 – Let’s talk about the men in this movie: One is a cruel and tortured beast, while the other is all brawn and no brain. These guys are woofully inadequate! The only likeable man is Belle’s absent-minded father who can’t even make it to the fair without getting lost in the woods.

20:35 – Belle is singing again, frolicking in open meadows and looking for adventure. Basically, she needs to join this family. .

22:32 – Everyone keeps remarking how there is a GIRL in the CASTLE. These folks act like they haven’t hung out with a girl in 10 years. Well, me neither. Too busy watching princess movies.

23:20 – Scary beast just appeared out of nowhere and growled at Belle, “What are you doing here?” Apparently, that is his first question to everybody. I guess the days are over where you can just drop into a haunted castle unannounced and expect to feel welcomed.

23:24 – Belle calls to the Beast: “Who is there? Who are you?”

Let’s recap the conversations we’ve had between the Beast and other characters so far:

  • 17:30 – Beast to Maurice: “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
  • 23:20 – Beast to Belle, “What are you doing here?”
  • 23:24 – Belle to Beast, “Who is there? Who are you?”

Is ANYONE going to ask a different question or maybe answer a question that has already been asked?

24:11 – After initially telling Maurice that he isn’t welcome to stay, Beast decides to keep Maurice as his prisoner. That’s the kind of all-or-nothing thinking that will get you in trouble in life.

25:30 – Beast seems touched when Belle offers to take the place of her father as prisoner in the castle. Now, he is about to show Belle to a nicer room. Still, he is a jerk to the poor candlestick. What is up with this guy? Does he have a heart? Does he not have a heart? I haven’t felt this confused by my emotions toward a person since I started developing feelings for Tom Brady.

27:00 – After her conversation with the Beast, Belle throws herself on her bed and breaks into tears. Meanwhile, Gaston is still licking his wounds after his proposal was rejected. Obviously, he doesn’t know that the real way to woo Belle is to kidnap her father, force her to stay in his home and then command her to join him for dinner.

29:36 – Gaston is a violent man. Who is going to come to melt his troubled heart? Disney was going to send Bambi, but they were afraid that Gaston would shoot him too.

32:08 – Belle is still sobbing. She doesn’t have any dwarfs to pour out her heart to like Snow White, animals to sing to like Aurora or fairy godmothers to confide in like Cinderella. She does, however, have a singing teapot set, which is a lot more than I ever had as a kid.

41:13 – Candlestick is singing “Be Our Guest”, which I vaguely recognize from a commercial. The Beast could learn a thing or two from all this dancing Tupperware on hospitality. Meanwhile, after all that preparation, Belle does not appear to take a single bite of her food.

Favorite YouTube comment: I sang this song to my neighbors. The following week they put up an 11 foot fence against my house!

46:56 – Beast finds Bells in the forbidden part of the castle and starts yelling at her. Meanwhile, a frightened Belle books it for the exit to the castle. I honestly can’t figure out what took her so long to attempt an escape – I suppose the enchanted castle thing with the dancing silverware had her intrigued for a little while there.

47:29 – Oh, there is a pack of hungry wolves chasing Belle. Maybe that is why she didn’t leave earlier. Yo Beast, the princess is about to get eaten by wolves. Maybe you should come out and scare them away. This movie is more than halfway over and you need to start getting your act together fast.

50:20 – Beast came to the rescue and was wounded pretty badly. Belle has the choice between saving the Beast’s life or taking off and chooses the former. The episode with the wolves prompts what I think is the longest conversation anyone has with the Beast in the entire movie:

Beast: That hurts.
Belle: If you’d hold still it wouldn’t hurt so much.
Beast: If you hadn’t run away, this wouldn’t have happened.
Belle: If you didn’t frighten me, I wouldn’t have run away.
Beast: You shouldn’t have been in the West Wing.
Belle: You should learn to control your temper.
Belle: By the way, thank you for saving my life.
Beast: You’re welcome.

Thank God! We’ve finally gotten past all the “Who are you? What are you doing here?” questions, even though I still don’t think any of those questions were ever answered. Do they even know each other’s names yet?

56:30 – Beast is able to build on the goodwill from saving Belle’s life by giving her an entire library. Things continue to turn a corner as Belle and Beast share a meal, feed birds (of course), get in a snowball fight (thank God Beast’s snowball doesn’t connect) and read a book together in a cozy setting. The last time I saw a scene this romantic under a fireplace, it was one of those time life infomercials for a collection of love songs from the 70’s and 80’s.

60:00 – They just played the “Beauty and the Beast” song. I may or may not need some tissues.

61:53 – Beast finally gives Belle her freedom – even though it means the freedom to not be with him anymore. Just like Belle sacrificed herself so that her father wouldn’t be a prisoner, now the Beast is forgoing his chance to have the spell to be broken.

