Ok, let’s make one thing absolutely clear. I love Disney.
Now, I know that’s a given. As a citizen of the world, I am contractually obligated to like Disney, just like everyone else. To say that you don’t like Disney is like saying “I don’t breathe”. You can insist upon it as much as you want, but we all know you’re lying.
But taking that aside, I have a deep love for Disney movies, fueled by almost two decades of nostalgia. I was born and grew up in what is known as the Disney Renaissance, a period between 1989 and 1999, when Disney released some of their most beloved movies, like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, the latter which, to this day, remains my favorite movie of all time. (Yes, I’m childish. Fuck off.)
Which is why with todays subject, the 1991 movie Beauty and the Beast, I find it neccesary to preface that I love this movie. I love it, and I have loved it my entire life.
It is (if you pardon the expression) a tale as old as time. Boy meets girl, Boy keeps girl prisoner in his evil castle of doom, girl is comforted by boy’s animate furniture, boy stops being an asshole, girl falls in love with boy, violence ensues from jealous guy with cleft chin and everyone, who has a talent for it, live happily ever after.
We’ve heard it a thousand times.
The movie, based on an old French fairytale, remains one of the most beloved animated movies in Disney history. The sweeping shot with the two main characters dancing is still shown alongside the image of Ariel bursting out of the sea or the image of Rafiki holding up Simba, whenever Disney wants to show off.
And rightly so, might I add.
And now, I’m about to do the unthinkable… I’m about to nitpick a classic Disney movie…
To quote David Tennant:
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…
If you, like me, love Disney with a passion, I suggest you stop reading… or I would, if it didn’t mean nobody on the planet would read past that suggestion…
Instead, I will just say that I don’t mean to diminish the movie in any way. I just want to talk about some observations I’ve made on it, confident that the movie is good enough to survive some nitpicking.
That said, there is one particular issue with it I will not discuss here, that I’m saving for a future project. With that, I’m done covering my ass. let’s begin.
So, the opening of the movie tells us that once upon a time, in a far away land (which is just a needlessly dramatic way of saying “France”) a young Prince was cursed by a witch for being a horrible person.
Now, right away, I’ve got one simple question.
Prince of what?
And don’t tell me that this is just some non-specific european-ish country, like Arrendale from Frozen. They speak French in the movie, and Lumiere flat out says “This is France”, complete with an image of the Eiffel Tower!
Quick history lesson: The Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889. France, meanwhile, hasn’t been a monarchy since 1870.
So what the hell was he Prince of!? I guess it could be “Prince” in the same way that Vlad III Dracula or Prospero from “The Masque of the Red Death” was a prince, with it being another word for “lord” or similar sub-royal title… but I’m not sure I buy that as an explanation. He has a crown. Basic iconography and symbolism dictates Crown = Royalty.
And even then, what kind of crap prince, royal or otherwise, has a castle in the ass end of fucking nowhere!? Is the idea just that he’s some unknown heir to Napoleon III who lived in a distant summer palace during the whole “Monarchy to Republic” transition, and he doesn’t know he doesn’t actually rule over anything anymore?
Or maybe he does know, which is why he’s such an asshole to old ladies.
Another thing that bothers me is Lumiére, or rather, all of the servants. We know that all the furniture in the house is actually the servants, cursed by the Enchantress.
But where did all the normal furniture go?
I mean, they didn’t fuse with the furniture, since when the spell is lifted, they all just turn into humans.
Also, considering just how MUCH furniture there is, you have to wonder how many people worked in this castle. Just count the things in the dinner scene alone. I know, it’s a castle, but still… That’s an insane amount of people.
Which reminds me… Is it just me who finds it a bit hypocritical of the Enchantress to curse all the servants for the Prince being a dick?
I mean, she’s punishing him for being callous and coldhearted… and in the process punishes all the INNOCENT SERVANTS to join in the torment!?
Actually, not only servants, but several CHILDREN, (we’ll get to them later).
Way to come across as a champion for justice, you spellcasting asshole!
