Category Archives: Rant

Kiki’s Delivery Service Changes, and the “Dub vs. Sub” Debate

Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of my favorite childhood movies. I didn’t see My Neighbor Totoro (or indeed many of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s other works) until later in my life, so Kiki is to me what Totoro is to most other fans. The story of a young witch who leaves home to train for a year and finds her purpose in a new city is a treasured memory, and a film I like to go back to when I find myself lost or lacking inspiration. Beyond the coming of age narrative, it’s a story about not giving up when life throws difficulties at you, as it inevitably will. Things may change, but you will never truly lose that which make you special.

 

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Recently I purchased a DVD copy of the movie, since my old VHS has long since vanished to some garage sale, Goodwill, or ignored corner of the house. I popped in the film and was quite unpleasantly surprised by what I found there. Half of the music was rearranged and redone, and scraps of dialogue and goofy ad-libbing were completely missing! ‘What the hell?’ I thought. ‘This isn’t Kiki!’

Yes, it was. I was just late to the punch.

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It turns out that the new 2010 DVD had been redone to resemble the original Japanese version, which was very minimalist, especially compared to the English dub put together by Disney. For those who are new and unfamiliar with the terms, a dub refers to the voice overs in a language (usually one different from the original recording), while a sub refers to subtitles. To say that a version is “English subbed” implies that the audio is still in the original recorded language (for example, Japanese), but that English subtitles have been included. “English dubbed” implies that the film or show has undergone English localization, with English-speaking voice actors and sometimes fixed or edited music.

The original Japanese film had music and very little dialogue, especially when the characters were offscreen. I don’t know entirely if it was Miyazaki, the fans, or some portion of both who demanded this change, but I do know that it was not advertised (explained) very well, and I would not have bought this specific copy, had I known.

(note: there is another English version from Streamline Pictures, but I never saw it and it’s harder to find)

The dub/sub debate is a large one in the anime community. I discovered this first in high school, just looking at the divide in my Japanese language class. I would say that half of the students in that class were there because they watched Japanese animation (anime for short) and liked it, and the other half because they were strictly interested in Japanese language and culture. Both groups seemed to thumb their noses at the other, and I could never understand it because I was there for both reasons. I liked anime, and that inspired me to learn more about culture, history, language, etc. I found both equally interesting.

The divide was even greater for the anime fans. Some are interested in culture, history, language, etc., and some of those argue that the Japanese dub (or English sub) is the only version anyone should watch. It’s the original after all; the closest to the creator’s true intent. Bringing it to America or other places just pollutes it, taking out all the jokes and references foreigners wouldn’t get and replacing them with ones they do understand.

I understand this mindset, but at the same time I appreciate what English dubs can do. They’ve grown a lot over the years, getting better at pronunciation and keeping closer to the original material, while bringing the content to a wide audience. Anime has grown in popularity in America in the last two decades alone. Sure, older generations still blink and gap in bemusement at fast talking, choppy animated Speed Racer and the like, but we have beloved films and shows that still have large followings today, even the ones heavily edited by folks like the infamous 4Kids Entertainment. Look at 90’s darling Sailor Moon. It’s getting a revamping with Sailor Moon Crystal.

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So what if some people call her Serena and the rest call her Usagi? That only matters in online forums and chatting with your Japanese friends, and I personally think it’s interesting comparing and contrasting the versions. As for which one I go with, usually it’s whichever one I like better (not necessarily which version I see first, though it is certainly that in the Kiki case). I watch Black Butler, Spirited Away, Madoka Magica, and Hetalia in Japanese, but I watch Wolf’s Rain, .hack//SIGN, Princess Mononoke, and Ouran High School Host Club in English. I can watch the other versions too, but it’s just personal preference, mostly pertaining to beloved voice actors and no other rhyme or reason.

Whatever you change, heart, effort, and charm should shine through, no matter what. Changes have to be made in adaptation.

So why am I mad about Kiki again? Mostly because of the advertising of this new feature (rather than, say, having the original Disney dub and the new 2010 Disney dub available in the same package, like a theatrical and director’s cut) and the choice of doing such a thing over a decade later, at the expense of someone’s memory.

What do I mean by that last bit?

This article takes an in-depth look at the story and changes made, but let me point out a few things here for the uninitiated:

“The 2010 DVD drops a considerable amount of character dubbing. Most affected is Jiji (Kiki’s cat), for whom (Phil Hartman) had provided a number of witty ad-libs. Here, unless a character is explicitly shown to be speaking, they’re silent. The silence goes even further in few scenes that had score apparently added for the English dub; these now appear without music. Other noticeable losses include Kiki and Jiji’s in-flight and in-rain banter (particularly the latter, upon arriving in their new town), some of Tombo’s lines, and a radio report. Furthermore, some minor changes occur in the credited titles of certain filmmakers.

Film revisionism is generally something I never like, especially when an original version is no longer offered. In this case, however, we’re not talking about an original version but a dubbing. Still, the English version is definitely untrue to Disney’s original dubbing, which has existed for 12 years. While the changes bring the English version closer to the original Japanese, which sounds fair enough, anyone wanting the original Japanese probably would have simply already chosen to watch that version. Something about removing a whole bunch of Phil Hartman’s lines from one of his final movies, a project dedicated to him, also doesn’t feel right. I’m not sure how worked up anyone will get over this surprisingly thorough re-editing. I would guess that those accustomed to the dub are more likely to mind the revisions than to appreciate them. And it seems to me that if Miyazaki had objections, he should have voiced them back in the ’90s.”

~ Luke Bonanno

 

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The character who “suffers” the worst cuts is Jiji, whose voice actor was murdered. The original Disney dub was dedicated to him, so cutting half his dialogue, even if it was ad-libbing, after the project was released to the public for years feels like an insult to his memory.

Also, MAJOR SPOILER HERE:

 

Kiki seems to lose her magical ability during the second act, and regains it by the end (all but speaking with Jiji). This is the big growing up moment, as far as Miyazaki and the purist fans are concerned.

