Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test . . .
Ah, nostalgia. Beauty and the Beast was my favorite Disney movie as a kid, and we watched a lot of them, back when Disney wasn’t as sick as it is now. My sister loved The Little Mermaid. My brother loved Aladdin. But I was always firmly in the Beauty and the Beast camp. I even had a bedspread/sheet/pillowcase set with those characters on it. I still have it packed away somewhere.
I think The Little Mermaid won my mom’s “Please Don’t Ever Make Me Watch This Movie Again” award, but Beauty and the Beast still has a special place in my heart, especially now that I know what GK Chesterton said about it:
This is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.
So, of course, even with all the drama surrounding the release of the remake, I went to see it on Saturday night; partially because I wanted to see who was right about the inclusion (or lack thereof) of the LGBT agenda, but also because I wanted to love this movie.
And I did. With a gigantic caveat attached.
Here’s the promised review of the remake, but be warned: it’s more of an in-depth analysis than a review, so the spoiler alert is obvious. Then again, who doesn’t know the story of Beauty and the Beast?
First, the good. And trust me, there’s quite a bit of that. More than I ever expected, actually. I’ll start with the visuals, then get to the plot.
The director went through a great deal of trouble to make the movie look exactly like the original, down to certain camera angles and the presentation of particular scenes (note the similarities between the two movie posters above). The shot of Belle’s village at the opening, for example, leading right into the opening number: “Bonjour!”
The visuals were amazing. My sister complained before I went to see it that the art (specifically, the way the magically transformed servants were designed) didn’t match the time period. My opinion on this is: who cares? It’s a fairy tale. No matter what time period the art is from compared to the actual era the movie is supposed to be set in, it was still gorgeous. The sets were mind-blowing, especially the library (can’t find a picture of it, but here’s the ballroom:)
The costumes were amazing, even for the incidental characters. I wondered a little if Captain Gaston’s red coat was supposed to remind us just a little bit of Captain Hook:
There were some changes to the original, of course. The musical numbers were placed exactly where they had been before, but occasionally had slightly different words. Some people may scream about that, that they “ruined” it, but that wasn’t what I thought. There were some slight changes to the content, but it matched the similar additions to the plot (they filled it out quite a bit; more on this in a moment).
There were also additional songs included that were not in the original. Again, some purists will hate this, but I loved them. The Beast actually has a whole song all to himself; those of us who remember the old version will recall that the Beast sings exactly one phrase in the whole movie: “She glanced this way, I thought I saw / but when we touched she didn’t shudder at my paw. / No, it can’t be, I’ll just ignore, / but then she’s never looked at me that way before.”
He sings that right after Belle leaves to rescue her father, and it was perfect.
The casting was also brilliant. Some people may complain about Emma Watson, but I thought she did a very good job. The only part of her performance that pulled me out of the story a little bit was the “Be Our Guest” number. Of course, it involves singing and dancing cutlery and appliances, so she wasn’t actually looking at anything on the table in front of her; they were all CGIed. So, her smile was a bit forced, but she did a good job when talking to other actual actors, so I’ll forgive her for that bit of awkwardness. Besides, the point of that number is to watch the singing and dancing cutlery, anyway. That scene was very well done, and very similar to the original, including the pastel-colored lights everywhere, the synchronized-swimming spoons, and everything.
And the best joke in the whole movie: when Lumiere sings “after all, miss, this is France!” you see a gigantic meat cleaver go thwack! and chop something on a cutting board, very Madame la Guillotine. I was the only one in the theater laughing, though; it took me a few seconds to regain my composure.
The Beast (Dan Stephens) even sounded like the Beast from the original. Emma Thompson did a great job as Mrs. Potts, including singing everyone’s favorite number. Chip was adorable, Cogsworth and Lumiere were great (their teasing wasn’t quite as cute as it was in the original, but still well done).
The contrast between the happy, cheerful little village and the dark, scary, snowy castle was amazing, and much more noticeable in this one than the original. Belle and her father step from June in the village, and directly into the dead of winter around the castle.
The reviewers didn’t lie when they said it was “beautiful” and “stunning.” It was.
And now for the plot.
“A young prince lived in a shining castle . . .”
