Thursday, July 04, 2013

Beauty and the Beast

Happy Independence Day to all our American readers!

Do you feel let down when the Beast changes into a prince? I always do; to me that moment feels anticlimactic. I was surprised to learn that not everybody reacts that way. Suzy McKee Charnas wrote a provocative essay exploring the appeal of the Beast:

The Beast’s Embrace

I don’t necessarily believe the fascination of the “Beauty and the Beast” myth always involves every motif she discusses. But many points in this essay resonate with me.

To me, the fascination of the Beast arises from his Otherness. By comparison, the handsome prince seems bland. Also, the original fairy tale describes the Beast as ugly. However, I have never seen a dramatization of the classic tale in which I think the Beast looks ugly. He impresses me as a majestic, fur-clad predator and therefore alluring rather than repulsive. Oddly, for me, the Disney version succeeds better than most others in making the Beast’s transformation at the climax into the heart-stirring eucatastrophe it’s supposed to be. For one thing, the Disney Beast has earned his restoration by redeeming himself through love and self-sacrifice. The classic fairy tale hero is presented as a noble creature all along, merely trapped in the guise of a monster by an act of seemingly random malice.

I tend to agree with the princess in a parodic skit on the old children’s TV show THE ELECTRIC COMPANY. When she kisses a frog and he transforms, she says, “If I’d wanted a prince, I’da kissed a prince.”

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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