“In the original Japanese script, Kiki loses her ability to communicate with Jiji permanently, but in the American version a line is added which implies she is once again able to understand him. Miyazaki has said that Jiji is the immature side of Kiki, and this implies that Kiki, by the end of the original Japanese version, has matured beyond talking to her cat.”

~Kiki’s Wikipedia page

I can see why fans might have a beef with that line added into the ending, but I never saw the cat as Kiki’s childish side. I saw him as her companion, and her ability to speak with him as just another benefit of having magical powers. The fact that her parents don’t have any other pets, and are never shown speaking to Jiji (or any other animals) never led me to believe that they couldn’t understand him, and that only Kiki could. In fact, Kiki not being able to speak to Jiji was the first sign that she was losing her powers. Would it really make sense for her to lose one power, but not the rest?

But that could have just been poor writing/elaboration.

Maybe she should have turned from animal to human friends (as a part of growing up), but she had plenty of human friends, both before and after skipping town.

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So I have never had a problem with the line revealing that Kiki can understand her cat again; I found the Japanese ending bittersweet and sad for what felt like a no real reason. Princess Mononoke”s ending was bittersweet, but it felt earned. So did the ending for Spirited Away and even Castle in the Sky a little bit. Although, Jiji is portrayed differently there, more “cautious and conscientious” than his “wise cracking” Americanized counterpart. I can accept it if people say “it’s just you.”

Some people found Phil Hartman unfitting or obnoxious as Jiji, hating his general hamminess. I did not. But while I can’t fault those people, I would have preferred (as I mentioned above) something along the lines of a theatrical/director’s cut pairing of DVDs, not just quietly and effectively replacing the old version from the general market. Miyazaki approved the changes made to his work at the time, even if he didn’t agree with them. Now he, or someone else on his team, has pulled a George Lucas.

Miyazaki, I love you man. I respect you so much. I’ve visited your museum in Mitaka

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and it was magical.

But please don’t do stuff like that.

I can’t say which version is better, because all versions have their own values and merits. I just miss the ad-libbing, the mickey-mousing, the wonderfully fitting Sydney Forest songs I sang along with every time.

 

 

I’ll keep the new DVDs and the new and interesting features available on the second disc, but I’m determined to get a copy of pre-2010 Kiki. I advise all fans of the original Disney dub to be wary, lest you get the shocking, depressing surprise I got. For everyone else who may or may not care in this instance, look into the production of some of your favorite shows and movies. They take a lot of work to make the finished product, and you might learn some interesting things about what is and what could have been.

Like David Bowie could have played Elrond in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations.

True story.

And fans…go there ^. Or here:

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As usual, pics and other media don’t belong to me (although I personally took the photos of the Studio Ghibli Museum and the shopfront. They belong to Studio Ghbili, Hayao Miyazaki, and Disney, etc.

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5 Ways Will Smith Can Recover His Star Power

Avoid the Shayamalan. At all costs, avoid the Shayamalan.

Popcorn Whiskey

Will Smith is one of the biggest names in Hollywood. In fact, in 2007, Newsweek named Smith the most powerful actor in Hollywood. But it’s no longer 2007 and Smith is no longer the mega star that he once was. Will Smith’s Highest grossing film of all time was back in 1996 with Independence Day. His last major film ranks 16 in Will Smith’s highest grossing films list, a major disappointment. In fact, of the top 10 highest grossing Smith films, Hancook which came out in July 2008 is the most recent film on the list. So clearly, Smith is not the movie star he once was. And with After Earth receiving an incredibly bad score of 11% he needs to make a move soon. There are rumors that Smith will star in a movie about the concussions of the NFL, but we are not sure that is the right…

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Kids’ T.V. vs. Family T.V.

This is going to be an amendment to some of my previous posts, as well as a look at some of the differences between the categories, some more subtle than others.

I’m not the Lorax. I don’t speak for trees.

Well, I do, but not this time around.

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I’ve been throwing around the term “kids’ movies” a lot lately, despite addressing many “grown up” themes and elements in those movies. Kids’ films can have adult aspects, just as adult films can have childish aspects, but I feel that the better term I could have chosen was “family movies,” because the whole family can find things to enjoy about them.

These are the movies that truly transcend age gaps, and sometimes, that means that family members can watch them on their own, without the kids.

And yet, an obnoxious stigma persists, particularly with things like 2D and hand drawn animations.

I’ve said this before, and it probably won’t be the last time here. I don’t have any patience for adults who regard animation and cartoons as “strictly-for-kids” fare, something that is beneath them (and, sometimes they believe, should be beneath other adults as well). It seems as if, to them, animation cannot be considered art in any capacity; that the medium has nothing of value to offer after you’ve passed a certain age. This attitude sometimes extends into live action as well, in family movies, kids’ movies, family t.v. shows, and kids’ t.v. shows.

Part of this is probably due to the generational gap, which strains and influences many changing opinions. But for others, it’s a condescending attitude, and even hypocritical for some.

“I only watch big boy movies! Like those based on comic books!”

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I also don’t like when people treat video games like they are strictly poisonous and have no value, but that’s a topic for another day.

Now, this is not to be confused with people who just don’t care for the styles and genres. It is possible to dislike something, or find it just not your taste, but still acknowledge that it entertains others and does some good in the world.

But just hating to hate, or hating because it doesn’t specifically appeal to you, is arrogant and obnoxious. It’s still a reason, I guess, just a very stupid one.

And let’s face it: some of us still watch things we watched when we were kids.

Look at the popularity of people like the Nostalgia Critic and Nostalgia Chick; they make a living off of talking about movies and t.v. shows from the 80’s, 90’s, and onward, mixing in some comedy and historical and pop-cultural context.