We knew that, but this time around, the Enchantress who places the curse on the prince in question is actually in the movie, not just at the beginning. We see what was going on in the prince’s castle before he was cursed, and you can tell that he’s not just a jerk; he’s a spoiled, rotten bully. It was amazing the parallel between him and Gaston, later in the movie. Gaston has his followers in the village, and the prince has his sycophants in the castle.
Then the poor woman shows up with a rose, trying to give it to him in exchange for shelter. He laughs at her, but then, so do the others at the castle, but only because he did first. Again, that happens later with Gaston and the way he treats Belle’s father, Maurice.
The plot line was so much more intricate than in the original, and that’s a very good thing.
So, of course, the Enchantress curses the castle, the prince, and all the residents, just like the old one, except in this one, the villagers are also included in this curse. They’re outside the area of effect, so to speak, but they can’t remember a thing about the castle or the prince (filling in that minor plot hole in the original).
The Beast still has to “learn to love another, and earn her love in return,” before the last petal falls from the rose. Otherwise, he’ll remain a beast forever. In addition, the servants and all the party-goers won’t just remain anthropomorphic dishes or candlesticks or clocks; they’ll turn into actual dishes, candlesticks, or clocks. The Enchantress raised the stakes quite a bit.
When we meet Belle in the village at the beginning, the emphasis on her being “strange, but special” is a little different. They go through a lot of trouble to emphasize that she isn’t just the town bookworm; she’s the only girl in the village who can read at all, and probably one of only a few people who can, period. The “bookshop” in this one isn’t a shop at all; it’s the local church (a Catholic one with a beautiful crucifix shown on screen), and she’s borrowing the books from the local priest. There are only about half a dozen books in his possession, and she’s already read them all.
I was worried when I heard before the movie was released that Belle was the inventor, and not her father. I thought, “oh, here we go with the feminazi agenda.” That wasn’t the case. She was an inventor just like her father. He was an artist, primarily, but you see him building a beautiful music box right at the beginning. The point of her being like her father is very important. She still has her nose in books, most of the time, even if she does have a slight tendency to invent things.
Later, when Belle decides to do the laundry, she essentially invents an early washing machine, with a mule to pull a barrel around the edge of the fountain, rotating it and doing the hard work for her. A little girl asks her what she’s doing, and Belle says, “the laundry.” Then, you see Belle teaching the little girl how to read.
Enter the bullies.
They berate her for teaching a girl to read, and then, just to drive the point home, they take her laundry out of her fancy invention and dump it all into the street.
This didn’t strike me as a feminist agenda, though. Think about all the places in the world where little girls are tortured and killed because they wanted to learn to read (*cough cough* the Middle East). The bullying here wasn’t that bad, obviously, but in today’s world, this is a good thing to draw attention to.
If there ever was a real anti-bullying movie, this is it.
Gaston, of course, is trying to marry the most beautiful girl in town, and he is a real piece of work.
Of course, that ends just like it did in the original: Belle turns him down flat. In this one, though, he doesn’t immediately go for the revenge tactic; he’s convinced that the ones who say “no” are the ones worth pursuing, and makes a comparison to hunting. So, he’s not just a bully; he’s a stalker.
Belle’s song about “Madame Gaston, can’t you just see it? / Madame Gaston, his little wife” was very well done, and again, just like the original, down to her angrily feeding the chickens while singing it.
Onto the meat of the story, though. Maurice is packing up to go to the market, takes his horse (still named Philippe), and off he goes. This time, though, we see a lot more of what actually happens to him. He doesn’t just get lost in the forest; it’s almost as if something (*cough cough* magic) is driving him towards the enchanted castle. Even the resident wolves seem to be herding him in that direction.
When he reaches the castle, he goes inside and sits down to have a meal (which just magically appeared in front of a roaring fire for him). Again, the story has a lot more meat on its bones this time around. When he sits down, guess who is his cup of tea?
Chip, the cute little teacup. Maurice picks him up, and poor little Chip whispers: “I’m not supposed to move. Mama says it’s too scary.”
They respected the original so much that they even put in his “Wanna see me do a trick?” later in the movie.
Maurice takes it for a minute, then puts Chip down and runs away. Before he leaves the grounds, though, he remembers that he promised to bring a rose home for Belle. Of course, he decides to pick one from the garden.
Bad move, Maurice. The Beast catches him and throws him into the dungeon as a thief.
