Tag Archives: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast (2017): Monstrously Arrogant and Terribly Overrated

Just…go see the stage musical and pretend that Hermione is in place of whoever is Belle. It’s more worth your time and money to do that than to go see this live-action remake.

This is the only one so far that I would not consider buying. And spoilers below, so be warned. I respect every other Disney remake way more than this movie, and I might even go so far as to say that even the cringe-inducing Disney sequels tried harder than this did.

This remake is Diet Animated Beauty and the Beast. I’m honestly appalled that it’s getting as much critical praise as it is (not even audience praise; honest-to-goodness cristcs calling it a masterpiece), because it tries so hard to not just live up to its namesake, but be it as well, and it can’t possibly do so. It just doesn’t understand what made that movie work, even on the most basic, fundamental level.

The music is noticeably over-polished and poorly mixed. It’s the opposite problem of Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables; it’s not raw and emotional enough. It sounds like it was just made to sell the soundtrack as close to the “pop” section as it could get.

We (meaning my boyfriend and I) checked to see if it was just our cheap movie theatre that was behind the bad mixing, but no, there are plenty of problems still present in the music itself. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens sound as great as they possibly can, but only the latter has any raw emotion in his voice, and both definitely sound like they’re singing in a studio, rather than in the actual movie. And the in-song dialogue is stripped of all emotion, as the producers were clearly more interested in making everyone sound “pretty” than giving them any semblance of character.

 

Notice how Belle gets really pissed off at the beginning, almost yelling? Imagine in this scene that she has a British accent, and then picture she’s in a chair at the salon casually complaining to her girl friends. That’s essentially how powerful and compelling it is; mild annoyance vs actual shocked outrage.

Yeah, the animators actually put effort into that so-called kids’ film.

Also, Gaston doesn’t get humiliated with a wedding fiasco. Belle shuts a door in his face, and then the next time we see him, he’s mildly disappointed at the tavern. How does this fuel the fire of his depraved ego, making him into the true monster of the movie? What leads him to make the drastic jump of deciding to throw Belle’s father into a mental institution? I have no clue. It was in the original, so let’s put it in here too, I guess!

Incidentally, Gaston becoming a truly crappy human being is paced weirdly, and the seemingly simple catalysts of “I want to marry the hot girl” and “if I can’t have her, no one can” have no backing behind them. It really feels like it only happens here because something similar happened in the original version. Character and morivation are only very loosely connected.

The actors (all good people clearly trying to do their best with crap direction) almost never seem like real people, except Belle’s dad. Belle herself seems less terrified and more put-out most of the time, and otherwise, she’s smiling blandly. I think Watson was trying to be more confident in an effort to seem stronger, willful, and more independent than the original Belle, but it just comes across like she’s not a real human being dealing with a terrifying and stressful situation. She’s not quite at Anakin Skywalker levels of bland, but still not very compelling, which is a damn shame.

 

The original Belle, voiced by Paige O’Hara, was a likeable character who also managed to be human, if a bit more forgiving and kind than most of us would be in her situation. But hey, it’s a fairytale, not an in-depth procedural manual for how to live your actual, real-world life.

Emma Watson has very little charm or character, provided you can take off the rose-colored, lightning scar-shaped glasses. The film keeps telling me she’s odd and different and awesome, like the previous Belle, but she doesn’t show it unless she’s directly speaking, and even then, there’s no genuine emotion or commitment behind the dialogue. There’s a lot of tell, don’t show that happens here, and it’s not just because it’s a musical. The original was a musical as well, practically virtually identical to this one, but even during moments where the characters were silent, a lot of personality comes through in their designs and the “cartoon-ish” animation.

For example, when Gaston comes a-calling with a whole impromptu wedding party, Belle’s eye roll upon seeing him through her peephole is incredibly pronounced, even maybe overexaggerated. But it shows what she’s feeling perfectly and its relatable, which is incredibly important.

That said, Watson does look the part. She is gorgeous and I will always love her, even when her performance is sadly kind of bland and lackluster.

The story is too much retreading of old material (word-for-word dialogue and essentially shot-for-shot scenes), to the point where you can’t help but compare it to the original animated feature. Some things are changed completely, while others are changed not nearly enough, and there is far more of the latter than the former, too much more for my liking.

This isn’t “recapturing the spirit of the original, with some new twists to make it fresh.” This is riding the original’s coat tails and throwing in a few scraps of difference to try to throw us off their scent. This does to the first movie what The Hobbit movies did for The Lord of the Rings: nothing but cheap lip service and inadvertently making you appreciate the early movie even more.