Some of it is as good as we remember, and a lot of it isn’t. Hell, a few gems here and there are even better than we remember. But in the interest of bettering things for future generations of kids and their families, as well as demanding decent quality for ourselves and the current generation, it’s good to look at the media and their accompanying trends, tropes, clichés, character archetypes, etc. See what went right, what went wrong, and why. Sometimes “Dear God, why?!”

Let’s not get into gender stuff here, or move too far away from Western entertainment. Those can come later. For now, let’s just look at the age factor, and the divide.

Not everything gets nostalgic credibility and protection. After all, new stuff comes out all the time, and it has to have value too. Some things that adults and young adults watch probably deserve a laugh or a suspicious glance from their peers, but saying that you watch The Powerpuff Girls or Dexter’s Laboratory is not the same as saying you watch Ni Hao Kai-lan.

Kid Friendly Scale

 

Forgive the omission of Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, Adventure Time and many notable others. Also, don’t take this as an objective or subjective ranking of any of these shows.  (Looking at it again, I might have put Pixar between Looney Tunes and MLP/Spongebob) This is a basic scale of maturity, for our convenience.

Things to the left on the graph are the shows and movies that adults are less hesitant or embarrassed to admit that they watch. Regardless of the target audience, these media do little to no talking down to their viewers. They also tend to be less “cheesy,” kid pandering, and in some cases, (again, I’ll talk about this later) less specifically gendered. These shows have messages and morals, their own persuasive elements, but they tend to be less obvious, or “spelled out.”

To the right, we have shows and movies that pander more to kids’ interests, as well as their (typically) lower emotional and intellectual maturity. A lot of these tend to be educationally focused, whether the kids are learning to count and spell, to speak a new language, or learn valuable life lessons. To balance the less extreme right, these media often contain subtle references that would sail far over the heads of the children, but any parents or guardians who may be watching with them (perhaps against their will) would recognize and even chuckle at. Both the extreme and less extreme right typically have explicitly stated morals or messages to teach the audience, and they tend to have less complex (but happy and still colorful) characters.

When I say “pandering,” I’m not trying to imply that pandering is bad and should never be done. It shouldn’t be done when it is cheap and lazy and constantly used; if it is the only thing interesting or redeeming about the movie or show. That is when it can be bad.

When it comes to the extreme right, I see adults watching those more ironically, or to reminisce about things they watched when they were very little.

Once, as a college student, I was taking a class in media, when my professor made a joke, scoffing at Spongebob Squarepants.

For those who don’t know, that goofy yellow kitchen sea-sponge had (and to some extent, still has) a significant population of adult fans. People with and without kids. I used to be a part of it myself.

Why? Because of the unique and colorful characters, hilarious and outlandish scenarios, and, most notably, the humor. It had a touch of well-written, mean-spiritedness at times, but also some very clever visual puns, regular puns, references, and subtly-framed adult jokes. Everything had a point (even if it was only for one moment), and it was well executed for the most part.

I even watched a few old episodes with a certain adult I know, who wishes to remain anonymous. This person told me that they actually sort of “got it,” but if I ever told anyone that, they would deny it. 🙂

Anyway, I actually stuck my neck out a bit in this class and said that it had humor and potential once. Once, long ago, before people like Derek Drymon, Sean Charmatz, “Mr. Lawrence,” Zeus Cervas, and yes, even the once great Aaron Springer beat this series like a dead horse, drained all likability from the characters, and even made numerous, morally reprehensible episodes that stink like prime time feces.

See “The Splinter,” “Stuck in the Wringer,” “Squidbaby,” and “A Pal for Gary,” for reference. And that’s just to name a few.

Some other guy in class, of course, scoffed at that and the class laughed.

Yeah, the show is pretty bad nowadays, but it didn’t use to be. That’s part of what’s so sad about it. It went the way of The Simpsons and still refuses to die.

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Let’s bring up another show with a unique fan base: My Little Pony.

If you refer back to the graph above, you will notice that I’ve put two separate My Little Pony series up there, and on different sections of the right (one of which is paired with Mr. Squarepants). Why would I do something like that?

While the shows have always been a glossy, colorful, toy-selling vehicle for Hasbro, the new series has a couple of interesting features that distinguish it from older series, such as the nightmarishly bland “Generation 3.” These have also brought in a large population of adult fans, men and women averaging ages 15-30!

The first episode (technically a two-parter) was written (and the series was developed for television) by Lauren Faust. Just take a look at some of the work she has done as a writer and animator; a lot of it is for shows and movies that are nostalgic and fondly regarded, such as The Powerpuff Girls and Codename: Kids Next Door. Also of note are the voice actors, two major ones being Tara Strong and John de Lancie, who are both loved by fans young, new, and old, for their onscreen and offscreen personalities.

You can find Tara’s twitter here. if you’re interested.

The animation is colorful and employs the use of Adobe Flash, and the effort put into it shines through more often than not. Songs are kid friendly, of course, but thoughtfully written, beautifully scored, and (usually) given good animation sequences to match. Most notable to adult fans (referred to as “bronies” and “pegasisters”) and parents, I think, are the characters. Most of them are female, but they don’t just gush about fashion or moon over boys 24/7. Two of the ponies are successful business owners, they go on grand adventures, they engage in cartoonish sitcoms, they act like real people you know and are friends with. The ponies have siblings and other family relationships that are decently realistic, good but sometimes strained, and no one has to be specifically in the wrong or the “antagonist” in a lot of cases.

This stands in contrast to the ponies of older generations, who lived in bland and sugary worlds devoid of conflict, with vapid, brainless characters only distinguished by flank tattoos and color schemes.

^For those without the time, patience, or stomach to watch the whole thing, the most interesting thing in this review above is probably right at the end (at about 10:19), when he mentions that most of these episodes were written by men. But, as I’ve said, gender stuff is for a whole other day.

Many people are weirded out by these older fans and their interest in something that was written with little girls in mind. There will always be perverts and creepers out there, after all, and this is just so different from the norm.