When Philippe runs home without both the cart and her father, Belle jumps on his back and goes into the forest to find him.
And now we get to the good stuff!
Belle gets to the castle, and of course, we have Cogsworth and Lumiere whispering that she might be the one to break the spell. Belle hears some coughing, and manages to find her father locked in a dungeon.
Here’s where there’s a slight departure from the original story, but an improvement on it. Belle doesn’t promise the Beast to stay there forever, like she does in the original. The Beast insists that her father is a thief, and he’s staying there forever, and she asks that she be allowed to kiss her father goodbye. He opens the door and lets her go inside. She gives him a hug, turns around while still hugging him, whispers, “I will escape, I promise,” and then shoves him out of the cell before pulling the door shut. The Beast throws her father out, and is perfectly content to let her stay in the cell.
In this one, it’s Lumiere who decides to let her out of the cell and show her to a room, with Cogsworth objecting the entire time. Rather than the Beast basically seeing an opportunity to break the curse and sort of being nice to her from the outset, the servants have to do it for him. They get her out of the cell, into her “nice” room (covered in dust, but much better than the tower), without telling the Beast. He doesn’t find out until he sits down to dinner and sees a second place setting. The “WHAT?!?!” exclamation from the Beast isn’t for “she’s not coming to dinner;” it was for “she’s supposed to be a prisoner, you meddling servants!” (I paraphrase, of course).
The invitation to dinner has the same substance (“you will join me, and that’s not a request”), but is given through a door while she’s trying to climb out the window and get away.
It’s much more believable, but satisfies the original story points at the same time. The Beast objects to asking her to dinner and treating her like a guest rather than a prisoner because her father is a thief. Mrs. Potts reminds her master (and the audience) that a person shouldn’t be judged according to the actions of their father, which brings in a bit of background that wasn’t in the original. Apparently, the prince was an ass because he learned how to be one from his father, just like Belle learned to read and how to invent things from her father.
The end result is the same: “if she doesn’t eat with me, then she doesn’t eat at all.” And, of course, they ignore that, and we get the “Be Our Guest” number, which was delightful, and again, very very close to the original.
After that, rather than getting a tour of the enchanted castle, Belle gets shown back to her room, and promptly leaves and tries to escape. That’s how she ends up in the west wing and in front of the rose in its case.
What’s really brilliant in this version is that every time a petal falls from the rose, the castle shakes a bit, and falls apart just a little bit more. This time, the Beast stopped her before she could remove the cover from the flower, but still loses his temper and scares her away. Belle runs out the front door, gets on her horse, and makes a break for it.
The scene with her and the wolves is great, and I could tell that the director kept it just like the old scene, right down to Belle trying to keep them away with a stick.
The Beast rescues her — and this fight scene had me right on the edge of my seat — but he gets hurt doing so. Belle could have gotten on her horse and escaped, just like she wanted to do, but she didn’t. She went back for him. I love how they made sure to make sure you saw both the selfish act and the selfless one, right next to each other.
They even reproduced one of my favorite scenes:
“If you’d hold still, it wouldn’t hurt as much!”
“If you hadn’t run away, this wouldn’t have happened!”
“If you hadn’t frightened me, I wouldn’t have run away!”
“Well, you shouldn’t have been in the west wing!”
“Well, you should learn to control your temper!”
That scene, though, has one of the new songs included, and it makes it so much better:
The song touches on everything from the prince as a child, and how his father made him the jerk we know and hate, to the servants wanting to be human again, to Belle missing her deceased mother as well as her now-absent father.
There’s a very important addition to that scene, too. Belle asks Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, and Cogsworth why they stay here with him. Why didn’t they run away, or try to, like she did?
“You’ve done nothing!”
Mrs. Potts answers her (I may have it paraphrased): “Yes, dear. When his father was turning that boy into a man just like him . . . we did nothing.”
When the Beast finally wakes up, after being hurt, Belle is still there, quoting Shakespeare at him. He finished her quote for her, and she’s impressed that he reads Shakespeare (nobody in her village had ever heard of him, no doubt). That’s when he decides to show her the absolutely magnificent library. He even tells her a joke about it:
“Are you telling me you’ve read all of these books?”
“Not all of them . . . some of them are in Greek.”