 

The visuals are over-gilded and painful to my eyes; I had to look away for most of the Be Our Guest number, it was so hideous, overcrowded, and just overdone. I don’t care if it’s period-accurate; it’s a Disney movie. Historical accuracy has always been regarded as optional.

The castle never feels lonely, ominous, or terrifying in any way, demonstrated best by the fact that Belle shows up at it during the day, in brilliant sunshine. Sooo dramatic!

But don’t worry. God will still send that out-of-nowhere thunderstorm to the climax for dramatic effect. Some Disney tropes never die, after all.

The wardrobe is hideous and makes no sense. Most of the other objects I can tolerate, but she was too much, with her haphazardly flailing curtains and utter lack of a face. Her actress/singer was totally wasted in this role.

The pacing is whack. I was checking my watch all through the first half, and then, to my surprise, numerous scenes in the second half went speeding by like the Road Runner.

For example, the moment when Beast gets angry about Belle trying to touch his enchanted rose isn’t literally a minute, but it feels like it might as well have been. There’s virtually no drama behind it; Belle barely touches the case, Beast appears and says “Don’t do that,” and then she leaves, looking like the Beast just told her to go to the kitchen and make him a sandwich. I have no idea why she’s running or why she just up and decides to leave after this; the look on her face is minor frustration, and nothing more.

She doesn’t even look all that scared staring down a pack of angry wolves that are about to eat her face off.

That said….the added songs were nice. And some of the jokes were pretty damn funny. And Maurice’s actor is great. Gaston and LeFou were passable. Some of the added scenes were interesting, if superfluous or largely irrelevant.

Why did Belle’s mother getting the Plague matter? I could have sworn they were leading up to some Sweeney Todd-style rape ambush; you know, maybe something related to the fact that she was apparently a weirdo like Belle and her father, and people ganged up on her…?

 

As far as I can tell, nothing was added to Belle and the Beast’s relationship other than her telling him about her family a little bit…Cool? Belle didn’t even know her mother, and was a baby when she died, so I’m not sure why she remembers much or why this is so important to her.

Yeah, I was pretty much right in my pre-movie fears. But even before that, I should have started having misgivings once it was mentioned that they were going to be using the original songs and score. There is taking inspiration and changing context, and then there is copy-pasting in someone else’s work instead of doing your own.

But hey, that’s how the film basically pays for itself. Who needs creative marketing when you have simple brand name recognition?

I tried so very hard to go into this and be fair and objective, but the movie begs so much to be compared to its predecessor, and in that light, it fails miserably. I’d rank it below Maleficent, and it didn’t even have the gall to do the “here is the true version of this story, lost to time and retellings” bullcrap. At least Maleficent was working from an already fairly flawed movie, and tried to switch the sympathy to the villain.

It just feels so lazy. I was of half a mind to go back to the cashier and ask for my money back before we had even reached the halfway point, and not because I was all that angry.
I was bored. I’d seen this all before. It was like going to the stage musical without the novelty of it being live, and after a short time, I stopped wondering how they were going to handle the scenes from the original movie differently. The CG was just so fake and hideous…I almost stopped caring until the “Days in the Sun” scene.

The stage musical, at the very least, had some intrigue. What props will they use? How will they set up and work with the stage? The “movie magic” on the screen isn’t true movie magic anymore. It’s all done with computers. That’s the answer.

The Beast isn’t scary or even all that intimidating. The household objects are confirmed to be frozen in their forms once the last petal falls (left ambiguous in the original movie, but a major plot point in the Broadway musical), and it is needlessly sad, even for Disney. Someone told me to bring tissues, but I wasn’t even crying. And guys, I cry at everything! I cried when Ash got turned to stone in Pokemon: The First Movie, for Pete’s sake!

Honestly, that was the darkest thing about the entire movie, and doesn’t it make the Beast so much more likable that he screwed them over, just for a hot girl?

 

I’m sorry, petrification is one of the most universally scary things ever. Being frozen alive, but aware for the rest of your life sounds absolutely horrible and torturous. Waaaaay worse than being a Beast who can travel anywhere in the world on a whim (the Enchantress gave him a magic book for some reason), and yet this guy just lets Belle go knowing this is going to happen to his servants?!!!! 

If I were one of them, I’d probably beat him with the hardest, sharpest part of myself right up until the very end. Yeesh…and people call the original Beast a jerk.

 

Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with the scene in theory. I have a problem with how unearned and out-of-place it feels in this virtually charmless, wooden movie.

