Thursday, April 13, 2017

'Beauty and the Beast' 2017: MORE 'Best Thought Provoking Articles' About the Movie on the Internet (Pt II)

This is likely the last post focused on Disney's current billion dollar (!) hit, the live action Beauty and the Beast. These are the remainder of the articles and summaries not included in the first list (you can find Pt I HERE), as well as a few new ones that have been written since then. The focus is a little different too. We dig into history as well as looks at parallels with the present day political and social climate, and look at the timelessness of the tale and the resonant issues that have been implied in every version (along with why they're still relevant).
From "5 Bo-Po, Feminist Things We'd Like to See in Beauty and the Beast"
(article written before movie release by social justice advocate,
who promotes awareness & education 
on issues of
mental health, and on violence against women)

We really like how many of these articles are using the opportunity to expand on the most-tired-&-talked about subjects - it makes for a nice brain stretch and something fresh to discuss!

We've included the link, the origin (either online magazine/newspaper, website or blog & writer), and a brief summary and/or excerpt to give you a taste of why we think it's worth a look.

Note: All art images (bar the cartoon at right & a couple of instagram captures below) are from the Gallery Nucleus Show "BE OUR GUEST: AN ART TRIBUTE TO DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST" (of which we shared  preview HERE), showing from March 11, 2017 - April 2, 2017. 
You can see the rest of the art at Gallery Nucleus HERE.
SMACKDOWN: Jordan Peale’s GET OUT vs. Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST - Maria Tatar's blog Breezes From Wonderland
"It’s rare to have a moment when two high-wattage cultural events collide to bring back a story–in this case Beauty and the Beast. One of those blockbuster films, Disney’s live-action version of that story, “smashed records,”...
Then there was Jordan Peele’s Get Out, a Beauty and the Beast story that pulls out all the stops and gives us what horror movies do best, exaggerating and amplifying our cultural anxieties, and putting what Frank Bruni of the NYT called a “fantastical, grotesque spin” on things. Get Out (budget of $4.5 million) as a Beauty and the Beast story? Yes, it’s that and Bluebeard too. Only in this case, the monster is Rose..."

'Beauty and the Beast' Comes From a Long Line of Stories About Women Hooking Up With Animals - Jezebel
"...the confluence of modern fan culture and the big business of viral content have conspired to cram every possible remix of the Disney princesses onto your newsfeed. Every new blockbuster and every new article picturing Ariel, Belle, and Aurora as hipsters or breastfeeding moms or activists binds the fairy tale even tighter to Disney, obscuring the source material that little bit more. It behooves us to pause and look at one particular tale’s long history of retellings and consider what we lose by letting Disney dominate.
... The tale we know today is likely descended from the story of Cupid and Psyche. 
The tale is part of a broader, deeper tradition of stories about women and men disguised as beasts..."

Belle’s costumes don’t fit the live-action Beauty and the Beast, but they fit her brand -
"Belle is the jewel in Disney's crown, and her success is so important that not even the costume design around her is going to stand in her way, even if it doesn’t make sense for the setting or the character. Belle's iconic costumes — in particular her simple blue day dress and her voluminous golden ballgown — are great for the brand; they’re more awkward for the story.
But Belle doesn't look the part, and she was arguably never really meant to. She was designed top-down as a princess, dressed as a brand rather than a character — which makes her a living glimpse into Disney's nostalgia machine.
It's possible (costume designer Jaqueline) Durran has been clear about where credit's due because the dress disappoints on film; it's more an Emma Watson dress than a Disney wonder. ...The major thing this gown tells us about Belle is that Emma Watson plays her."
Beauty and the Bestiality - The New Yorker
Not as lewd a discussion as you might be led to believe from the sensational-making headline. It largely talks about the issues of falling in love with one form (the beast) that is then transformed into something else entirely (a man). It centers on the differences between Cocteau's underlying themes and commentary (including the "give me back my beast!" finish), versus Disney's, and also discusses Maria Tartar's new book on Beauty and the Beast, along with a number of 'beastly-bride' fairy tales - most of which regular fairy tale readers will be familiar with, even if they're not well known otherwise. We like that they finish with The Crane Wife.