By the way, why was the enchantress there in the first place, and why did she have to disguise herself as a hag? If she just wanted a room for the night, why didn’t she just look like a normal person? Did she know that the prince was a dick, and decided to judge him, by making sure he acted like a dick? Again, we’re dealing with a severely self-righteous asshole here, and she decides to pass judgement on others because…
Because she does magic, I suppose….
Thanks to her, hundreds of people are now forced to place all their faith in one horrible human being finding love, because of her misguided sense of right and wrong, by not only making him monstrously hideous, but in the process causing him to develop intense self-loathing, which (since that’s a bit of a turn-off) makes him even LESS likely to find someone to love him!
I’d call it draconian, but even Draco would go “fuck me, that’s a bit harsh“.
Sure, it worked, but still! Did she know that would happen?! If she didn’t, that’s a pretty big gamble that might have forced a lot of people to spend the rest of their lives sentenced for a crime THEY DID NOT COMMIT!
Now, let’s be a bit more specific, servant-wise. I’m wondering about Lumiére and Cogsworth… first of all, it’s really lucky that the guy who’s literally named “light” or “glow” turned into a candlestick, isn’t it? Imagine if he was called something like Pinceau. Would he then become a paintbrush?
(Also, you have to feel sorry for him… 10 years, having a fire on his head… I wonder if it hurts…)
Or is it just that you become an object relating to your job? After all, Mrs. Potts served tea, so she became a teapot, the cook became a stove, the maid became a feather duster… But then, what did Lumiere and Cogsworth do?
I suppose the Prince might have been a bit eccentric and decided to give everyone ironic jobs based on their names.
By that reasoning, Lumiere would be in charge of all the candles, making sure they were lit, and Cogsworth made certain all the clocks in the castle ran properly.
I suppose it makes sense, and I’m not opposed to the idea, of course. I’m just a bit puzzled that they are the Beasts most trusted confidants.
That sounds a bit like if the White House suddenly fell under a similar spell, and the president picked the guy who cleaned the windows as his second-in-command. I guess it’s his choice, but it just seems a bit odd to me…
Speaking of Lumiére, here’s less of a nitpick and more of an interesting question.
Is Lumiere actually english?
I’m asking, because, as I’ve said, this story takes place in France. It’s safe to assume that all the characters in the movie are French.
And yet, Lumiére is the only one who speaks with a french accent. With that in mind, I’d like to share a little theory of mine. Suppose Lumiére isn’t french? Maybe he’s actually speaking with a pronounced british accent, but in a weird linguistic reversal, it sounds like french? After all, If french is english, that means, quid pro quo, that english must then be french, right?
Now let’s move onto another servant of the house. Chip.
Chip is a teacup. He’s also the son of Mrs. Potts, since he calls her “Mama” and “Mom” several times. You following me so far?
But then, shortly before the dinner scene, we see Mrs. Potts putting Chip to bed, telling him to get into the cupboard with his “brothers and sisters”.
Whoah, pull the fucking brake!
Brothers and Sisters?!
I looked at that scene again! I counted 22 cups apart from chip! Are they all his siblings?! And Mrs. Potts is their mother?! I’m not judging anyone for having many kids, but doesn’t that seem odd to you? I know we never are told that Chip is the oldest, but he’s still the only one that follows Mrs. Potts around. She doesn’t seem to single any of the cups out as his siblings, so I can only assume she’s referring to all of them. Then again, there are only six of them helping her in the climax of the movie…
But then, that raises the perfectly valid question: where did the other children come from? Are they actually the children of the other servants, with Mrs. Potts acting as a surrogate because… she’s a pot and they’re cups? I’m not an expert on maternal instincts, but I’m doubtful any mother would go “My child has been stricken by a spell! I must leave him with this strange woman, to maintain the symmetry.” I know they look like furniture, but they’re not actually furniture! Nobody is going to be upset if you stroll through the castle with your son or daughter, just because you’re a hat stand and they’re a teacup!
The only other explanation is that they’re orphans, and the Prince took them in… which seems unlikely, seeing as the whole reason he was turned into a beast was because he was “spoiled, selfish and unkind”… taking in orphans isn’t really what I’d call “unkind”, unless he put them to slave labor in the kitchen…
Sticking with the subject of servants… Do the servants age? Or are they stuck in the same age they were when the enchantress came along? I mean, either they are, in which case the enchantress may well have doomed them to spend not the rest of their lives, but the rest of ETERNITY as living furniture even after the Beast has died… Or they’re not , which means there are a whole lot of questions in this… Let’s ignore the other cups for the moment, and just answer me this….
