Note: I would warn of spoilers, but I feel like I can’t really spoil a tale as old as time.
When watching Disney’s recent live-action revamp of the 1991 classic “Beauty and the Beast,” the only things beastly about it were the guttural sobs escaping from my throat. I found nearly everything about the film beautiful.
I was raised on Disney classics, as were most people my age. Watching those films was the only activity that shut me up as a kid, and the main reason was because (incoming cheese alert) they made me believe in magic.
I know, I know. That sounds super lame, but as a little girl, I visited Disney World with my family nearly every summer, and those visits authored most of my earliest memories. To me, Disney means dreams, and watching this latest live-action movie, I was overcome with nostalgia.
I know Disney has its faults, and a lot of the early princesses promote sexist, antiquated gender stereotypes. I mean, Aurora from “Sleeping Beauty” is just pretty and falls asleep, and that’s basically all she does.
But as a 20 year old, I can recognize the faults that these movies have. In the 1991 “Beauty and the Beast,” there are quite a bit of plot holes and character flaws.
Here are a few:
1. The entire aspect of the curse. The cartoon movie basically insinuates that a 10-year-old prince turns away a stranger, who then gets mad and curses him into a beast unless he finds love before he turns 21. There are many gray areas in this story, and it seems like the witch was just crazy and irrational. I can’t blame the little Prince for turning her away.
2. The witch also turns everyone in the castle into inanimate objects even though they really had no part in the prince’s decision to turn her away. Talk about being extra.
3. Somehow none of the townspeople are aware of the prince or the castle, even though it seems to be relatively close by. That seems like something difficult to forget.
4. Let’s face it, Belle is pretty pretentious. I know the movie tried to make her seem like a smart woman looking for adventure, but really she sings about wanting more than the “provincial life” she has in the small village she lives in. The village is just an ordinary small town, and all the people seem decent, or at least, they don’t do anything directly to be rude toward Belle until Gaston gets them all riled up. The bookstore owner even allows Belle to borrow any book she wants for free. She just looks down on everybody because they are content where they are. I understand having wanderlust, but that doesn’t mean you have to be condescending.
There are more, but those are some big ones that people have addressed over the years. Well, lucky for us, the new remake seems to have patched up a lot of those plot holes.
For starters, the remake gave a lot more attention to the curse, allowing the prince to be older and genuinely rude and cold to others. This made him seem much more deserving of the curse.
The witch also curses the employees in the room during the magic transformation, which seemed like more of an accident. The nearby village also was cursed to forget about the castle, the prince and all those who worked in the castle. Those in the castle seem to not age, and the main theory is that the townspeople don’t age until after the curse is lifted, stomping out the potential for a weird age gap.
Finally, the main reason for my praise and tears: Emma Watson’s portrayal of Belle. This new adaptation really pushed Belle from being pretentious to being the dreamer she was originally supposed to be.
Belle is smarter, stronger and way less pretentious. She is called out as the “only bookworm” in town, and she doesn’t look down on the townspeople as much as they look down on her for being so different and advanced for a woman of her time.
At the point in history that the movie takes place, men were really the only educated ones, so it is strange and even frightening for them to see Belle so empowered. She literally invents a makeshift washing machine, so she has more time to read.
When the townspeople see that, as well as Belle teaching another young girl to read, they become somewhat violent, breaking her machine and throwing her laundry in the mud.
All Belle wants is an adventure in the “great wide somewhere” and watching her sing it “Sound of Music”-style on a mountain top was the reason for one of my sobbing fits because, well, same.
Some people are upset filmmakers cast someone as iconic as Emma Watson to play Belle. They argue that when people see Watson, they see the actress as opposed to the character.
I disagree. I think there was no better actress to completely fit the role of a smart, empowered, young woman (with the specific aesthetic qualities of the original character) who wants more for herself and other young women. She even grew up in France.
I saw Emma Watson playing Belle with the elegance and grace of a Disney princess, and she brought this iconic character to life throughout the entire film, making magic real again.
At the movie theater, I happened to look over and saw a little girl sitting next to me. This made me start crying again because it hit me that this was the “Beauty and the Beast” that she gets to grow up with. I thought about how lucky she was to have this more developed version of the character to learn from. It made me really proud.
Also, if you haven’t heard the movie’s soundtrack, you are truly missing out. My new favorite activity is listening to “Belle” on the way to my morning classes. I find it puts me in the best headspace. (But on the down-low, Josh Groban singing an original “Evermore” is a punch straight to your feelings — but in the best way).
Now, excuse me, while I go lay in bed and listen to the sweet, sweet buttery baritone of Josh Groban.