He tells her that if she likes it so much, she can consider it hers.
And that’s when they start to like each other. They kept in the song from the old movie, and it’s really adorable. The snowball to the face was great.
Again, they expanded the story a bit in here. The Beast shows Belle a special book in the library, that he calls the Enchantress’ “greatest curse,” because it can take you anywhere in the world with a single thought. He was trapped in his castle, with this book to taunt him, because “there’s no place in this world for a monster like me.” He tells Belle to choose anywhere, and she picks Paris.
When they arrive, they’re not in Notre Dame cathedral or the Louvre (he even makes another joke: “too tourist-y?”). They’re in a simple house on the outskirts, and its deserted and cluttered. It’s where Belle was born, and where her mother died. The Beast finds a “physician’s mask” in the clutter, and tells Belle that her mother died of the plague (her father had never told her the whole story; just that her mother was dead). He’d had to take Belle and run, leaving her mother behind to die alone. There’s another added song here, and the Beast finally tells her: “I’m sorry I ever called your father a thief.” She takes a baby’s rattle shaped like a red rose out of the cradle and tells him, “Let’s go home.” It’s a great moment where the two of them aren’t quite “in love,” but are understanding each other. It’s another step in the romance plot line, and it works quite well.
Then (finally!) we get to the scene that everyone’s been waiting for: the dance in the ballroom. I admit, I had some bad things to say about Belle’s dress in this one, because in the trailer and the clips and pictures that were circulating around, it looked like a blah prom dress. It isn’t. Either they changed it, or they downplayed it in the stuff they released before the movie, because that dress is almost as good as Cinderella’s in that remake from a couple of years ago.
It’s perfectly, wonderfully romantic, and I’m fairly certain that even most of the camera angles were copied from the old movie. Emma Thompson did a great job singing it (not quite as good as Angela Landsbury, but still), and I loved it.
When the Beast shows the magic mirror to Belle, and she asks to see her father, things are a bit more dire in this version than they are in the old one. To backtrack slightly . . .
When Maurice got out of the castle, and the forest, and back to the village, he went straight to the local tavern and asked for help finding Belle. Of course, Gaston was there, and as the local ringleader and bully, he set the tone for all the others. Instead of just offering to lock him up, though (improvement to the plot there), he agreed to go with Maurice so that the old man could show him where this evil Beast was. Maurice can barely remember the way back, Gaston gets mad, and ends up punching Maurice and tying him to a tree, and leaving him so that the wolves could eat him.
Fortunately for Maurice, Agatha, the town crazy lady, finds him and rescues him (*cough cough* she looks familiar . . . *cough cough*). When he goes back to the tavern and Gaston comes in with LeFou, Gaston is sure to bully LeFou into lying and saying that no, they didn’t try to kill Maurice (more on this later). Back to the present, now the villagers want to lock Maurice up, at Gaston’s insistence.
This is what Belle sees through the mirror, and she wants to go. The Beast lets her go, and she leaves the castle in her beautiful yellow dress and runs to her father’s rescue. Cue the Beast’s actual song (see above), and it’s just about enough to make you tear up.
When she arrives, things are back on track for the original plot. She shows Gaston the magic mirror, with the Beast there, and he immediately starts manipulating the crowd: the Beast will make off with your children! etc., etc., etc. It’s a great look into the way bullies work. Rather than address the fact that he nearly killed Maurice, or that Belle (wearing a fancy dress and carrying a magic mirror) insists that the Beast won’t hurt them, they get swept up with the bully and his ravings.
So, they lock Maurice and Belle up in the madhouse padded . . . wagon? It was weird to type that. Anyway, they’re locked up and have to escape to save the Beast. They do, thanks to her father’s inventing mind and a hairpin (family teamwork! Yay!).
Back at the castle, the Beast really doesn’t care. The rose is almost dead, with only a few petals left, and he says exactly what he did in the old movie: “Just let them come.” And they do. Cue the fun fight scene, with the villagers being attacked by furniture and appliances.
