Tale as Old as Time, Song as Old as Rhyme

Beauty and the Beast – I’ve come across several references to this movie as of late, including this list of plot holes and an article about how Belle was in an abusive relationship with the Beast. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about both of those later, but let’s start at the beginning. The movie starts with a look back at how a prince was cursed by an enchantress for being selfish and spoiled, and everyone else in the castle was as well, even though they didn’t do anything. The prince becomes a beast, while his household becomes a bunch of living objects. The main characters are all turned into things that have to do with their names, too, showing that the enchantress must have had a weird sense of humor. “The housekeeper is named POTTS, so I’ll turn her into a TEAPOT! I crack myself up sometimes.”

I have to wonder just how many people were living in this castle, as some scenes show just about everything in the castle to be sentient. Was every one of those dancing plates a person at one point?

And with all these people around, there’s still the issue of what happened to the Beast’s parents. I mean, he was only a kid when he was enchanted, right? Was he an orphan? We don’t know.

We then see the heroine of this film, Belle, who’s known as the nerdy Disney Princess because she’s actually literate. She lives in a French village with her eccentric, short, chubby father, because that’s how families work in such stories.

Interestingly, she appears to be an only child, despite the fact that the traditional fairy tale gives her two older sisters. When Belle’s father Maurice accidentally comes to the Beast’s castle, he takes her prisoner, but Belle finds him and agrees to take his place. What follows is perhaps the most famous tale of Stockholm Syndrome in a family film. No, seriously, there was an article floating around saying that the movie condoned abuse, but I don’t really buy it. It isn’t that Belle got used to the Beast’s abuse, but that she became friendly with him AFTER he made a concerted effort to be less of a jerk. Before that, she wouldn’t give him the time of day. (Fortunately, he had Cogsworth for that. Because he’s a clock, get it?)

The real villain of this piece is Gaston, a rugged, handsome, and conceited guy who’s the town hero. Considering that the Beast was supposed to have been a spoiled child, it’s interesting that Gaston is also accustomed to getting what he wants. No enchantress comes to visit him, however, so when Belle turns down his proposal of marriage, he resorts to scheming instead, and eventually tries to kill the Beast, falling to his death in the process. Mind you, he might not have been able to cause as much trouble if everyone in the village didn’t go along with everything he suggested. Mob mentality is a dangerous thing.

Anyway, Belle and the Beast eventually fall in love and break the spell, and everyone in the castle becomes human again. I have to wonder if that means there are no more appliances and cutlery left. The movie never gives the Beast’s real name, but apparently Disney has claimed it’s Adam, even though merchandise just calls him “Beast” regardless of his form. Adam doesn’t strike me as a very French-sounding name, but what do I know? Speaking of which, why do Lumiere and Babette (the feather duster) have French accents, but nobody else does? Presumably they’re all supposed to be speaking French, so you’d think either everybody would have an accent or nobody would. Oh, well. Despite the plot holes, I really do enjoy this movie.

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7 Responses to Tale as Old as Time, Song as Old as Rhyme

  1. Darrell says:

    The Enchantress really seems to be the main evil in the movie. What kind of psycho was she?
    Sure, she was treated rudely, but to curse an entire castle full of (presumably) innocent people just because the prince wouldn’t let her freeload is super harsh….and putting a time limit with ridiculous conditions to boot!
    I hope as she was leaving she fell off the same cliff Gaston did!

    • Nathan says:

      I think I’ve seen mentions of the person who enchanted the prince being evil in some versions of the tale. It seems like Disney wanted us to believe she was good, but it doesn’t really work, especially when he was presumably a child when he was enchanted.

  2. Go you, I love when people outright address the Stockholm Syndrome complaints and point out that it actually WASN’T– the fact that the Beast starts changing BEFORE Belle has any sympathy for him is an important and overlooked difference. It’s a much more interesting relationship, and a hopeful, compassionate one.

    I might just be biased because this is my favorite Disney animated movie, though, and Belle is definitely the “Princess” I most identify with. The music is so amazing. I can happily just have the movie playing in the background, just listening to it unfold.

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