66:00 – Belle tells Gaston that the Beast would never hurt anymore. Though he looks vicious, he’s kind, gentle and her friend. She wraps it up by saying, “He’s no monster. You are.” I’m not sure what kinds of messages this movie is sending to children, but some of them are probably okay.

78:43 – Up until now, the village seemed blissfully unaware that the creepy castle even existed. Now, they’re behaving like the children in Lord of the Flies.

84:42 – After trying to kill Beast, Gaston falls to his death. Can’t say I remember too many people dying in these princess movies, but this guy certainly deserved it and had it coming from the start. The lesson I’m taking away from this: Never think you can kill a bird in a Disney movie and get away with it.

88:32 – Beast turns back into a prince as he has finally learned to love and earn Belle’s love in return. It isn’t until they kiss, however, that the castle and all its servants return to their former glory (I don’t remember that being part of the deal?) That makes five Disney princesses, four hugely important kisses and one this size does not fit all glass slipper.

89:40 – Dancing.

90:20 – Belle and the prince, who ends up looking a bit like Tarzan,  live happily ever after!

Closing Thoughts:

The point of this movie is made clear at the beginning: outward beauty can deceive, but true beauty is found within. Gaston is beautiful on the outside but a narcissistic jerk on the inside. The Beast has neither. What is great about this prince is that he can only be beautiful on the outside until he first gets there on the inside.

Beast isn’t able to change on his own. The animate objects like Lumiere and Mrs. Potts are there to help him along. They coach him to do things like act like a gentleman, smile, be gentle and sincere and learn to control his temper. In this sense, Lumiere and Potts are some of the first ones to love the Beast when there really isn’t much to love or even like. Despite all the encouragement, Beast remains hopeless, lamenting “I’m just fooling myself. She’ll never see me as anything… but a monster.”

Things could not look worse for the Beast, until he is finally able to demonstrate his love for Belle by risking his life to save her from a pack of wolves. At this point, Belle has the choice between leaving the Beast or caring for him. The tenderhearted Belle chooses the latter. This time, when she returns to the castle it is because she wants to be  there. Belle is now free to love rather than forced to.

As Belle cares for his wounds and they air out some conflict, Beast is once again touched by Belle’s kindness. Perhaps Belle is able to see Beast as a little less beastly too. Another breakthrough takes place when Beast gives Belle his library. Finally, he is learning what is important to her and how to speak her language.

While Belle has a lot of love to give, she initially has nobody to give it to other than some birds, sheep and library books. Like other princesses, she feels locked up in life and desires for adventure. However, Belle is unlike other princesses for a number of reasons. One of my friends put it this way:

Belle is by far the best princess by my standards, and here is why: 1) smartest girl in the village, and not afraid to read/educate herself despite the fact that it is considered weird by the townsfolk 2) She demonstrates a realistic way of falling in love… gradually over time and based on personality/character and compatibility, as opposed to love at first sight (which, we now know, almost always leads to divorce) 3) She’s fearless. First, she risks her life to rescue her father, then she rescues her boyfriend as well.

Unlike the town’s bimbos, Belle isn’t the kind of girl who places confidence as the most important factor in a guy or someone who will fall for the first handsome man she sees. If so, she would have married Gaston. She doesn’t even go for charm. Instead, she looks much deeper. Not only does Belle have a heart of gold, she is able to look past the surface and see gold in the Beast’s heart as well.

Along with the objects, Belle plays a major role in getting that gold there in the fist place. She learns to speak Beast’s language as well. She becomes undignified, eating her food like a slob, to get on the Beast’s level. She teaches him how to feed birds. And, when they touch, Belle doesn’t shudder at the Beast’s paw.

Things come to a climax during a dinner date. As Beast is preparing, he is a tangled ball of nerves, hope and insecurity. He loves Belle, but is still trying to figuring out how to express that love, questions how anyone could really love him and is sorely afraid of messing up what appears to be blossoming. For her part, Belle is surprised at the feelings she is developing toward the Beast and the good things about him that she never quite knew were there. She has fallen in love with him without even noticing until recently. Suddenly, it isn’t just Beauty and the Beast, but beauty in the Beast as well.

What follows is pure magic unlike anything I’ve seen in a Disney movie apart from Ariel singing “Part of Your World”. This time, however, it isn’t a song so much about longing as it is the surprising and nervous fulfillment of it. Here we have two young lovers, one very unsure of himself who wants nothing more than to love the princess and the other a dreamer finding herself in the middle of a story much greater than she ever could have imagined. Both a little scared. Neither one prepared. Beauty and the Beast.


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Category: Princess Diaries

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  1. Andrea says:

    I was referred to your blog by a friend, and I have to say, I don’t remember laughing so much over a series of blog posts as I have laughed today over your Disney Princess critiques. They are fabulous! And then of course I had to go read other things as well, and lo, they were fabulous as well! Thanks:)

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