Gaston makes it up to the tower and shoots the Beast just as Belle returns and tries to stop him. The castle is falling apart, bullets are flying, and even though you know how it ends, you’re captivated anyway. Again, just like in the old movie, the Beast manages to get Gaston by the throat and holds him over the edge of the castle, threatening to drop him. He begs and pleads, and this moment is a lot similar to what Belle did back in the woods with the wolves on her heels: drop him, or not? He says: “I am not a beast,” and lets Gaston go, and not over the edge. Then he jumps across a couple of rooftops to join Belle on the ledge, and just when you think they’ll all live happily ever after . . .
Gaston, as a coward and a bully, shoots the Beast in the back. Right about then, the last petal falls from the rose. This is a lot more intense in this version than the old one, because you get to see all of the servants — Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip — turn into just plain objects.
This was brilliantly portrayed by the director and artists. Every time, you watch as their eyes close — and in the case of Mrs. Potts — disappear completely. I couldn’t help but think of GK Chesterton when I saw that:
No two ideals could be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple. The opposition exists at every point; but perhaps the shortest statement of it is that the Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist saint has a sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The mediaeval saint’s body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive. There cannot be any real community of spirit between forces that produced symbols so different as that. Granted that both images are extravagances, are perversions of the pure creed, it must be a real divergence which could produce such opposite extravagances. The Buddhist is looking with a peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards.
There’s no real comparison between anything in the movie and Buddhism itself; that’s not my point. The point is — there is something very significant to the eyes of these characters throughout the movie. There is a lot of screen time devoted to either Belle’s eyes, or the Beast’s eyes. Here, the servants didn’t just stay anthropomorphic appliances at the end; they were so very inhuman that their eyes weren’t just closed . . . they ceased to exist. Think of that in the context of what the Beast was supposed to learn from his curse — to look outward, away from himself, and to something real, not just a physical appearance (because “beauty is found within,” according to the Enchantress). If he fails to learn that lesson, his eyes, like the Buddha, are turned only inwards. The servants, in Mrs. Potts’s own words, did nothing when they saw what was going on with the prince and his father, probably interpreted as a different kind of selfishness; as their punishment, they can see nothing ever again. It’s fairly deep symbolism for a Disney movie, but just beautiful.
When that last petal falls, the castle also starts to crumble, and the ledge falls right out from under Gaston’s feet, and he falls to his death (very satisfying ending there; I love it when the bullies get their comeuppance).
When Belle finally manages to say the magic three words, “I love you,” guess who is up in the tower eavesdropping? Agatha, the town crazy lady, also known as the Enchantress who cursed him in the first place. She smiles just barely, and the rose petals began to reattach to the dead rose stem. The castle starts repairing itself, and golden light shines around the Beast as he transforms back into the prince. Once again, I think even the camera angles were copied from the original. It was perfect.
There’s another bit of wonderful symbolism as the castle is changing from a dark and dank ruin and back into its beautiful self. There are a ton of dragons and gargoyles all over the castle, and when the gold light sweeps over the building and fixes it, the camera is focused right on a gigantic stone dragon. When that disappears, it’s replaced with a guy in a soldier’s outfit, but posing almost exactly like St. Michael, stabbing a long golden spear into the dragon’s head, which is now conquered and at his feet. The camera was right there, focused on that particular image, when the change took place.
And of course, everyone changes back to normal, the villagers remember everyone (there was even a Mr. Potts who remembered Mrs. Potts and chip), the prince is a decent (and good-looking) guy, they all lived happily ever after.
Unfortunately, in the midst of all this beauty, symbolism, music, and story, there is a fairly gigantic fly. His name is Le Fou.
When I heard about the “LGBT moment” they were planning on including in this movie, I thought that it was more propaganda to put butts in the seats than anything real and flagrant, especially after I read that Alan Menken, the original composer, said that “it wasn’t any more gay than the 1991 version.” So, I went to see it myself, to see who was right.
It’s a shame, but there really is a moment like that in the movie; a very short one, but it manages to sour the whole film. I can’t love this movie, thanks to that little bit. I don’t think I should even go back and see it again, even though I want to — I want to so very much, because it really is that magnificent a movie, in addition to being a particular favorite of mine.
Someone will probably say, “Oh, well, stop being a drama queen and just ignore whatever little tiny bit that was. You’re mature, you can handle that. Stop bitching and get on with your life.” And if this movie had a target audience of other thirty-year-old adults, I could probably do exactly that.
