Back when I was a little girl, and I was expected to like fairy tales, I disliked them. I dislike them now too. They were boring, I complained. I didn’t like the stories, the princesses who needed rescuing. I couldn’t care less if they had long hair or were friendly with dwarfs. But this didn’t deter me from watching Beauty and the Beast – it starred the beautiful Emma Watson after all, whose feminist credentials apparently didn’t allow her to wear a corset. Bestiality never seemed more interesting.
The powers that be have tried their best to make Belle a charming, intelligent, enterprising woman. She is now a bookworm who is thought to be slightly odd by the village. She invents some kind of washing machine that involves a horse, and even teaches a young girl to read. Making way for more feminists!
The Beast is also a lover of books this time around. He is more cranky than cruel, hence easier to love. He wants to imprison Belle’s father for stealing a rose, which does seem too harsh a punishment. Belle volunteers to take her father’s place – because she is beautiful inside and out. The Beast is a beast as he was unkind and therefore cursed to this existence. His appearance will return to blonde handsomeness once he learns to love and is in turn loved by a good person (Belle). This has always been the most problematic part of the story of me. You see, while we know the Beast is a golden prince beneath all that facial hair and tail, she doesn’t know that. And yet she falls in love with a talking boar. Yes, they bonded over growing up without mothers. Yes, I know beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and you are only as beautiful as your heart. But did he have to be an animal? Were society’s standards of ugliness for human beings not ugly enough? And there is the small matter of a woman falling in love with someone who is holding her captive. Of course, all of this would be different if the Beast was poor and didn’t live in a castle with furniture that kept bursting into song, but this is a fairy tale and we understand that too much wealth is a good thing.
Also, it always snows in the castle grounds, while the rest of the village enjoys summer – an outward expression of the Beast’s cold heart, no doubt. But a problem for climate change scientists world over.