Oh, also, Disney took a page from the original story, in that Belle’s father takes a rose from the garden and that’s what pisses the Beast off initially…lame. It’s not like Maurice went after the enchanted rose or anything. Hell, he took food from the Beast’s table, but no, Maurice. You picked a flower, you heartless thief! How dare you?!

If there anything that the original movie did right, it was picking and choosing what to adapt out of the source material. Maurice trespassing pisses off the Beast, and the Beast only cares about the rose (not a random rose from his garden) because its wilting is tied to his curse. His despair leads him to act more like the animal he had become, and guess what? Animals are territorial. It makes sense on a simple, but also brilliant, level, when you think about it.

What was the point of her father’s taking one leading him to be locked in a dungeon? Also, why is it randomly snowing in Beast land?

 

New Beast still seems too human, but ironically he also doesn’t emote very well, and his voice is princely but not remotely beastly. It’s a wonder that anyone can take him seriously.

There is so much to complain about in this movie that I can hardly keep focused. LeFou is officially gay now, and I’m surprised more people are pleased by that portrayal. I mean, he knows Gaston is doing bad things the whole time, and he seems genuinely regretful,  but LeFou stands by and lets things happen (a near brutal mauling and false imprionsment in a horrible, explicit snake pit insane asylum, need I remind you?) just because he’s got a crush on Gaston.

Once again, I must say, “Wow! How likeable!

 

In the end, Gaston snubs him pretty casually and pointlessly, and that’s all it takes to get him to be a full-on good guy. Not that it amounts to anything. LeFou talks to Mrs. Potts, and then a few scenes later, he appears again with dancing with a new guy….Cool? I guess it pays to be an obvious walking-stereotype that compromises his morals for a hot person and then gives up being a bad guy immediately.

No sir, nothing questionable or poorly-thought-out there…

But hey, I can’t tell people what they should or shouldn’t find insulting. Visibility is still visibility, after all, and the “women scorned” trope can probably work just as well on a man…who didn’t seem all that committed in the first place. Last minute redemption, anyone?

I just think it’s weird to praise it simply because it’s Disney. There is a much better LGBT victory AND first from Disney that we should be talking more about, in my opinion…

 

Gaston is okay, but like LeFou, he’s not nearly as despicable as his animated counterpart. His scene at the tavern is probably the best thing in the whole movie, but again, I’d personally rather be watching it live, on a stage. The script tries to make him cartoonishly, unambiguously evil, but it’s more funny than damning.

I’d still rank his acting higher than just about anyone else in the film.

The Enchantress appears very obviously throughout, especially at the end, but we never get her thought process on the terms and conditions of this curse she’s evidentially so proud of. Never once does anyone think to question her about her actions, even when she’s standing right next to them. Mrs. Potts handwaves a short explanation that she and her fellow servants let the king brainwash his son, turning him into a fellow scumbag, but that’s the only indication we ever get of what the Beast’s father was like.

Oh, and if we’re going for realism here, the servants were probably a step up from property, so what choice would they have really had, movie? You want to elaborate on that one a little bit more?

See, the animated movie had its unfortunate or questionable implications, but it didn’t draw attention to them nearly as much as this one does. The remake tries to explain a few things (such as why no one in the surrounding area remembers the cursed ruler of the land and his castle in the nearby woods), but utterly ignores several crucial others.

It DOES answer one very important question right at the end, however…that yes, Belle was very much into the bestiality of the situation.

 

No, seriously. Belle teasingly asks if the Prince-Beast can grow a beard, and he roars at her, making her laugh.

Um….ewwwwww……Thanks for that, Disney. That is one part of the story that I never wanted to seriously ponder.

To cut this disjointed rant short, the new movie is not the worst thing ever. It’s okay. But it is pretty bad and pretty shamelessly just coasting off the love and prestige (duels deserved) of a much better movie. You can argue that all of the Disney remakes, retreads, and sequels do that to some extent, but this film is the live-action iteration that tries the  absolute least, and it’s arguably the one that should least be allowed to get away with that.

Despite their flaws, Cinderella, Maleficent, and The Jungle Book gave me enough that was new and likeable for me to acknowledge their existence. Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, truly feels like a hollow, whore-ish cash-grab, and given what it’s trying to be, that’s depressing.

But hey, Hermione’s in it, so that automatically makes it good, right?

Not for me, thanks. I think I’ll stick with the original, despite how much it traumatized me as a child. At  least it was well-paced and creatively put together by clearly passionate people.

At least that beast had some bite to it.