As it is, it’s supposed to be a kids’ movie. Which means, yes, they were targeted by Disney’s gay agenda, and parents are right to be worried about letting their children see this movie. I hoped the whole thing was just advertising, a bit of drama to sell tickets on opening weekend, but it isn’t. And the really tragic part is: the “moment” is that much more obvious and inescapable because the rest of the movie was that wonderful.
So, what is this “moment,” specifically?
Meet Le Fou:
The casting was brilliant; this guy is exactly what I would have envisioned for the live-action version of our favorite Disney minion. The musical number, “Gaston,” was brilliant and funny.
But, of course, Josh Gad had to play the character as obviously (and I do mean, flaming) homosexual. At least, obvious to a thirty-year-old adult in the audience. I’m not sure how most kids would see him.
He basically has a crush on Gaston, who is only interested in Belle. I would have been mad enough to get up and walk out if they’d made it any more . . . obvious, but they managed to file everything under innuendo for most of the movie. For example, when Gaston is talking to his reflection in the mirror (“you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” etc.”), for a moment, you think he’s talking to Belle. Then the camera pans around, and you see it’s just his reflection (good humorous moment). Then Le Fou comes up and says Belle is coming, and Gaston tells the mirror: “I’m not finished with you yet,” and walks off. Before we can see what he’s up to, Le Fou steps in front of the same mirror and says, “Neither am I!” to his own reflection.
Now, for a kid, that could probably be interpreted as the little minion wanting to say things like that to his own reflection, because Le Fou is the quintessential bully’s minion. He wants to be like the bully, but is always careful to never challenge the bully. So, if you like, you can interpret that as “I’m going to stand here and say preposterous things to my reflection, too, because I’m cool, too!” and leave it at that.
Le Fou’s next big moment is the “Gaston” song in the pub later.
I love that song. But, here again, the mannerisms of the character are just over the top. There’s a bit where Le Fou actually comes up behind Gaston and hugs him really hard (and it’s not a friendly guy-hug; you’d expect that look on Le Fou’s face to be on one of the three local girls that keep flirting with Gaston). He says: “Too much?” Gaston answers: “Ye-ep.” And they go right back to the singing and dancing. Again, not too flagrant, but definitely off-putting.
Once again, all of this could be excused, because Le Fou is a good and sympathetic character. When Maurice comes into the tavern and accuses Gaston of trying to kill him, he appeals to Le Fou to back up his story. “Monsieur Le Fou was there, ask him.” Le Fou, who has been uncomfortable with Gaston’s treatment of Maurice from the beginning, is just about to tell the truth when Gaston intimidates him into lying. “Oh, no, we never did that. He wasn’t trying to kill you, Maurice.” In the “Mob Song” (see above), there’s an added line for Le Fou: “There’s a beast running wild, there’s no question, / but I fear the wrong monster’s released.” It’s perfect — he can see what Gaston is doing, but doesn’t have the courage to stand up to him.
In the age of rampant bullying, Le Fou is a brilliant, important character, because it makes even kids see that staying silent makes him complicit. He tries to talk Gaston out of it, but backs down the moment Gaston turns his bullying on him. You can feel sorry for him — poor, bullied Le Fou — but you can’t excuse him. And more than that, you know that you don’t want to be him.
The real fly in the ointment isn’t until the very end. When the villagers storm the castle, Le Fou manages to save Mrs. Potts from smashing into the hard floor and breaking. When she thanks him, he turns her spout towards the nearest villager and lets her shoot steam in his face. She’s a bit confused as to why he’s helping the castle servants, and he says: “Well, I was on Gaston’s side, but we’re in a really bad place right now.” He’s cut off by the nearby fighting, but Mrs. Potts says, “He doesn’t deserve you, anyway.” “I know, right?” “Shall we get back to it, then?” They raised the stakes there, and I was getting more annoyed with them by that point.
Worse than the moment with Le Fou was the one with the other LGBT character in the movie. The wardrobe — who used to be an opera singer before the curse — doesn’t quite fight. She sends clothes and fabric to wrap up the various villagers instead. The three guys in the above photo with Le Fou were going to attack her when she did just that. After a second of seeing nothing but flying fabric, you see the three men dressed in over-the-top French Revolution era dresses, wigs, and makeup. Two of them run away screaming; the third inspects his dress, smiles, and prances away, while the wardrobe yells after him: “Fly away, pretty boys! Be free!” By then, I was getting mad.