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Lauren Faust and the other creative team weren’t sure what to make of it at first, but they’ve come to accept and embrace the new fans, even going so far as to name background characters what the fans have suggested.

If you aren’t new to this phenomenon, and you’ve heard the excuse, “I like it because of the story,” that really does seem like the adult fan consensus. They like the nostalgic references and feel of the show; the likable, dynamic characters; and the show’s trend towards avoiding, subverting, and inverting  common tropes and stereotypes. Not just in media aimed at children, but a lot of media. Things that are simple and like to quietly reinforce the status quo, knowingly or not, for better or worse.

These episodes have made references to a variety of adult things, like the A Team, Dracula, and even Train Spotting. I’m not kidding about that last one. Look up the episode Baby Cakes and go to the last 5-10 minute. It’s brief, but it’s there.

On top of all this, adult fans argue that the messages about friendship, while sometimes basic, obvious, and worded oddly, are often forgotten by kids and adults alike today. Particularly adults. “Bronies” and “Pegasisters” admire the themes of tolerance, acceptance, and coexistence, and encourage each other (and their non-pony peers) to take those lessons to heart. Remember and make use of them, even when people think they’re too old or too good for them. Because sometimes, even adults need reminding.

Sometimes even simple messages have great power and meaning in people’s’ lives. And sometimes, people can be so focused on a colorful drawing or cheese, girly music, that they don’t notice the value under the surface.

Bugs Bunny doesn’t just beat people up. He outwits them. He and his buddies joke and satirize, and reference Groucho Marx. That’s so cool, and so much more than slapstick, violence, and mean-spiritedness just for its own sake.

I’m not arguing that people should reconsider their opinions on things like Dora the Explorer, Nihao Kai-lan, Lazy Town, and a lot of the 6 and younger shows. They’re really just meant to educate on basic levels anyway. Those are the ones I find are best to be outgrown, thought of only in the fond innocence of childhood memories.

I am a lorax, and I speak for The Powerpuff Girls. I speak for Friendship is Magic, Gravity Falls, Looney Tunes, Daria, Batman the Animated Series, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, even Spongebob Squarepants, if only for what he once was. I speak for the Disney, the Dreamworks, and more.

I speak for these t.v. shows and movies, for they have no tongues themselves. I know some others speak with me, but we need more. The kids’ movies  genre isn’t just a dumping ground/easy money printer; like animation in general, it takes time, effort, and care. There is value there, if you care to look. Fun, escapism, and sometimes a genuinely human experience.

And, sadly, there is a lot of junk. Some of it is truly bad, even damaging, and when not caught or explained by parents, it is left to sink into kiddies’ brains and fester, as they struggle to understand how the world works and how it will treat them when they grow up.

Whether the content is good or bad, it deserves to be questioned. Some media deserve more credit and respect than they receive.

 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”

~Theodor Seuss Geisel, The Lorax

 

*Pictures belong to their respective owners. Fox, Hasbro, etc. I drew the Lorax drawing at the start and constructed the graph, but the images and logos in it do not belong to me.

 

Beauty and the Beast: A Rant About That Whole Stockholm Thing

Oh boy, here we go...
Oh boy, here we go…

Before I get into the thick of things, a little setup:

I was watching a theory video the other day about a video game character that gets kidnapped a lot (here’s a hint: she’s from Mario).  MatPat, from the hit video series Game Theory asserts that, because this character makes no attempt to get away, and doesn’t seem particularly bothered by said repeated kidnappings, she may in fact be a victim of a little something called Stockholm Syndrome.

Stockholm Syndrome, for all two people who’ve never heard of it, is defined as,  “an emotional bonding a victim forms with his or her victimizer, often leading to feelings of sympathy and even appreciation for that person.” The syndrome was coined after an incident in Stockhom, Sweden, “when, following the end of a bank robbery, the hostages identified with and supported their captor” (see source here).

While MatPat was trying to point out that this was in no way a new occurrence in modern storytelling, particularly for the kiddies, he singled out Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as a prime example.

Shut their eyes, Ma! This is serz biznezz!
Shut their eyes, Ma! This is serz biznezz!

I have heard this argument so often from the anti-Disney and social justice crowds, and it’s really starting to irritate me. It’s a fairytale, people! Why does the Internet fixate on this (highly contested) real-world psychological condition?

It’s a good movie with…a unique set of circumstances I’ll admit, but I would hardly say that it seriously advocates for that kind of relationship.

To some extent, I get where people are coming from. I personally never wanted a relationship like Belle and Beast’s as a kid, and the movie didn’t push any noticeable messages on me that the loud, violent, abrasive Beast is what I should aim for in a man. I suppose some kids could look at it that way, but who knows? Lots of girls out there seem to love a project, and boy howdy, did Beast need a fixing!

If anyone did think that was what Disney was trying to say, I suggest finding some therapy and deeply exploring the parental neglect they have clearly suffered.

Most people I’ve talked or noticed to who had a crush on Beast saw him as a fantasy (yes, they do exist), the whole “bad boy that can be fixed by the right girl” kind of fantasy. Unrealistic, perhaps a bit strange, but still, clearly just a fantasy. I’d be more concerned by those who idolize Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, because that’s a live-action movie that appears to follow our basic reality.

I’m kind of of the mind that cartoons are not, or at least should not, be considered role models. They cannot be held accountable for their actions (even if their creators can), and they are not real people with entirely realistic goals/dreams/aspirations/what-have-you.  They are who they are for the brief period that they inhabit our screens, and then that’s it.

Because of how these characters and this movie could possibly affect expectations of reality, people argue that this great and admittedly dark film is bad for kids, and that Belle isn’t the awesome, smart, cool, independent Disney Princess we all thought she was.

Belle is not impressed.)
Belle is not impressed.)

