Beauty, The Beast and Populism

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Beauty And The Beast may very well be my all-time favorite Disney princess story. It’s not so much because of Belle, the beautiful and curious French village woman, but just the story plot as a whole.

The story itself is sweet. My view is it’s the classic tale of kindness-Belle-winning over the harsh coldness of this world that is manifested as the Beast. (I have to stop you before you mention Stockholm syndrome. Let us not debate here over the interpretation of Beauty and The Beast. If you insist, meet me in my castle as I sip a chipped cup of tea while looking out in to a garden of roses.)

They tried their best to keep to the original Disney version. Instead opting to pump it into a full blast sparkling fantasy for all the young boys and girls out there and maybe some old ones too.”

The new live-action movie of Beauty and The Beast is just as fantastical as it’s animated predecessor. It is also as visually stunning as 2015’s live action film, Cinderella.

The movie had top notch actors, from the respectable Sir Ian McKellen (Cogsworth) to the great Emma Thompson (Mrs. Pots); from delightful Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza) to dashing Ewan Mcgregor (Lumiere) and lastly, the wonderful Emma Watson (Belle).

Gaston was played by The Hobbit actor, Luke Evans while his sidekick was played by funny man, Josh Gad. Belle’s dad was played by one of my favorite actors, Kevin Kline. While the Beast was played by actor, Dan Stevens (who I was excited to see getting more interesting roles this year).

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If you saw the live action movie Cinderella on 2015 you would know that they have not changed the story line as much or at all. Even the movie stills were similar to it’s animated version. They tried their best to keep to the original Disney version. Instead opting to pump it in to a full blast sparkling fantasy for all the young boys and girls out there and maybe some old ones too (like me lol).

Here are our thoughts as we watched the movie:

I dutifully went to the theater on time to see all the trailers and commercials on screen before the movie started. Lights were still open at this time as more people came settling in.

Confusion settled in as I saw a group of college-age boys enter the theater and then proceeded to sit in one of the front rows. However knowing I double-checked the tickets and the theater number before entering, I knew these boys came for only one thing-to watch Beauty and The Beast (and mostly likely drool on Emma Watson for the most part).

Generally impressed with the audience turn out in the theater. They were a mixture of all ages and both genders too! Yehey for progressive thinking!

Of course the film starts by introducing Belle as she is being ridiculed and questioned by the whole town on her ‘perceived’ deviation from their norms. That was when I had an epiphany, the theme in the beginning heavily insinuates that the town’s people despise Belle and her father for being… able to read (and possibly to critically think too!).

It depicted how the wrong kind of populism can lead to deadly consequences especially when mislead by an arrogant leader and contained within an even more ignorant group of people.”

The father and daughter were shown to be reading books, appreciating and creating art, even delving in to mechanical inventions. Obviously they like to think out of the box. They are what we would heavily consider nowadays as, “educated” and dare I say, “cultured.”

However the strangest part of that is why in the first place are they being despised for those reasons? Could it be that they do not wish to teach their daughters (apparent in one scene as Belle encourages a young girl to read) to learn in fear of them beginning to think for themselves? But then again the men are as dumb and anti-progressive themselves (Gaston being the manifestation of that).

Watching these scenes roll out further, one can’t help but compare this basic general idea and compare it at the minimum to the growing populism especially in the far right; their hatred for progressive thinking and tendencies to remain (and love) playing ignorant being some of the characteristics closely associated with them.

And who was to lead them as they “kill a beast?” Why it is the boldest, dumbest and loudest man with a funny hair, Gaston. Again, sounds familiar?

It depicted how the wrong kind of populism can lead to deadly consequences especially when mislead by an arrogant leader and contained within an even more ignorant group of people.

Let’s just think about that then imagine if you were left all alone with a group of people who don’t understand you and worse, even refuse to do so. Imagine facing them and their bold loud mouthed leader, one can very well expect to sympathize with the greatly misunderstood young princely beast.

Other thoughts:

Speaking of the Beast, there is an important scene which finally explains why the assumed-to-be fairy godmother has cruelly bewitched the whole palace (implying that she has wronged the innocent staff members, in particular Chip, Mrs. Pott’s son).

Mrs. Potts says it perfectly in just one line, “we failed him.” Clearly the Beast/prince was being influenced by his less than wholesome father after his mother’s death.

You know what they say? It takes a village to raise a child. And the village (the palace staff) neglected to guide and correct his ways, in other words they were complacent in raising the prince and therefore he grew up vain and conceited.

Chip turning into a chipped tea cup was probably a way of the fairy godmother to avoid having to separate the child with his mother or maybe even served as an inspiration for the staff members as they raise him in that form, reminding them of the prince as a child and under their care.

In the other side of the ‘human’ world, the beginning of Belle warming up to the Beast was after the Beast raged on to a group of hungry wolves to save Belle from being eaten. I have to admit when the Beast came swooping in with his big arms and puffed chest, something stirred in me. I guess Belle and I had the same moment thinking, “Man, that was hot.” (lol)

By the end of the film, Belle has obviously grown to love the hairy Beast-the hair in particular-as they danced away with the prince fully transformed as a human. And so there goes their happy ending story. However I wish we saw more of the Beast in his human form as Dan Stevens is a beautiful man and a good actor, such a shame as I felt disconnected seeing him after he turned to human. It’s almost as if he wasn’t even the beast to begin with.

Bonus:

A blink and you’ll miss it moment is the scene when all the furniture changed back to human after a battle with the angry mob that is the town folks. In the scene during the battle, Stanley Tucci’s character in piano form busted its keys like shooting bullets from a shotgun, hitting the mob on their foreheads and between their legs. As Stanley Tucci transforms in to human, Maestro Cadenza, we see him smile widely with joy as he hugged his wife but with blood on his mouth and a few teeth missing (suggesting the piano keys where his teeth).

 

I said blink and you’ll miss it because I do believe I was the only one who laughed out loud before being silenced by the unresponsive audience in the theater. #

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