"In Anthony Lane’s review of “Beauty and the Beast” for the magazine, he noted the glint and tug of sex in Jean Cocteau’s 1946 “La Belle et la Bête,” in which the Beast, after becoming a man again, says to Belle, “It’s as though you missed my ugliness.” Lane writes, “The lady preferred the animal. Such thoughts are out of bounds, needless to say, in the Disney garden.” And still, at the end of the remake, as Belle is dancing with her prince, who wears powder-blue pants and a hair ribbon, she asks him, flirtatiously, if he’d consider growing a beard. He looks back at her knowingly, and gives a short, beastly roar.
The “Beauty and the Beast” story may originally have held appeal because of its relatability. “Many an arranged marriage must have felt like being tethered to a monster,” Tatar writes. 
The animating question behind these tales of beastly alliances, however, remains: Which desires are quashed, and which are awakened? What is the heroine robbed of, and what is she given—both in the manner in which her story is told and within the story itself?"
Would The ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Characters Have Died In The French Revolution? - uproxx
This is both a fun article and good food for thought, focusing on the faux-period the movie is sort of set in. The writer is fully aware of both how absurd this 'fictional investigating' is, as well as bringing up some great points about what war Gaston and LeFou have returned from, general forms of dying at the time (which, has become a more common question with both Belle's mother and the Prince's mother given 'death' stories in the new film), The Sun King and where he might fit into the aristocratic picture, as well as whether or not Belle and the Beast would have survived the French Revolution or not.
The Fairy Tale That Won't Die: Beauty and the Beast - Disney Revives the Fantasy of Captivity and Monsters for Young Girls -
Written by someone who isn't a fan of the Disney princess machine, this article comments on the current political climate and parallels between it and the French aristocracy of the 1700's. Not as balanced in its argument as it could have been, this nevertheless highlights some different issues some people see as problematic in the film.
Beauty and the Beast: feminist or fraud? - The Guardian
Looking at the film with a critical eye - how feminist is this really? - the article delves into a few different areas, prodding at whether the 'feminist updates' are on point or if they're really just ineffective tokens. 1) incomplete subversion of the genre, 2) glorification of male domination, 3) surrendered filial relationship, 4) the great lacuna where Belle's character should be and 5) Palpable fear of ugliness. We would have liked this article better if they had paid better attention in the remake as some of the protests (eg make Belle's father less useless) were actually addressed, and addressed well, but it does bring up some excellent points we haven't seen discussed elsewhere.
This article is one of our favorites. It outlines what feminism really is and how the contemporary view/idea of feminism is actually working against the principle - many examples of which can be seen in the new Beauty and the Beast if you look closer than the surface.
The Beauty of Jean Cocteau’s ‘La Belle et la Bête’  - FilmSchoolRejects
"Forget Disney’s recent reiteration of the classic fairy tale and instead look back at where the tale’s magic began on film, with Jean Cocteau." This essentially explains why Disney's classic BatB as well as the new one still don't eclipse Cocteau's film - and why people will continue to return to it. Comparisons to the 2017 film are used but not dwelt on, for good reason, as you will read in the article.
'Beauty And The Beast' Follows A Tradition Of Animal-Human Love Stories - NPR with Maria Tatar (audio)
Transcript included. "TATAR: One reason that we relate to this story, we love it so much, we embrace it as our cultural story is that it tells us about the other - about the other who can seem beastly and terrible. And it proposes that we make a move in the direction of empathy and understanding, rather than revulsion and horror and fear."
'Beauty and the Beast'-Lord Voldemort Mash-up - PistolShrimp comic video. It's said that "Harry Potter fans are guaranteed to hate this", but we disagree. We think, although done for comic effect, it perfectly illustrates some of the issues people are concerned about. And it's funny.
Why Belle Should Have Chosen Gaston - - Belle will definitely have been sent to the guillotine with the beast.
This article comes to a different conclusion about Belle and the Beast during the French Revolution - with good reason. Broken down into easy-to-digest Power Point presentation pages, this one is being circulated by well known scholars. Both hilarious and excellent, it attempts to get the facts straight (and extrapolate about likely story development 'after the movie' for various characters) about the time period, including what choosing the Beast over Gaston would have resulted in. Reading this made us not want Belle to choose Gaston, but find some other way to be truly feminist and make her own destiny, rather than getting embroiled in the likely futures of either Gaston or the Beast as the story currently stands. (Note; we're not saying she couldn't have ended up with the Beast - just that more change is needed there if she/they are to survive the inevitable future of the Revolution.)
Gaston Arrogant Villain or Misunderstood Hero? -
A roundtable with men arguing both sides, which although done in humor and a little parody here and there, hits close to home for today's males.
"Beauty and the Beast" is a pretty film disguising the ugly beast of misogyny -
"Stop calling this a feminist movie." Worth reading for a discussion of what can be called 'half-hearted feminism' in society today, including Hollywoods's current efforts in filmmaking, casting and storytelling, and the disquieting image of Ivanka Trump's supposed feminism as she works in her father's White House/office.
Indian Artisans behind 'Beauty and the Beast' dress revealed - by Manveena Suri, CNN Threadwork of Belle costume has roots in Gujarat. The unreported stories of the Indian influence on designing Belle's wardrobe, as well as a look at the process it took to create an ethical and eco-friendly, sustainable costume. That the workers themselves haven't been reported and credited except by local press is ironic - though this isn't commented on with regard to the messages of the movie. There's an unwritten story in Belle's costumes waiting to be told... this article doesn't delve into that side, but it does raise awareness of some of the "little people" (as Belle would call them) who were involved in the film.