I do not agree, but I decided that rather than indignantly whining about how it is “soo not stockholm syndrome OMG shut up (insert illiterate troll lingo here),” I would try my hand at an actual argument that this is not the case. If this debate has to happen, as if Belle and the Beast are some celebrity couple selling Chris Brown-Rihanna-esque beatings to kids as “twue wuv”, let me roll up my sleeves and hack into it.

So many people believe the other argument, and no one I have come across online or in person has adequately defended the movie. Can I prove it isn’t so to you fine readers? But even more important still: can I prove it to myself? Is it just my ego, defending a movie I’ve loved and hailed as a masterpiece for all these years?

Yes, it is a masterpiece still, and no, I am in no way impartial. This movie was my first movie ever, and some part of me will always be protective of it. But I like to think that I can step back and be objective when I need to be.

(Little aside here: I’m not counting any shorts or midquels based around this movie. Those are just fancy fanfictions with a budget that add nothing to the original story besides messing it up) (if your criticisms stem from those, I totally understand. They are awful, and Stockholm Syndrome is completely on the table there).

The story is a tale as old as time. Well, sort of.

Belle lives in a quiet little town where no one appreciates her for her brains and individuality, while Beast is raised as a human prince in a life of opulence and royalty. He’s not the biggest scumbag on the planet (this we see hints of in the opening and learn to be true later in the film), but he’s “spoiled, selfish, and unkind.” He’s been surrounded by yes men and servants his whole life, waited on hand and foot, which has made him arrogant and insensitive to the needs of others.

The plot happens. Belle’s bumbling father gets lost (also chased by scary wolves) and stumbles into Beast’s castle and gets himself locked in the dungeon, as you do. Belle comes to get him, and ends up switching places so that he can go back to the village, but she must promise remain in the castle forever.

Can you feel the love tonight!
Can you feel the love tonight!

I have used rainn.org, or the “Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network,” to define Stockholm Syndrome above. To ensure accuracy, I have included another site. Hubpages states that

“(Stockholm Syndrome) occurs in hostage situations, in other words, when people are placed in a situation over which they have no control, and are forced to depend on their captors. It is a psychological phenomenon in which the hostages actually develop positive feelings (most often empathy) towards their captors and sympathy for their problems. They ignore the fact that the hostage takers put their victims at great risk, and focus instead on their failing to abuse them. This is often mistaken for an act of kindness and compassion.”

So two sites that say basically the  same thing about it. And I think we can agree that Stockholm is not a good thing.

Rainn.org further explains the components, stages, and general mentality of the syndrome beyond that basic explanation. According to this site,

“Dr. Joseph Carver, a clinical psychologist, describes emotionally bonding with an abuser as a survival strategy for victims of abuse and intimidation…It is important to remember that Stockholm Syndrome develops subconsciously and on an involuntary basis. The strategy is a survival instinct that develops as an attempt to survive in a threatening and controlling environment.”

This seems about right. After all, whether she likes it or not, Belle became “part of his world.

picard-facepalm

Yes, I know. Bad puns.

She was forced into this situation, giving up her freedom and her family to keep Beast company forever.

objection

She wasn’t forced to make a choice; she came up with the arrangement on her own, and then she and the Beast established the terms. Oh course a Disney heroine is not going to let Maurice, her father and an innocent man, rot in the dungeon. 

But the Beast did not suggest that option to her; she actually came up with it on the spot, on her own. And sure, she thought it up in a fit of desperation, but it was a choice she consciously made, and she wasn’t threatened into accepting it. She didn’t even back down after seeing her jailor’s ugly mug in the light.

Beast may have insisted she keep up her end of the bargain, but it was a promise (which, by the way, she breaks not long after, and she respects virtually none of the rules that the Beast sets before her. “Don’t day without me,” “Don’t go in the West Wing,” yadda yadda yadda). Note also that the Beast makes no threats of consequences if she leaves; he puts no locks or chains on the doors (not even in his personal areas of the castle).

In the original story, Belle’s father would have been facing a literal death threat, whereas here, it’s subtlely implied, if it’s even there at all. The Beast clearly wasn’t very attentive, but why wouldn’t he just go ahead and kill Maurice if he was just planning to do that soon anyway? He specifically says, “He’s my prisoner.”

“But wait!” Some of you still say. “She still had no choice in the matter. It was her father’s life, after all. What was she going to do, leave him there and go home?”

please sir

Like I said, of course Belle was never going to do that, but at least in theory, she could have said, “Sucks for you, Dad. Whelp, that’s all the time I have! Bye!” That would have been incredibly heartless and callous, but it’s still a viable option, and one that was, for better or worse, not taken. You have to take the emotions out of it a little bit and look at her choices logically.

The Beast didn’t coerce her into being his prisoner; she volunteered the alternative of her own volition, and they both agreed.

So then the Beast sent crazy old Maurice away without letting him and his daughter to say a real goodbye to one another. Belle pointed out what a jerk move that was, and Beast looked genuinely remorseful for a moment. As if he realized just then that, yeah, maybe he shouldn’t have done that. Without dialogue, strictly by animation, the filmmakers showed us a moment of remorse that we can obviously recognize as such. A lot of character comes through in those little ways.

Beast quickly recovered though (by which I mean he went back into closed-off-jerk-mode), and led her to her room, all the while making awkward small talk and trying to figure out how to woo her. Kinda. Sorta.

He was “nice” enough to offer her better accommodations than the dungeon. He was clearly still being a spoiled, childish dick, though we never really learn what Beast would have done if he’d noticed Maurice dying in the dungeon at some point. Are boobs really the only thing that could sway him back to something resembling humanity?

These things we may never know.  

Make no mistake: Belle lived in an expansive prison, but a prison nonetheless. But while she was fearful of the Beast during the first half of the movie, she did put her foot down quite a bit, which is unusual for what we picture of a cowed victim. She wasn’t completely helpless, nor did she act like it.  Belle did not open the door to Beast, even when he pounded on it and threatened to break it down. She refused to join him for dinner, even when ordered to. She outright defied him with the other servants by eating dinner after he made the whole “if she doesn’t eat with me, then she doesn’t eat at all” ultimatum.

