It pains me to do this—but alas, I must. True, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is and has long been my favorite of the legendary laundry list of films pumped out by the dominating dynasty; and though I would love to give this particular production a pass, based purely on my fondness and affinity, as a storyteller I cannot betray what I believe makes up my very essence. Call it a code of conduct, an obligation to be true to consistency, coherency, continuity, and clarity, which beckons me to hold all that I would call “good” to a standard of excellence—call it whatever you will. The point is, Beauty and the Beast can expect no exception from me, no matter how warm it makes me feel inside.
And so, let the carnage ensue:
Part I: The Prologue
Exhibit A: The Windows
This is by far my favorite part of the film. What a unique idea, to get us going with stained glass window exposition! But where did these windows come from? Who made them? And why? From the looks of the castle in the opening shot, we can see that we have either arrived before the curse was placed, or sometime after, because of the bright nature of things and the statues of angels, which we know were turned into demons during the curse.
So, if these windows were always on the castle, then we must assume there is some sort of prophetic window artist working there, or maybe an all-seeing wizard, who wasn’t kind enough to warn the prince to mind his manners around strange witches, and thus save him from getting zapped, resides in one of the many towers.
On the other hand, it is very plausible that these windows were made after the curse was lifted, which would then beg the question, why? Did the prince, after returning to human form, say, “Well, I’d like to relive that traumatic, life-altering event everyday for the rest of my life! Make me some windows!”
Sure, we can argue that he makes them as a reminder of his past mistakes (which we will analyze later on); but honestly, do you really think anyone in the castle needs to be reminded? And can’t you just write the story down, if you’re so concerned about warning the generations to come?
Exhibit B: Prince of Nothing
Who is this prince, anyway? Are there a king and queen? And if not, why is the prince not king? We never see these parents of his, so why is he merely a prince? And whom does he rule over? The townspeople seem to have no idea the castle is even there. Evidence: Belle’s father, Maurice, looks genuinely shocked to see the castle when he stumbles upon it; when Belle arrives, she declares, “What is this place?” thus confirming her lack of knowledge; and when Gaston talks with the green, loon-collector man, he refers to castle in a tone suggesting its existence is absurd, as uses it as proof that Maurice needs to be locked up.
Also, no one else in the village seems to think anything of Maurice’s claims of Belle being locked in a dungeon. Of course, he did mutter the inconceivable word “beast,” which may have put them off; but don’t you think if there was knowledge of a castle, the word dungeon might have raised some suspicion that a bad person—whom crazy, old Maurice mistook for a “horrible, monstrous beast,”—might have locked up the beautiful Belle?
Honestly, how does no one know this castle exists? Maybe it has something to do with the very first song in the movie, when Belle says, “Since the morning that we came to this poor, provincial town,” Does this mean she is a first generation settler of this little town and quiet village? That would explain why no one knows about the castle—kind of. We’ll get more into this one in the coming days.
Exhibit C: The Curse
All right, I know the prologue tries to convince us that the prince is a jerk, who needs to learn that “beauty is found within.” I’m quite sure he is/was a major jerk, a punk kid, “spoiled, selfish, and unkind,” as the line goes. However, I cannot—let me repeat—cannot fault the prince’s actions upon meeting the “beggar woman.”
Let’s fast forward a bit. In Be Our Guest, Lumière declares, “Ten years we’ve been rusting.” Now, taking what we know from the prologue, the deadline for the prince to lean to love another and earn love in return is his “twenty-first year;” and since we see the last petal of the enchanted, curse-clock rose fall in the end, we know that the day the beast is stabbed and dies is his twenty-first birthday (and what a party it was, let me tell you!).
Knowing all of that, we can conclude that the prince, dead at twenty-one after ten years of being cursed was—get this—eleven (maybe ten, depending on the exact time) when the curse was placed! ELEVEN!? You mean to tell me that a snotty eleven-year-old was cursed for not letting a stranger into his house? What!? As far as I’m concerned, jerk or not, that was a smart, responsible decision! Never let strangers into your house; and furthermore, never take gifts from strangers! That old woman was offering a rose like candy! Sorry, babe. No can do. And, as it turned out, he was absolutely justified in being skeptical. That old woman was a witch! Sure, the film says “enchantress;” but that’s just fancy talk for witch.
So, let’s recap: Eleven-year-old prince is offered a flower by a strange, old woman—who by the way, just so happened to stumble across a castle set deep in the woods and built on a mountainside; a place literally no surrounding villages seem to have any knowledge of—and because he won’t let her in, on the basis that she looks like a less-than-ideal houseguest, and turns her away, he and his innocent staff are cursed by a witch masquerading as an old lady.