Why Is Belle Indecent? - DocInBoots
The animated film was not, needless to say, historically accurate and there’s no reason for the (current) film to be so. However, the film does reproduce the intricacies of eighteenth century fashion, so Belle’s fashion choices do strike me as overtly anachronistic. No wonder the villagers thought she was odd!
... One of the things that struck me in the (2017) film was that Belle was often running about with her underwear showing! How embarrassing! This was, of course, an effort to create a more ‘feminist’ wardrobe for the active heroine, but for a viewer familiar with fashion history, it could be perplexing. There were a flurry of articles about Emma Watson not wearing a corset, ascribing this to her desire for Belle to be unimpeded and active. However, corsets of the time were designed to support women’s activity and… basically… to support their bosoms! There were no bras. Corsets helped prevent painful bouncing situations.
Getting Gaston Right - DocInBoots
Gaston's popularity isn't something we realized until we saw the lines to meet the character at Disneyland. What is it about such an obviously-despicable character that has women (for the most part) dreaming about him? (And what does this say about women today?)
"It’s difficult to pin down why Gaston is such an attractive figure, despite being completely awful, malicious, and terrifying. I remember speaking to one actor who had played Gaston and he professed to being very confused about the women who gathered at the stage door to see him! Yet, there it is. "
Beauty and the Beast Time Loop Theory - from Reddit, one for the fans.
Perhaps the village is stuck in their own mid-18th century Groundhog Day... The theory neatly ties up  few odd issues, even while it brings other questions to the fore.
Let's talk about the weird psychosexual energy in Beauty and the Beast - TheWeek
"...the original (Disney movie) was built around distortions of masculinity that are tough to replicate live — from a rakish talking candelabra to a literal sexy beast to a man who ate 48 eggs every morning to help him get large. It takes secondary sex characteristics to a truly troubling extreme, sexualizing feather dusters and repeatedly showcasing the contrast between tiny-waisted Belle and her giant-biceped muscle-suitors. It asks you to regard inter-species love as redemptive while begging you not to think too hard about it, and tricks you into kind of hating that redemption when the poor castle servants recover their former shapes. (I'm sorry, but human Mrs. Potts isn't half as charming without her teapot face...)
But by acknowledging the stranger aspects of the original, Bill Condon's live-action adaptation is an appropriately uncomfortable delight. "
Belle's Tax-Funded Fairy Tale Life - FEE Foundations of Economic Education
Another great article looking at practicalities of the setting. Turns out the "little people" in Belle's town are anything but rustic, backward and ignorant. They're actually very successful business folks and specialists in their thriving trades (so much commerce and produce for one little town!) The 'boujee' castle (ie. elite) and court of the Prince/Beast is contrasted with the town and one begins to wonder if the town wasn't better off with a Beast instead of a Prince. But Belle's aptitude for invention may be the way forward... A well researched and entertaining read.
In Fairy Tales, Less Is More - The Straits Times Culture Vulture Column
The problem of getting too specific in a classic tale is both the number of details required for it to make sense (and the inevitable issues that don't) but even worse is that the sense of adaptable magic - magic that has its own form for anyone who hears or reads the tale - is in danger of being lost because of the specificity. The magic of the story, and therefore its resonance, is no longer as accessible to as wide an audience.
"Spelling things out for the audience can cause stories to lose their magic.
Not too long ago, I revisited an illustrated book of fairy tales I used to love reading when I was a kid. Leafing through its dog-eared pages, I was struck by how sparse, nondescript, the illustrations were compared to how I'd remembered them.
A sketchy rendering of anything - a rose, a water pump, a library - can expand into something larger than life if it captures a child's imagination.
But do films with such high-definition and sweeping cinematography give children the same scope for imagination that more "primitive" mediums such as books, cartoons or even older films used to offer?"

The Feminist Message of the New Beauty and the Beast Has Always Been Part of the Story -
“... ever since its first publication in 1740, the story has had another, perhaps even deeper takeaway: the importance of a woman's right to choose her own husband.
"... It’s a story written and published by a woman, with a strong female character at its lead, who is very reflective and intelligent and she makes her own choices, which is not something you saw in French literature or in French society at the time,” says Paul Young, associate French professor at Georgetown, who teaches a course on 17th and 18th century French literature."
What 'Beauty And The Beast' Teaches Us About Girls' Education - MoviePilot
"... having the release of Beauty and the Beast at this particular point in history brings the focus back onto the subject, particularly at a time where there are calls to make mainstream feminism more intersectional and address issues that women in minority groups face. It infers to us, the audience, that the disapproving glances Belle receives on her daily trips to the library can manifest in far more aggressive ways for many girls across the world who don't have access to primary or secondary education. This could be through violence or an arranged marriage. But, this can be changed if they are sent to school, and consequently given the opportunity to decide what they want to do with their own future."

Found an article worth sharing that we missed? Let us know - either by mail or in the comments - and we'll update this post, with thanks and finders-credit to you. :)

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