Monday, October 7, 2013

CW's "Beauty and the Beast" Season 2 Premiere Tonight

CWs reboot of Beauty and the Beast clearly struck a chord, quickly building a loyal and solid fan base last season, so the show is back for a second round, looking bigger than ever and pushing the envelope a little more too.

What I find interesting about this season is that, in many ways, the premise for this arc is actually closer to older tellings of the fairy tale than the first season was. In this coming season you have Catherine (our modern Beauty) who has clearly committed her heart (at risk of her life) to the Beast but in this attached state she, this season will find him a stranger and will have to work through that.

This very much tracks with the idea of the story being about marriage; how a girl/woman is committed to a new way of life and has to adjust to this new state and all that means. With Leprince de Beaumont's story, fairy tale scholars say she specifically meant the story to be a warning/explanation of sex (and sexual expectation) in marriage and how that's a scary thing for many girls but also that you can learn to have happiness (in marriage) if you persist in your commitment. Now that we have rituals of dating and romantic engagement before marriage (I say romantic, meaning the couple tend to be in love before the wedding rather than following through on an arrangement) it is not unusual for couples (women in particular) to find themselves married to someone very different to the person they've dated. The difference in an arranged marriage is that couples expect not to know each other and are prepared to take time learning about their new partner and life, whereas modern couples are often taken by surprise at a partner's different behavior after a wedding, sometimes to the point of complete disillusionment. In a state of romantic pursuit, people (men in particular) tend to act very differently to when they have attained that "prize" and are settling into a married-and-sometimes-kids life. It's not a purposeful thing (usually) but it is a consistent thing and adjusting to this can be difficult - for both parties. The first year of marriage is often said to be the worst because of this. (Welcome to ever after!)
You may have heard a lot about the “changes” that Vincent goes through that put a strain on their relationship (specifically, he’s all Grrr-y now) and while you get the sense it will definitely be a battle to recover what they once had, there’s one very important gesture he makes that will fill your heart with hope. (source)

In this sense the metaphor of Beauty and the Beast for marriage is taken to extremes in this coming season with Vincent (the Beast) not only having challenges in keeping his human side dominant/present but also in that he's lost the memory of everything he and Catherine (his Beauty) have shared to date. Saying things are going to be tough is an understatement.

The show core of Beauty and the Beast, however, definitely has a strong optimistic heart of romantic idealism to it. No matter how many militia are faced or buildings explode (or, apparently, memories are lost) you know Vincent and Catherine are going to find a way to be together and that their love will conquer any obstacle.

Unlike the first season in which the lure of that "very different", seemingly unattainable and impossible match is what keeps the fire going in the relationship, this season seems to be dealing with a more realistic approach (and challenge). Intense feelings of new love and the rush of forbidden excitement won't be enough to get them through it all now. It's going to have to be deeper and more purposeful relationship than that and this is the big theme the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale rides on.

While there's no doubt the CW show is more about a romantic premise than retelling a fairy tale, what they're doing with it now actually resonates pretty well with the original stories. At the same time, the popularity of the show makes it clear that this what Beauty and the Beast represents to people today - of loving against expectation/the norm, of love conquering all, that commitment/true love conquers seemingly impossible obstacles in relationships. It's clear that this tale still resonates deeply with many today and probably always will, no matter what form the telling takes.

As a side note, I wanted to include the different posters appearing for the show in the post for comparison of themes and how ideal love is represented to two different audiences. The Canadian (and New Zealand?) premiere of the show has a very romantic yet romeo and Juliet feel in the promotional material (they are the more colorful images complete with being bound with thorns and roses and drowning in petals for Showcase) whereas Singapore and other Asian countries are choosing the harder, more warrior-looking images (aka edgy or death-cannot-keep-us-apart vibe) to promote the series beginning, which is what Season 2 is using in the US. Both, however, aren't shy in showing Vincent's facial scarring or suggestions of his "otherness". It's very different to the much softer (aka safer) way the US was introduced to the debut which barely had any hint of Beast at all. Interesting.

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