Stranger danger, kids. Stranger freakin’ danger.
One more thing, the prologue says that the enchantress turns the prince into a beast “as punishment” for not having love in his heart. Um, is she like the good will police, or something? Does she do this often? “Hi, let me, an odd and ugly stranger, into your house! No? It’s because of my outward appearance, isn’t it? You have no love in your heart, you shallow monster! I will punish you now! Bow to my authority, heartless fool!"
You know, I really believe this witch went to the castle intending to curse the prince for all time—the “learn to love another” thing, I think, was merely a way of giving him false hope. Seriously, the prince lives in the middle of nowhere, no one knows he’s there; and on top of that, he’s tasked with falling in love with a human, when he, himself, is a talking, overgrown animal. Yeah, I don’t think the witch counted on a woman actually becoming romantically attached to an oversized bear. Belle might be just a bit stranger than the poor provincial town gives her credit for.
Exhibit D: The Portrait
Here’s a quick one. In the prologue, near the end, we see the Beast, in what we later come to learn is the West Wing, shredding a portrait of his handsome face, as he is “ashamed of his monstrous form.” Well, that portrait looks exactly like the young, twenty-one-year-old man we see in the very end. I thought the prince was cursed at the age of eleven. So why is there a twenty-one-year-old portrait hanging in the castle? Who had the foresight to paint such a picture? The same wizard who made the stained glass windows, maybe? There’s truly something strange going on in that castle.
Exhibit E: The Mirror
Where did he get this magic mirror? Was it a tool given to him by the witch? A way to torment him further? Or is this prince really into something like, I dunno, black magic or something?
Hey! Maybe that’s why he’s called prince. He’s a prince of darkness! That’s why he’s able to hang portraits of his future self all over the place!
Perhaps the witch was one of his magic rivals, who tricked him and cast a spell he couldn’t undo. Maybe he’d bullied her or pulled on her pigtails in sorcery school, and she was out for revenge. Maybe they were a cute little playground couple; and when he dropped out of school to construct his castle on the edge of a cliff, he abandoned her and broke her heart, and she wanted to ensure that no one but she would ever be able to love him, that only her undying love would be able to save him. Perhaps she placed the curse in the hopes that he would seek her out, pledge his true love for her; and that they would forever rule the world as sorcerer and sorceress!
Go ahead and laugh. But I think I may be onto something here.
Exhibit F: Another Window
Let’s nitpick, shall we? The magic mirror is called the Beast’s “only window to the outside world,” when we can clearly see the enchanted rose and the mirror set beside a giant, gaping window, overlooking—you guessed it—the outside world. Not to mention, there are plenty of windows looking outside all over the castle! Pick one, bro! Take a look outside! And, by the way, don’t say the mirror is your only window, when we clearly see you have the ability to leave the castle grounds, as evidence by your pursuit of Belle, after nearly biting her head off in the West Wing.
Exhibit G: What is love? (baby don’t hurt—never mind)
And finally we come to the overarching conundrum of the entire prologue—the entire film, for that matter. How do we define love? As many of you, I’m sure, understand, love is not present in just one set formula of expressions or feelings. It is a multifaceted concept, which affects each individual uniquely, given the kind of relationship at hand.
So, the prologue specifically says that the Beast must “love another and earn HER love in return.” This, we would assume, means romantic love, as the Beast is male, and “her,” given the word’s elemental context, refers to a female. However, do all male slash female relationships have to be romantic? Of course not! So what happens if the Beast and Belle only become best buddies? Is the curse lifted? And why must Belle verbally declare her love to lift the curse? She obviously falls in love with him before he falls dead, so why did nothing get resolved sooner?
Perhaps Disney is trying to say that Belle and the Beast share an all-encompassing kind of love, one that includes all manners and types. And maybe the curse can only be lifted by verbal declaration because Disney foresaw the battle with Gaston—and let’s face it, the dreamy-eyed prince with golden locks would have never stood a chance against that beefcake. That fight would have been over before it began, and Belle would have had a tough choice to make: Testosterone-fueled alpha male, who’s easily the richest, most influential man in town, or dreamy wimp…who’s also filthy rich.
Tough choices, man…who’s got the better car?
Wow! That was quite a bit—and that was only the prologue!! Tune in next week when I dissect the next section of my favorite Disney movie!
Coming Next Week
June 18, 2015
C. K. Conners
©2015 by C. K. Conners