Anyone who hasn’t read Beauty and the Beast or a rendition of it, raise your hand. Anyone? I thought so. If you’re hanging out here at my blog or on my FB author page, it’s probably a good guess you like this tale in its many forms as much as I do.
Basic premise of the story—hot girl falls for an anger management reject, ugly monster of a guy who isn’t really ugly. He’s just in disguise via a curse. Love him enough and he changes back to his handsome self. We end up with hot girl in love with hot prince of a guy. Happy ending for everyone.
Now let’s get to the blood and guts of the idea. I have a bit of a problem with that short summation. Why? Well, let’s look at the origin of the curse.
The story as told by Villeneuve and de Beaumont vary in some details from each other, but I think most of us remember it as the Prince basically being an asshole to a poor old lady and not offering her shelter in story when she begged him. If the idea of loving the beast who was actually a man didn’t hammer home the idea that looks can be deceiving, then you weren’t paying attention to this first volley. The old lady isn’t just the average crone in rags. A few choice words from her, some bad juju, and the prince is no longer God’s gift to the fairer (and ~cough~ superior ~cough~) sex. Lesson? Be careful who you piss off.
I’m good with this part. It’s the not so subtle part of the story that says “Don’t be a dick.” Now let’s get into the more tangled bit of it. With time, maturity and bucket-loads of angst (love this stuff) the Beast/prince becomes a gentler, more empathetic being, possessing an internal beauty matched by the outer handsomeness he once had and lost due his cruelty and narcissism. The reward for his redemption—and for Beauty’s exceptional discernment—is to change back to his handsome self.
Hey, I’d be the last person to say I can’t appreciate the physical beauty of anyone, man or woman. I’d love to be a hot babe myself. Still, after years of torment, of isolation and soul-searching, doesn’t being turned back into your hard body self seem a shallow reward for all that effort? Or…is this really the prince’s reward? Maybe it’s Beauty’s reward for seeing beyond the grotesque to the beauty within? Personally, I think she gets the short end of the stick with this. I’d be a little freaked out myself at having fallen in love with the ugly guy and suddenly be presented with some stranger before me, no matter how much of a babe he might be. I have more ideas about this, but I’m curious as to yours. Care to share?
What if the Beast doesn’t change at the end (a la Shrek)? Does the story lose its essence? Its redemptive quality? If so, how? If not, why?
Last but not least, why do you think this tale has such huge appeal? Its romanticism? Its morality? Its hope and acknowledgement that we can all find it within ourselves to be the Beast redeemed or Beauty with her gracious, far-seeing soul?
If you like the Beauty and the Beast romantic trope and have some book suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments. I’m going to be shoring up my TBR pile next week.
As always, In love and light...