Beauty and the Beast

Thursday, March 23, 2017


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Belle: “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere! I want it more than I can tell!”

Preface: So, my interest in fairy tales continues and takes me to theatre to witness Disney’s latest attempt on the centuries-old French fairy tale. Well, not something you cannot not expect from somebody who grew up reading, hearing and also sleeping to fairy tales. Anyways, this post does not intend to offer criticism on the movie, rather to look deeper into the meaning of the story as it is. Happy reading!

Fairy tales are infamously laden with stereotyping of gender roles - Can Beauty & the Beast be considered one exception, in this regard, with the characterization of an educated, well-read female lead, who rescues the Beast; a tall, dark and handsome 'mean suitor' and an ugly-looking, beastly 'Prince Charming', waiting to be saved by the heroine?

'Beauty and the Beast' is a story revolving around a beautiful girl named Belle and a Beast. The latter is an arrogant young prince cast under a spell by an evil enchantress. The prince is doomed to have a solitary life unless he learns to love and gains love in return. Wow! Such a beautiful curse! As the story moves, Beauty volunteers to be imprisoned by the Beast to save her father's life. Initially, she's frightened and disgusted at the sight of the Beast but as time passes by, she is amazed to discover the kind side of him. He had an expensive education and quotes Shakespeare - enough to impress the enlightened, evolved heroine. He also has a huge library that immensely fascinates the book-lover Belle. Ultimately, Belle sees the beauty in the Beast, and they both fall in love with each other. When she kisses the dying Beast with all the love she holds for him in her heart, the curse ends and he transforms into a handsome prince. In one version of the fairy tale, when the transformation happens, Belle is so head over heels with the Beast that she exclaims with disappointment: 'Where's my Beast?  I want my Beast back.'

So, what seemed unfathomable and impossible, acquires a new face when both break the spell and live happily ever after! At this thought, I leave you, my readers, to think of some part of you and your life that you can't bring yourself to accept, wish wasn't there, wish never happened. That negative aspect of your circumstances that make you feel trapped, as if your freedom has been caged in a dark, isolated, cold castle, something that you loathe, that you wish to rid yourself of. The lesson we pick from this tale is that we must learn to love the very thing in our current condition that we hate, only then can we find true solace, our happy ending. Not necessarily to win a handsome prince - that sort of an artifice doesn't exist - but behind everything supposedly unpleasant is something valuable, something you must learn to explore, treasure and love, and this is when what you despise is transformed into something pleasant. Until then, you feel trapped, not being able to cope with your struggles.

Unlike most girls of her town, Belle loves to read and dreams to exit her town and seek adventure. She is smart enough to not be fooled by looks and superficiality. Who among us could be Belle? A girl who likes to read? Doesn't fit in her group of peers? Who has a critical vision of everything materialistic? Someone who doesn't like to spend her days in shopping malls (Oops! That kicks me out of the competition BTW)? Beauty wishes to break free from conventions by dreaming about having a different life, nothing unattainable, but it's not served up on a plate - she'll have to pay a price, and win a battle to reach there; therein representing a healthy feeling of refusing the status quo and following her own vision.

Gaston is the 'tall, dark, and handsome' youth. He is a highly sought-after bachelor in town. Nonetheless, he plays 'Mr. Bad Guy'. In his words, 'It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon, she’ll start getting ideas, and thinking.' On the other hand, there is this repulsively ugly-looking Beast, who, as the story unfolds, turns out to be the Prince Charming! As far as I can think, B&B has to be the only fairy tale giving out the message that what’s beneath the surface is more meaningful than what is on the surface. The thick-skinned, compassionless Gaston does not care about Belle's feelings, and is therefore rightly rejected by her. The Beast, however, loves Belle so much he lets her go.

Belle rejects Gaston, who represents the set conventions, the system itself. He symbolizes the common mentality and the standard values. To him and the townsfolk, everything must be in accordance with the established pattern. He wants to marry Beauty not because he is in love with her, but only to conquer and dominate the one to whom he is nothing. Beauty rejects Gaston; she is born to challenge the set patterns! As a result of this, she will have to face the Beast - the coarse, grotesque and scary beast! This is what happens when mass media stereotyping is denied. Who can possibly fall in love with an ugly, unrefined beast? Only the one to whom the average mentality and lifestyle seems unattractive! Our very own Belle - The Beauty! By detesting Gaston, Beauty bravely sets the standards for the kind of life she dreams of. She wants to be herself and hence it's of utmost importance that she refuses to pick Gaston. The Beast stands for all that we've discarded, shunned, forgotten and neglected - possibly our true potential prince charming (in whatever form it is). Anything that allows us to be ourselves, and doesn't expect us to alter ourselves to match their standards!

The reason why fairy tales have been so popular throughout these years is that they pose questions of moral and social nature that influence people across the world in their routine lives. These stories richly combine antithesis - appearance and reality, good and evil, the strange and the ordinary - opposites which we find hard to understand in our daily lives. I believe this may be one reason why this instructive tale has been able to hold such sway over us even after all these centuries. 

Here is to the beauty and the beast in our lives - the ideas that we must challenge to be ourselves, and the opposites that we must accept to have our happily ever afters! 

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14 comments

  1. I adore Beauty and the Beast! One of my favorites. I love that she went on a mission to save her dad, and ended up taking his place and it worked out for the best. :)

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    1. Yes, I love it for the same reason lol especially the fact that she is probably the only Disney heroin of her time who was headstrong and so independent :)

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  2. I love fairy tales myself, and this one is in the top three. The thing about them is they push you out of your comfort zone to accept but in the end they are not so far fetched as once thought.

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    1. That's so true.. most of the times, they work as allegories and symbols for less complicated things in life :) You only get that part when you grow up, though!

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  3. Beauty and the beast. Lovely one. The moral of this content is so meaningful. Keep it up. Love to read.

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    1. Thank you :) Yes, it is indeed meaningful and deep !

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  4. I haven't seen this version yet. But thank you for your review :)

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  5. Beauty and the beast is really interesting and awesome fairy tale..Looks doesn't matter ,very touching and full of fantasy.

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  6. I really like the where's my beast ending. Great twist there.

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  7. I love a good fairy-tail beauty and the beast is one of the best story it is so moving.

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Amna's Goodreads Bookshelf

To Kill a Mockingbird
Animal Farm
Of Mice and Men
The Alchemist
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Odyssey
A Tale of Two Cities
Frankenstein
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Les Misérables
Eat, Pray, Love
The Poisonwood Bible
The Joy Luck Club
Middlesex
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Lolita
Under the Tuscan Sun


Amna Tariq Shah's favorite books »