I’ve been meaning to write this somewhat long (and possibly well-thought) dissertation on several underlying themes in most of my childhood cartoons, some interconnecting, others stray thoughts and questions, but I’m almost always sidetracked. Today, I will force myself to get these ideas out. Not because I’m looking for someone to read this to go “Damn, that was deep,” but because it’s really a thought and I’d like to hear the opinion of others and because… well, I’m weird and yeah, that’s about it.
So, I’m a fan of cartoons. I grew up on Disney, as most adults my age have. I was a part of the 1980s generation that were old enough to watch films like The Lion King and The Little Mermaid and enjoy the hell out of them. However, as I’ve gotten older (and yes, watched these movies over and over again), I began to question A LOT of things I normally wouldn’t have questioned when I was five. I will be writing for different movies as my questions come to me. Like I said, I’ve been compiling this in my brain for a while, so it will take several installments to get this all out…
*Please Note: I do not ‘blame’ Disney for any of my findings, as these are films based on very old fairy tales, however, as Disney has animated them I will continue to say ‘Disney’ as a reference. **Also, not all cartoons animations of childhood fairy tales were the brain child of Disney, so I will attribute the production companies accordingly.*
Beauty and the Beast – One of my all-time favorite movies hands down and critics have agreed because well, the movie garnered a four-star rating. While I love this film, I (as an adult) have questions that I’d desperately love explained:
In the film, our heroine Belle lives at home with her inventor father. She is deemed a ‘social outcast’ because she has a voracious appetite for reading AND she wants more than just a life of babies and homemaking. While I applaud Belle for being one of the first progressive female characters I’ve ever seen in cartoons, it’s never explained why Belle lives alone with her father. Did her mother die? And if so, from what? Did she leave?
Another burning question I have for this movie: why the hell would an enchantress cast a spell on a young prince with no parents? Let’s take a moment and dissect that:
Lumiere proclaims in the ‘Be Out Guest’ number, “ten years we’ve been rusting, needing so much more than dusting…” which (to me) means that they’ve been under the curse to be inanimate objects for the past ten years. NOW, the “curse” as dictated in the beginning required that the Prince find love and be loved in return by his 21st birthday, before the last petal fell. So here’s my math:
21- 10 = 11. Simple enough.
Now, I don’t know how other people were raised, but I don’t know what 11-year-old boy, who was seemingly without parents (like where were his parents on that night, for real?!), would open his house up to an old, haggardly beggar woman. Furthermore, he’s royalty and doesn’t have to open up his home to anyone. That also begs to ask what the hell happened to his security that night, but I’ll let that one slide… for now.
And isn’t it obvious that if this boy was born into royalty, and left to his own devices at 11 years of age, he would be spoiled? He’s had no discipline, no proper upbringing, no authority to consult him… why would she expect him to be anything but a spoiled brat, ESPECIALLY at 11 years of age? What the hell was this enchantress smoking?
Also, if the curse lasted for about ten years, then Chip, Mrs. Potts son, was quite the small ten year old unless ( DUM DUM DUM) he wasn’t born yet! Makes you question who was Mrs. Potts getting it on with to have Chip while still a tea pot? Mr. Pan? Sir Skillet? Mr. Pitcher?
I tell you, I’ve scratched my head over this a couple of times because I wonder, was this attack on the Prince random? I mean, does this enchantress just go from castle to castle casting spells on people with her drive-by curses?
Another question, why would she curse this child to be “loved and loved in return” at 11? What kind of crap is that? Was he supposed to find an 11-year-old girl who wanted to be loved — at 11? What kind of fast females was she hoping would come his way? And could the spell be fulfilled if he just loved Mrs. Potts as a mom and she loved him back as a son? ‘Cause I’d be really grossed out to believe this enchantress was expecting the Prince to be hooking up with some AT ELEVEN.
Another question: the Prince had a castle, but no kingdom. Like was he the Prince of Middle-of-Nowhere What was that about? How is there a castle, with royalty living in it, but no one knows what the hell is going on with the family? Did they not wonder “what’s going on with the Prince?” I often wondered if his kingdom was deserted before the whole incident happened which also begs the question – if you have a Kingdom with no one to rule, does that still make you royalty?
Furthermore, I know I’m not the only person wondering this, so I will ask this question for all of us: WHAT WAS HIS NAME? Throughout the entire movie, Belle refers to the “unknown Prince” as Beast. But he must have had a human name before he became a beast. Pierre maybe? Jacques? Antoine? It had to have been something equally French and soft on the tongue. I can’t imagine that after their happily ever after, Belle continued to call him ‘Beast,’ after he no longer looked like one. I mean, maybe in the bedroom… (insert perverted laugh)
All questions aside, this movie was pretty darn awesome. It had quite a few underlying themes, that now as an adult, I’m willing to delve into.
Theme One: Being a Smart, Educated Woman is OK!
I have to say, one of the many reasons I continue to love this movie as an adult is for the mere fact that Belle is the first female protagonist I was introduced to as a child, who was smart. She’s the common daughter of a entrepreneurial inventor and her head was always in a book, which was like “EWW” to everyone else in the town. She wanted much more that “this provincial life.” She doesn’t really mention marriage, or love — just a life filled with adventure and a person to understand her. She’s known as being a bit ‘odd,’ but yet she’s accepted herself for whatever she is. She is the only woman in that town who’s actually got a mind of her own, in a world where free thinking is limited and the ideal life of woman is marriage and babies. Belle was a chick ahead of her time. I could imagine her in the line of women requesting equal rights and the right to vote.