How old is Chip?
It’s a bit hard to tell from the brief moment we see his human form, but he doesn’t look older than six or seven….
which would mean he was born AFTER the spell was cast….
For the sake of our collective childhoods, I’m going to stop right there, because otherwise, we’re going into some serious rule-34-fan-fiction territory….
So let’s instead move on from hypothetical temporal anomalies to ACTUAL temporal anomalies.
See, the Beast has to find true love by a set date, or he will spend the rest of his life in his beast form… and the rest of the servants will remain behind after he’s died, with nothing but the heat death of the universe to look forward to for the end of their torment… (Again, nice fucking job, Enchantress…)
This date is his 21’st birthday, when the rose stops blooming. Then, in the movie, we’re told that the inhabitants of the castle have been cursed for 10 years. That would make the Prince 11 years old when he was cursed. And yet, we see, in that very opening, a portrait of the Prince, as well as stained glass windows retelling the story.
He doesn’t really look like a young boy to me… In fact, he looks exactly the same as he does when he turns human again. So apparently, the Prince was either very tall for his age, or decided to have a portrait painted by someone who could see into the future.
But hey, that’s just a small issue, compared to what we’ll be finishing up with.
Like I said, the rose will bloom until his 21’st birthday, and it has been ten years since the spell was cast.
However, now that you’ve realized this, it puts the whole opening in a new perspective, doesn’t it?
Think about it. The Enchantress cursed an 11 year old boy for being “spoiled, selfish and unkind”, and who had no parents that we know of, no family, and an entire castle of people who serve his EVERY WHIM!
While you let that sink in, let’s play a little game. Think back, if you will, to when you were 11 years old. Were you a paragon of kindness and love? Were you never selfish? Were you never unkind? Now imagine that your parents were dead, missing or had abandoned you (it’s Disney, so I’m guessing it’s option A), and everyone else you know live to serve your every desire.
Don’t you think that would warp your view of the world in some way?
Let’s take this into account, and look over the opening narration again.
Some ugly old woman stops by, asks to be given room and board, and offers you a flower as payment. Now, prepubescent you is disgusted by the old woman, you don’t want her flower, and tell her to go away.
Then she tells you that you “shouldn’t be deceived by appearances, because beauty is found within”.
At this point, you’re probably screaming for guards, since a creepy pensioner is asking to stay the night, offering you a flower in return and goes on about how she’s “beautiful on the inside”.
Now, if all she wanted was a room for the night, she could’ve gone round the back and asked one of the servants for a small room with a bed in this ENORMOUS CASTLE. Hell, even if the prince knew she was there, he wouldn’t find her, since the place is so fucking huge!
But no! Instead she clearly did this specifically in order to pass judgement on this child, telling him that he has no love in his heart (because she can somehow tell that from a 30 second conversation) and decides to turn him into a man-beast and impose some demented time table for him to find love, lest he be cursed forever.
I will repeat! She put a curse on a child. A spoiled child, a selfish child, an unkind child, I agree…. but in the end he is ultimately, fundamentally, A CHILD!
A child who doesn’t know any better, because he has literally been raised to believe HE IS ALWAYS RIGHT!
This is Disney, not fucking Struwwelpeter!
Of course, you can argue back and forth about what punishment is appropriate for misbehaving children, but any and all possible justification flies out the window when she decided to also punish everyone else in the castle for JUST BEING THERE!
Including (again) at least 23 other INNOCENT children and a DOG!
Am I the only one who’s starting to think Gaston might not be the real villain in this movie?!
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got.
Now, please don’t take this as an excuse not to like the movie. It’s still one of the most beloved movies Disney ever made, and for very good reason. The music, the acting, the characters, the visuals… all of them are great.
Really, if there’s anything I want to accomplish with this, it’d be to shed light upon what might be the most underrated and simultaneously the most horrible villain in a Disney movie.
Well… Apart from Frollo… Nobody out-evil’s Frollo….