*3/10

*Please note: none of the images, songs, or video clips in this article belong to me. They are owned by Disney (except the Medusa one). 

 

 

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Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: The Musical

Let me start off by giving props to the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. It is a spectacular venue for music, live performances, and more, and if you live in Vienna or visit sometime in the near future, you should definitely check it out and give your support! It is certainly a staple of my summer 🙂

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Also, major props to the cast, crew, and creative team behind Beauty and the Beast! Adapting and performing any show for Broadway is a difficult task that requires a lot of talent and creativity. No matter what is said in this review, I assure you that I mean no disrespect to the people who worked their hardest to make this show what it is. It was fun to watch, and looked like fun to put on.

Without these two groups, I could not have watched last night’s show. 🙂

On and off-Broadway, I’ve seen Phantom of the Opera, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Les Miserables, If/Then, and snippets of many assorted ones at my high school (the night of a show, they’d do little previews all day in the theatre. If you were lucky enough, your teacher was nice and let you go watch them). I’ve only been in one musical myself, in Bye Bye Birdie in middle school, and that was just as an adult chorus member/concerned parent.

Suffice it to say, you probably won’t see many reviews like this one from me, but media is media, and the stage is a unique arena of entertainment that a lot of people overlook. It requires more volume and more expression, as the actors try to reach the back row and be heard and understood by everyone.

While I may compare this to the movie here and there, rest assured that I understand the limits of the different mediums. Changes must be made, and the movie and show are not one and the same, nor should they be regarded as such.

With that said…

What I liked:

The music was very good. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the new songs added in, particularly “If I Can’t Love Her.” Personally, I felt that “Human Again” was much more useful to the musical than it was in the movie. Definitely not as redundant.

I know that “Be Our Guest” is supposed to be the big show stopper (it was the top contender for my favorite in the film), and there are a couple other particularly big numbers to go up against it, but the song that captured my heart and attention was “Gaston.” The dancing, the energy, the people clinking their beers and cheering, and the outstanding performances of both Gaston and LeFou were just so enthralling. I could probably recommend the show on that song alone.

But come on. It’s Gaston. No one says no to Gaston.

gaston

The sets were very colorful, sometimes bordering on sugar high levels. But it could also become dark and foreboding in the blink of an eye; the fairytale screen and border around the stage could be transformed for scenes in the creepy forest very easily, with just the right lighting. The props and set pieces, particularly Maurice’s bike/wood-choppy thingamajig were all very nice, and the actors and stage hands moved them pretty fluidly. The first half of the show took place at sunset, so I especially applaud the lighting guys for still making that part of the show work well despite conditions and limitations.

The stand-out actors and actresses for me were those for Belle (Hilary Maiberger), Gaston (Tim Rogan), LeFou (Jordan Aragon), and Mrs. Potts (Kristin Stewart….no, thankfully not that Kristen Stewart). All of them felt like their movie counterparts, although Belle had a lot more spunky attitude. She was still patient, but sometimes more sarcastic than I would have imagined Belle being, but surprisingly, I thought it worked. Every girl needs attitude 🙂

I also liked a couple of the story changes from the movie. Maurice’s brief reminiscing about Belle’s mother was cute, and the Beast trying to “act like a gentleman” and bring Belle dinner after he told her she couldn’t eat without him was a nice little touch. Despite being delightfully creeped out by the cold, serious, and menacing Monsieur D’Arque in the original film, I was intrigued by his portrayal in this production as much more silly, possibly mad himself. His laugh reminded me of the hyenas from The Lion King, and I chuckled at his introduction, where he analyzed both Gaston and LeFou as crazies themselves, before they het the chance to tell him what they really called him for.

Beast listening to Belle read to him, and talking about how they both feel like outcasts that no one gives a chance to, was brilliant. It was a really powerful moment that made clear exactly how they were bonding, and what they were beginning to feel for each other. It was them realizing how alike they were, and how much they needed each other, not just in a romantic way.

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One last big thing that stuck out to me: the changes to the spell and the time limit. Instead of saying, “it would bloom until his twenty-first year,” the narrator said, “it would bloom for many years.” That nicely hand-waved away the rather screwed up element that Beast was about 10-ish years old when the Enchantress cursed him. Because yeah, kids can be bratty and selfish. Not sure that’s a good enough reason to curse someone.

The servants admitted to themselves that they were cursed because they let the prince become the way that he was, which was a nice couple of lines. I really liked that as time passed and the servants became more one-note and despairing, that they would grow more like actual objects before eventually turning into to un-enchanted ones. That was great.