Still…there could be emotional abuse still happening. 

Rainn.org lists the common components of Stockholm Syndrome as: 

      1. Victim having positive feelings toward the abuser
      2. Victim having negative feelings toward family, friends, or authorities
      3. Abuser having positive feelings toward the victim
      4. Victim supporting or helping the abuser

I’m going to try to tackle these in order, but some apply differently over the course of the story.

Let us consider Belle’s eventual feelings of love toward the Beast and her sense of belonging in the castle and with the servants. Belle had no positive feelings for the Beast in the beginning, seeing him as a monstrous creature with a temper to match. She wanted nothing to do with him at all, and defied his wishes (possibly as little acts of defiance to feel like she had some control over her situation). We have established that, while she is clearly not in complete control, she is not totally weak or helpless either; she didn’t take his temper tantrums passively or, worse yet, blame herself and try to appease him.

She was allowed to explore the castle, but walked willfully into the West Wing, an area that was explicitly forbidden to her by Beast. She came across the enchanted rose and was then promptly chased off by Beast, who was in a fit of rage.

Abuse! Plain and simple abuse! Your argument is invalid, Marge!

untitled

 

But no. I maintain that he wasn’t trying to hurt her or scare her, but he was angry and fearful that she could have damaged the rose and somehow affected the curse. It’s basically his fate manifested in this world, so he has a reason to be very protective of it.

Also, he was established as immature and not very self-aware. How many times do average people get mad and fly off the handle at their friends and loved ones? Saying or doing things they didn’t mean in order to cause pain?

And yes, I know Beast and Belle were not even close to friends in this instance.

That doest excuse his actions. He did break things and yell at her, and as she left we saw his face morph from huffing frustration to a sort of “oh God, what have I done?,” before what the kids these days call “face-palming.”

 untitled  picard-facepalm

Abusers can be regretful in real life, or be deceptive and manipulative because of it. So there you go. Perhaps a point goes to you, guys on Team Stockholm. Who knows if Beast was being genuine here?  I think he was, judging once again by the animation, but what do I know?

But Belle grabbed her horse and left. She said to the servants, “Promise or no promise, I can’t stay here another minute.” Despite giving her word, she left at the (arguable) first sign of potential violence towards her. She felt obligated to stay until she realized how frighteningly unstable the Beast was, and that she couldn’t avoid him forever. Belle did a dumb (or possibly rebellious thing), but she doesn’t stick around to try and fix things with the temper-tantrum throwing buffalo man. She GTFO, intent on going home and never coming back again. 

During her escape, Belle encountered wolves, presumably the same ones that tried to ambush her father. Just when hope seemed lost, Beast rushed in to save her, presumably (again, this word) because he felt guilty and wanted to make sure she didn’t get killed (either by wolves or the blizzard).

Some might argue that Beast only followed her to force her back to the castle, but the evidence is inconclusive. And we saw him show clear regret in the previous scene. 

Anyway, Beast fought off the wolves, but was wounded. Belle almost left, seeing an opportunity to escape him forever, but because he risked his life to save hers and got hurt for it, and might, you know, die of frostbite or blood loss, she decided to go back to the castle, carrying him in tow. So in turn, she saved his life right back. 

 

This area might blur for both sides of the argument. I say she helped him out of the kindness of her heart and a feeling of debt. A life for a life, because she’s clearly compassionate like that. I can’t say for sure, but she looked fully intent to leave him there. At least for a minute.

6-horse

 

Meanwhile, back at the castle, she treated his wounds, weathered his whining and howling like the spoiled child he was, and even dressed him down a bit. Belle is no pushover, and by this point, she still hasn’t really come around to Beast. 

She did admit some fault as well (a little bit), but she clearly won the argument there.

The two then reconciled, and Beast started being nicer to Belle. Probably for the first time in his life, someone stood up to him and didn’t give him exactly what he wanted. Remember, he’s a royal. It’s also heavily implied, if not outright stated in “Be Our Guest,” that he was a boy (about 11) when he was cursed (which I think is much more unfair and screwed up, but that’s another rant for another day).

Belle developed positive feelings toward him over believable things, such as him saving her life (the first act) and then later giving her a library, a gift based on her interests.

This may seem like a shallow “sorry I was mad, babe. Here’s a present. We cool now, right?” kind of gift to some people, but really think about it: Back in Belle’s village, no one but her father really cared about her personality or interests. Everyone saw her as a strange but beautiful girl, who should have been swooning over Gaston like the rest of her breasted ilk. Beast was the first person to actually try to get to know her, and the first to offer her a gift, a truly genuine and touching gesture. He gave her something suited to her interests; something she would appreciate and enjoy, as opposed to Gaston, who wanted her to tag along so he could show her his trophies and brag about himself.

How many girls genuinely enjoy that?

This is really the first instance in the entire movie of someone actually getting to know her. Other characters tell her what she wants or should want, or assume things, but he asks. My point is that Beast didn’t treat Belle like a housewife or just some trophy girl who should be hanging off his arm. True, she started out as a goal for Beast – someone to break the curse on him – but he figured out, slowly but surely, that approach was going nowhere fast. Selfishly hoarding and using people wasn’t doing any good. Through his interactions with her, seeing her kind nature and independent spirit, Beast realized what a jerk and an animal he was becoming (which may also be a result of the curse and his repeated despair; see the Broadway musical for more clues on that one), and started working his way towards redeeming his character. Maybe for her sake, his own, or both. It’s ambiguous enough to be interpreted those ways.

And Belle realized that, while he was capable of great anger and darkness, he is capable of kindness, and caring for others as well. He just hadn’t had much experience before, when he was being served, or when he was a despairing beast, slowly being worn away. We saw, as the movie progressed, that Beast began to walk and talk more like a man, dressing in clothes and engaging in civil behaviors, encouraged all the more by Belle and his servants.