Theme Two: Beware of Handsome Idiots
Gaston was handsome (though I personally think Beast was hotter). He showered Belle with flattery, while admiring his own beauty. While it probably wasn’t deliberately trying to get the point across, this movie intended to leave an impact on young girls to beware of the hot guys who were great at everything and interested in you for your looks. As you can remember, Gaston only wanted Belle because “here in town there’s only she, who is beautiful as me.” Not only was he a shallow, he seemed as though he was only good for lifting bricks, and shooting things which suggests that Gaston didn’t have much under his well-coiffed hair
— “How can you read this, there’s no pictures?”–
Like many egotistical low lives, Gaston also couldn’t handle rejection well. Unfortunately, this is still a trait that many rejected men who want it all seem to have. Gaston was going to have Belle as his wife by any means necessary and if that meant throwing his would-be father-in-law into the loony-bin, then so be it. While this plot development almost mirrors Belle’s plight to live with Beast, the obvious difference is that in one case she willingly gives herself over to one man, while the other is forcibly putting her in an uncompromising situation. It also sheds light on the true dark nature of the handsome man who’s been privileged to live a life of self-exaltation without punishment. This is basically a warning to women to remove themselves from the self-absorbed men. They will never want a woman for who she is, but for how she looks. I often think what would have happened, if Belle had said yes. Could you imagine the tons of resentment that she’d have, the hatred she’d probably bare to those children that would’ve been the result of pseudo consensual rape?
Check out more on Gaston here.
Theme Three: Charity Is ALWAYS GOOD
The beginning of the film starts out with an old beggar woman asking for shelter from the cold. While I might not have opened my door to a homeless lady with a flower, the fact of the matter is that the Prince was so disgusted merely by her presence to even think of being kindhearted and hospitable. Because the Prince had no love to offer help to someone, he was punished for his callousness and turned into a beast. Now, do I think that everyone should open up their homes to strange old ugly ladies? No. But the Prince had the means to take her in and confine her to a room (so he couldn’t smell her homelessness), or even offer her a crust of bread or blanket.
I believe it was the Prince’s lack of charity or self-giving that led to his ultimate pitfall. This is why we see this same event happen again, when Belle’s father Maurice left in the cold and hungry begging for hospitality. He is given refuge by Lumiere, who I assume was in charge of the lighting and heating of the castle. Though it resulted in Maurice’s subsequent imprisonment, it did lead to Belle finding her father and eventually landing a room in an enchanted castle. And as the story goes, Beast got a human companion, a female equal who put him in his place while simultaneously warming his heart AND he got to be pretty again. It also worked out for Belle, who got to live lavishly, got something that was more than provincial, and landed a rich husband too. As you can see, charity is always a good thing.
Theme Four: Vanity Equals Death
Vanity, which is almost a subset of pride, most certainly falls along the lines of one of the ‘non-virtuous traits’ that many should disassociate themselves with. Gaston, obviously did not get the message. As we can clearly see that it was Gaston’s pride and vanity which indirectly led to his death. While he was coveted by the three buxom blondes, if Gaston had humbled himself and let Belle go, he would’ve never stormed the castle where in a punk move, he stabbed Beast and fell to his tragic untimely death. Beast, whose pride was handled earlier on (through a spell), learned to see beyond himself and in turn allowed others to see beyond the surface as well. Though he was stabbed, he magically came back to life. There you have it. If you’re vain and can’t learn from your lesson, you die.
Theme Five: Being a Follower Will Get You Burned
Belle obviously did not want to follow the social norms that were expected of her. Instead, she opted for a life of adventure which got her out of her po-dunk village of women with screaming babies and dumb blondes and into a castle with the super cute Prince Hotty. There are several instances in which we see the pitfalls of a follower- Lefou, Gaston’s flunky is basically treated like well, Le Fool the entire time. Although he is mainly created to be the comic relief of this movie, it is Lefou’s inability to be a leader that gets him nowhere with the ladies constantly underneath Gaston’s heels. The men of the town are also a prime example of the ramifications of being a follower: instead of listening to Belle when she says that her friend Beast would not hurt them — I mean, he’s only lived in a castle for 10 years and NEVER entered the village— they follow Mr. Pride into a castle where they are beaten. Though they sing with machismo ‘Fifty Frenchmen can’t be wrong,” they are ultimately wrong and leave with burns, cuts, bruises and possibly a scarred psyche for the rest of their lives.
and last but obviously least
Theme Six: There’s Goodness in Everyone
This theme doesn’t necessarily hold up throughout the entire movie, as no one took the time to get through to Gaston and call him out as the scared over-compensating boy that he was. Instead, the attention was turned to Beast, whose ugly appearance made for a good “don’t judge a book by its cover’ moral. Through Belle opening up his heart, she was able to help him reveal the ‘true’ prince he was. At the end, as Beast takes his last breath (or goes into shock rather), she proclaims that she loves him. Underneath it all, she was able to see him for who he was and their true love conquered all.
The Creepy Side Note: Did anybody but me notice the screw face that Belle gave when Beast transformed? Almost as though she couldn’t understand that he was actually human? While I’m all about looking at a person beyond the physical appearance to see who they are, this movie has some bestiality tendencies. What exactly were they going to do if the curse didn’t break?
–‘We’re together now, it’ll be fine you’ll see.’ —
Uh, Belly-Belle, what kind of fulfilling life would you have with this man-beast? The most is possibly kissing… maybe a little touching here and there, but if he was able to crush your face in the palm of his hand, think about what would happen… if… other areas *cringes* Then again, having a beast for a man would be a great adventure.