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Cogsworth was okay. Decently done, and funny from time to time. Not as dry as the original, I think, but it was fine.

Some lines ripped straight from the movie were still pretty funny. Definitely delivered with different speeds and inflections, as you would expect, there were only a few misses.

And one last random thing: for some reason, I thought Maurice looked like Mr. Miyagi. I have no clue why; I just looked at a picture of him in the program before the show started, and thought that. He was still the cute and bumbling inventor character, but even more silly and benign than before.

What I didn’t like so much:

Most of what bothered me, you can boil down to the humor. And no, I’m not dissing LeFou. He was great.

It was a lot of slapstick (I think I described it to my friend as Beauty and the Beast meets Vaudeville during the intermission), and pointless sexuality and innuendo.

There is nothing wrong with a little of the former, but it was very overplayed and ham-fisted. The latter, which also would have been great in small doses, was very much the same. Other than the brief Lumiere and Babette (feather duster lady) scene they tweaked from the movie (which was already pretty risqué, now made more overt, I think), a lot of it seemed like Lumiere, Babette, and Madame de la Grande Bouche (wardrobe lady) pelvic-thrusting, spazzing, and slurring their words, sometimes right out of nowhere. A lot of silly, pointless insinuation for cheap laughs. It all seemed so incredibly deliberate and unnatural.

I didn’t find those characters all that funny, but the rest of the audience and their kids seemed to. So what do I know?

I understood making Beast a bit more childish, but it sucked the fear of his character, for both the audience and the other characters, right out of the room. I didn’t buy it at all, not even when he got violent towards Belle.

Can we talk about this for a minute? Because my first post ever was a defense of the movie.

I hated that he actually put his hands on Belle, although, admittedly, he did it once when she met him in the movie. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that ( I forgot to in the aforementioned rant), but I am loathe to speak of it anyway. After all, in the film, he was grabbing what he thought was an intruder. Here, he grabbed her clearly just to intimidate her.

I don’t like that instead of flipping tables and things, like a kid throwing a temper tantrum, he actually hits her. Scratch that. I hated it. Hate hate hate hate hate. Even if he did try to quickly apologize afterward.

You want to tell me Beast is abusive? I believe it! In trying to close up plot holes, discrepancies, and messed-up stuff from the original movie, the musical just made more. Maybe even some worse ones. If nothing else, it muddled the character.

 

The Picture of Stockholm

eye twitch

But yeah…moving on…

Overall, Belle was a much stronger character, which cancels out the above stuff, I guess. But the Beast was much weaker; he had a higher voice (though beautiful when he sang), and a roar that never shook the crowd with its loudness and ferocity. He roared because he was the Beast, and for no other reason. That’s what beasts do.

So I didn’t buy her or the servants’ fear of the Beast. At all.

He was still a decently sympathetic character, as he would get nervous, childish, angry, excited, etc. Some of it was played for laughs, though, which, again, wrong! Don’t do that! Subtle moments can still happen, even on stage, and not everything had to be made into a joke!

All we really needed was LeFou, and a little of Lumiere, being the comic relief, and then more subtle jokes, like the Beast doing something unintentionally funny. Or Belle just being awesome. It’s a shame, too, because one of the most powerful and visually stunning scenes from the movie, the “Beauty and the Beast” song, had a lot of awe and magic sucked out of it by Beast being too purposefully derpy and goofy.

Also, the Enchantress was hilarious. What was with the big, willowy puppet that towered over the prince in the beginning? Even behind the screen, it looked ridiculous.

I don’t think I was supposed to laugh at it, but I’m not quite sure.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed watching the show, but this is probably my least favorite of the musicals I’ve seen live.

Again, no disrespect meant to the people who put it together, but the overabundance of low-brow humor was a giant boat anchor that weighed down an otherwise energetic, enchanting production. The original movie was plenty dark and serious at times, even as an animated fairytale. This musical tries to do too many things: aiming for that same tone, while still trying to be light and colorful and “der-her-her funny,” sometimes at the expense of the characters and story. The Little Mermaid: The Musical still had the tone of the movie it was based on (and plenty of dignity and charm). Even if the climax was kind of lame…

Close, Disney, but no cigar.

I still recommend it though, because it was fun, and it’ll please kids a lot. Adults too, though some less than others.

It’s still a tale as old as time…it just might get a little old at times.

*Hey, guess what? I still don’t own any of the content! Not the pics, not the videos, not the character, nothing! Support the official sources and releases

 

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.