Speaking of the servants, as I’ve mentioned before, they could be seen as just as guilty as Beast. They are invested in breaking of the curse as well. They want to be human again, but they couldn’t force Belle to love Beast, and they couldn’t prevent Beast from being a jerk.

But Belle gave them hope, much like the Beast, with her very presence, and while they could have been selfish and manipulative, they tried to make her feel welcome, even when Beast himself didn’t.

She truly was welcome, too; a welcome change in their lives. They had someone to entertain and serve again (“Be Our Guest”), and to everyone except maybe Cogsworth, she was a pleasure to serve. She was kind and, despite her initial fear, full of wonder.

My final word on the servants is: they weren’t always a party to Beast’s attempts, and even undermined his orders at times. They also did not prevent Belle from leaving (the first or second time), and were implied to be innocent people who were affected by Beast’s curse.

But back to the main argument…

Conditions 1, 3, and 4 mentioned way above fit together and are decently rebutted, and condition 2 doesn’t even really apply here. The only friend/family member Belle had outside of the castle is Maurice (excluding the horse), and even when he still thought the Beast is a monster, Belle didn’t harbor any anger or negativity towards her father for his differing opinion of things. She did clearly say he didn’t understand, though, to Maurice and later the townsfolk, but to be fair, none of the latter were her friends. Quite the opposite, actually.  

And Belle only think she knows more than Maurice because she has spent more time with Beast, and gotten to see a side of him that her father pretty definitively never did. It wasn’t as though Beast was all nice in the beginning, and then slowly started hitting or gaslighting her, and she’s the only one who refuses to see the truth. 

But what about more concrete stages of Stockholm Syndrome? Surely there’s more room in this story for abusive not-love?

Rainn.org lists the stages of Stockholm in this order:

      • The victim dissociates from his or her pain, helplessness or terror by subconsciously beginning to see the situation / world from the abuser’s perspective. The victim begins to agree with the abuser and certain aspects of his or her own personality, opinions, and views will fade into the background.
      • By doing this, the victim begins to learn how to appease and please the abuser, which may keep him or her from being hurt or worse. Similarly this tactic can be used to manipulate the abuser into being less dangerous, at least for a little while.
      • After a while the victim begins to realize that his or her abuser portrays the same human characteristics as anyone else. At this point he or she will begin to see the abuser as less of a threat. Some abusers may even share personal information in an effort to bond with the victim and to promote pity rather than anger.
      • This bonding, in turn, leads to conflicting feelings (e.g., rage and pity) and illogical concern for the abuser. The victim may even ignore his or her own needs.
      • Once the traumatic event has ended, however, the victim must again learn not to dissociate from his or her emotions and not focus on the abuser. This can be a very difficult transition.

As established, Belle only came around to the Beast when he saved her life, admitted to being an insensitive, violent jerk; and even started behaving more like a person than an animal. She was still wary of him while the change was occurring (hesitantly agreeing to follow him when he was going to surprise her with a library), but she did not agree with him or comply with him just to save her own skin. She repeatedly refused doing things she didn’t want to do (from Gaston and the townsfolk as well, I might add).

The third stage is a possibility, as Belle began to see Beast as less and less of a threat, but other than telling her he had forgotten how to read (an embarrassing fact that they then proceed to bond over in “Human Again”), he doesn’t share personal information with her onscreen. Not about the curse or life before the curse, at least. They mostly bond over mutually pleasurable activities; Beast distracting Belle from her feelings of loneliness and Belle distracting the Beast from focusing solely on breaking the curse. There was no evidence of any one character’s needs being compromised over the others. They only time spent getting to know one another. 

In another little aside, Belle professed a desire for adventure from the very beginning of the movie, seeking something beyond herself. In a way, that was exactly what she received, albeit not in the way she expected. 

I mentioned before that the curse had been somewhat forgotten in Beast’s mind. I think that it was still there, as a nagging reminder at the back of his mind, but at the same time, he started to genuinely care for Belle as a friend, making his desire for love more genuine and, by extension, less selfish. 

But here’s some more conditions relating to Stockholm Syndrome, as provided again by Rainn.org. 

There is often:

      1. Perceived or real threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and belief that the abuser will carry out the threat. The abuser may:
        • Assure the victim that only cooperation keeps loved ones safe.
        • Offer subtle threats or stories of revenge to remind the victim that revenge is possible if they leave.
        • Have a history of violence leading the victim to believe they could be a target.
      2. Presence of a small kindness from the abuser to the victim
        • In some cases, small gestures such as allowing a bathroom visit or providing food/water are enough to alter the victim’s perception of the abuser.
        • Other times, a birthday card, a gift (usually provided after a period of abuse), or a special treat can be seen as proof that the abuser is not “all bad.”
      3. Victim’s isolation from other perspectives
        • Victims have the sense they are always being watched. For their survival they begin to take on the abuser’s perspective. This survival technique can become so intense that the victim develops anger toward those trying to help.
        • In severe cases of Stockholm Syndrome the victim may feel the abusive situation is their fault.
      4. Perceived or real inability to escape from the situation
      • The victim may have financial obligations, debt, or instability to the point that they cannot survive on their own.
      • The abuser may use threats including taking the children, public exposure, suicide, or a life of harassment for the victim.

Applying to Number 1, Beast does promise Maurice’s safety and freedom in exchange for Belle’s freedom, but he doesn’t threaten to seek Maurice out and harm him after the deal is made, nor does he threaten to hurt Belle or hurt her father if she were to break their agreement. In fact, Beast seems to forget about Maurice altogether. Belle might worry that if she leaves, Beast will come after her or her father, but she doesn’t make that fear explicit, if it even exists at all. It’s never presented to us.

