Friday, January 16, 2015

The Real Myth Behind Beauty and the Beast

We had a wonderful time in Disneyland this past week, so when we got home the children naturally wanted to revisit their old Disney favorites on the big screen. Since they aren't playing on the big screen, we settled for our new-to-us television in the family room. We pulled out the old stack of  VHS we own, yes, that's right, there are still people who own those, and sat down to watch Beauty and the Beast.

I've had a few qualms about this old favorite in the past, but this time as I watched, my blood began to boil.

The villains got to me, like really got to me. There are two of them, you know. Gaston, the big muscly conceded man who is determined to marry the beautiful, intelligent, kind-hearted, family centered Belle. Of course no one wants that to happen because he readily admits he will have her only to serve his every whim. The other villain, disguised by our sympathies of a curse he brought on himself, is the Beast! He is a mean angry beast-of-a-man who selfishly despises all that is happy. We first meet him when he puts an old father in a dungeon prison because he dares enters his precious domain as an alternative to dying in the cold of the night.

Kind Belle comes along and begs for her father's freedom so his life will be spared. In complete fear and distain, she offers to trade her own freedom for the freedom and life of her precious father's. Beast is obviously surprised by her generosity, not understanding the meaning of sacrifice and love. He readily accepts, thrusting the father and daughter apart without even being able to say a final farewell.

At this point Beast starts to melt the viewer's heart by giving the gorgeous captive girl a real bedroom at the request of all the other captives who are using Belle to become free from their own captivity.

Within a short period of time, Belle is no longer afraid of Beast, even though he is a violent man who rages at the slightest inconvenience. As he does a few niceties for her, it's easy to get excited to see the change in Beast. He gives her a library, he has a snowball fight with her and for once holds his temper! He does these things all while she's in every way his prisoner!

Naturally, Belle starts to fall in love. There's a name for this. It's called Stockholm Syndrome, a condition captives can develop when their captors are 'kind' to them. It's not healthy, but it's perfectly normal. And in this children's film, it's totally glorified!

"Redemption!" People scream."People change. How can you be so heartless as to not understand that people change and become good again?" I KNOW! But he's not good so long as he's keeping her locked up. Sure in the end, the kind-hearted beast decides to let her go to save her, again dying, father. Dying, again, because of him. I'm glad he let her go, but really! She comes back! Do I think she should've stayed away? No, I'm glad she came back so she could save his life. He needed to be saved, but she doesn't come back just to save him. She marries him!

I can't help but wonder how a movie like this affects a young girl. Mean guy meets beautiful nice girl and becomes nice himself. It happens all the time. Once in a while the nice girl sees the man flair, but that will all go away with time. Chances are pretty slim that the way he has responded his whole life is going to change in a few short months. What happens when she's not pretty anymore? What happens when she's pregnant and not so nice? What happens when their child spills his milk at the dinner table?

Yes, I believe people change. It's an important part of living and growing. But I don't believe a girl should be brought to believe that this slight 'honeymoon phase' in a man's life is who he really is. He really is who he has worked long and hard through many years to become.

I don't think every parent should ban their little girl from watching Beauty and the Beast, but I do think parents ought to discuss with the children the realities versus the fantasies, dispelling the myth of a happily ever after with a threatening man.