I got distracted by the beautiful ending, and then comes the creme-de-la-creme moment, right in the middle of the “happily ever after” reprise just before the credits roll. Belle and the prince are dancing in the center of the room, with all the others around them, all dressed up and singing the chorus to “Beauty and the Beast,” and it’s gorgeous. Then, you see Le Fou in one corner, dancing with a maid — a female one. And you kind of think, “Oh, look at that! I take it back, I’ll let all his other weirdness go, and just enjoy the movie, because they’re not going to go there! It’s safe from here on out!”
And then, someone pulls the girl out of the camera shot, and the girl is replaced by the cross-dressing guy from earlier. They’re only on-screen for about two seconds, but those two seconds were enough to sour the entire movie.
Now, that may sound extremely petty, but think about it. As I said, the rest of the movie was so beautiful, this little bit (and the other aforementioned ones) stand out that much more. The earlier behavior I could excuse, partly because none of the other characters ever openly acknowledges Le Fou being gay. Let’s face it, kids in this country are going to be forced to run into gay people at some point in their lives. Do we allow kids to treat those people with anything less than Christian charity? Absolutely not. An interpretation can be made that that’s exactly what those other characters were doing — just ignoring it, and treating Le Fou just like they’d treat anyone else. Not even Gaston, the bully, ever bullies Le Fou for being gay; just for not doing as Gaston wanted him to do.
Then, in the midst of everyone else’s “happily ever after” moment — Belle and the prince, Mrs. Potts and Mrs. Potts, Lumiere and Plumette (the maid he was in love with), and so on — are Le Fou and this guy. The director and writers were deliberately including them in the “happily ever after” moment, as if the two things were equal and normal.
That is why it’s so very dangerous. It’s more dangerous because Le Fou is sympathetic; it’s more dangerous because this movie is targeted towards children; it’s more dangerous because it didn’t take up a lot of screen time.
I said that this was an anti-bullying movie, and it is. The horrible part of that is, the anti-bullying movie actually becomes the bully. I’m thirty years old, and I have the maturity of conscience to not let that crap get to me. What if I was eight years old? How would this have gone in that case?
My mom would have gone to see the movie first, before she let us watch it (given the bad gossip surrounding it). I’d have asked permission to see it, she’d say no, and we’d ask why, at which point she’d explain why. She did exactly the same thing when she forbade me, my sister, and my brother from reading Harry Potter when it first came out (not because of the magic; because Harry and his friends were little assholes, and all the adults were morons). We knew why she’d told us not to read it; I’m sure she’d tell us the truth in this case.
So what happens when I go to school, and one of my school friends asks me:
“Hey, Lori, want to see Beauty and the Beast with me on Friday?”
“Sorry, I can’t.”
“My mom says I’m not supposed to watch it.”
“She says that there’s some stuff in there that’s not appropriate.”
” . . . your mom’s mean!”
Enter the bully.
You either succumb to the bully’s agenda, and let your kid have their head filled with stuff that normalizes the LGBT agenda; or you become the villain of the piece. You’re mean. You’re the bad guy. You’re the bigot. Gaston was the bully, but guess what he did? He turned the mob’s anger against the Beast instead.
Sadly ironic, that.
Bottom line? If you’re an adult, go ahead and see it if you like. As I said (at length), it’s a magnificent movie. But, if you’re thinking of letting your school-age or high-school kids go and see it, think again. I have a feeling that a lot of parents are already doing that. I went to see this movie on Saturday night in Gainesville, expecting it to be packed. When I got to the theater, there were some kids, of course, but the majority of the viewers (in a theater only about half-full) were my age, or older.
It breaks my heart to have to condemn my favorite fairy story, but I’m doing it anyway. It won’t hurt the well-formed adults in the room, but it can hurt the kids out there. It’s a beautiful, well-told, amazing fairy tale, with a few tiny additions that turn it from that masterpiece and into a sorry piece of propaganda.
It’s a wonder that the Disney writers/executives/directors can sleep at night. They ought to be ashamed of this, because the movie would have been a work of art to last for generations if they’d just left their agenda at home.
Follow the squirrel minion to get to Lori’s website, Little Squirrel Books.