Beast may vaguely know where she lives though, because his creepy spider carriage knew exactly where to take Maurice when he was ejected from the castle. Hmm…

For Number 2, Beast does give Belle a library after a big fight they had, but to be fair, it is the last fight we see them having in the entire movie. And I don’t think that is because Belle is cowed or too grateful to stand up to him. That’s pretty clearly never been the case before, so why should it be now?

Besides, he remarks to the servants that he wanted to do something nice for her, because he’s “never felt this way about anyone.” I doubt he gives the servants gifts of any kind after he’s yelled at them. And no way is he shelling out for a library or a fancy Baroque piece for Cogsworth. 

Number 3 doesn’t really apply, and for Number 4, Belle is pretty quick to leave for someone with so much stake in the situation. Granted, it was panic-driven and spur-of-the-moment, but she did leave. Also, later the Beast lets her go, knowing full well that the curse will never be broken, so that she can help her father. And again, she leaves. She doesn’t really seem to give it a second thought, other than to be slightly unnerved by Beast’s roar of sadness as she’s departing. 

Maybe she would never have come back if it hadn’t been for Gaston riling up the mob (In this case, maybe she felt responsible or maybe she was worried for Beast and the servants’ sakes, but it’s, again, up to interpretation. No surprise here, but I pick the latter).

Belle sees contrast between the Beast and Gaston; the former being monstrous in shape but kind-hearted, and the latter being handsome but a truly selfish, hideous person on the inside. She races back to the castle with her father. I guess Maurice was okay with it after all, after that one talk while he was probably sick and delusional anyway?

Idk.

Beast had lost the will to live when she left, because he loved her and he knew that he would spend the rest of his days as a monster without her, so he was content to let himself be killed by Gaston. He gains the will to fight back with Belle’s arrival on the scene, and even shows mercy (unlike Gaston) because of his remembered human emotions and kindness. 

But Gaston manages to fatally wound him before dying himself, leaving Beast to die beside the woman he has grown to love. And as she finally realizes the love she felt for him – it really does seem like she didn’t recognize any real feelings until she actually thought about it right then – the curse is broken. Beast is revived and human again, and everyone lives happily ever after.

I don’t want to spit on real cases of Stockholm Syndrome or those of domestic abuse sufferers. I chose that word and not “victims” or “survivors” because both have problematic associations of perceived “strength” or “weakness” that are usually insensitive at best and unfair and disparaging at worst. Every situation is different, and people should be treated like people.

Also, while I have been trying to argue against it, I can see why people argue that this romance may in fact be just a case of Stockholm Syndrome, much as I disagree. Some warning signs are there, certainly, so if that’s your interpretation of the film, I can’t really stop you from going forward with that. 

It’s a fairytale, which aren’t known for being the most progressive of stories. They’re meant to teach a few lessons and encourage good behaviors and characters; in this case, being kind, compassionate, and looking past appearances to see the truth inside. They’re meant to scare kids a little too, warning them about consequences of misbehaving or straying from a moral path. Things change over time, and what used to work doesn’t always when modern audiences are concerned. I acknowledge that.

But anyone over a certain age can see that it’s a fantasy; escapism. By definition, not reality. Kids who don’t understand that should be engaged by their parents to talk about it, which requires some energy and supervision, but can certainly be done. 

Can Beast be classified as an abuser? Yep. While he is a product of the time and his royal pampering, he stands above others and orders them around, bellowing at them, smashing things, and threatening to break down doors. But he’s a prince, so it makes sense (I’m explaining, not excusing here). Before Belle came along, his servants were probably either neglected or beleaguered by him.  

Also keep in mind that he’s also growing up throughout this whole curse. If the rose blooms until he’s 21 years old, and it’s been “10 years (they’ve) been rusting,” he was just a kid. Possibly one who made a few stupid mistakes with little to no parental supervision.

(Team Stockholm says, “That’s right, kids! Stay with your abuser and change them, for your benefit and theirs! It’ll all work out!”)

😀

So, is Belle and Beast’s relationship a class A case of Stockholm Syndrome?  

I still say no.

Call me stubborn, but I honestly think love blossomed between the two without necessarily having to be coerced or guilted. Belle didn’t pity Beast or wait on him, and she didn’t go out of her way to please him so he wouldn’t hurt her. If anything, he went out of his way to please her because he discovered the joy of pleasing someone else. And, when he had nothing to gain and everything to lose, he let her go, concealing his anguish until she left so that she would not feel compelled to stay with him out of pity.

Another thing I’m sick to death of hearing is the whole “it’s a kids’ movie/show/product, so it’s okay if it’s crappy” argument. Why do I get so worked up about it? Because the stuff I grew up with was mostly good and challenging and engaging, with some crap mixed in. I don’t believe media makers get a free pass to make crap just because kids are their target audience, and it pisses me off even more when they are successful and make loads of money off it.

I believe Disney has exceeded this standard time and time again.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a great kids movie. Not just good, but great. It has flaws just like everything made by human hands must, but it had stunning animation, unique characters, and a dark and engaging story with good pacing. We don’t know how long Belle and Beast spent together, so it could’ve been three days-ish, a la Ariel & Eric or Aladdin & Jasmine, or it could’ve been weeks or months.

There is so much to love and respect about this film, and it pisses me off when, particularly feminists, harsh on Disney relentlessly without acknowledging things like time periods in which movies came out, and also how far Disney has come as a company and a content creator.

Criticism needs context, and an acknowledgement of the good and bad, to be whole and rounded. Kids’ movies can sometimes paint the world in black and white, but nothing is just black and white. Not even opinions, really. Just hating or loving something blindly and ignoring the contrasting side of the argument makes otherwise sound, interesting ideas stupid and irritating. You know, unless they’re really funny.

There are people out there that will find reasons to hate something, anything, about anything. If you must, make sure you can back yourself up first.

And don’t even get me started on the whole bestiality thingy.

Beauty and the Beast and any images of it are owned by the Disney Corporation. It is not in any way mine. In fact, none of the pictures here are mine. In any way. At all.