Beauty and the Beast is the classic Disney film that launched a thousand fury fetishes. Artistically, it was probably the high mark of the Disney renascence era and it was the first animated film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for best picture (it lost to Silence of the Lambs…screw that movie!)
Quick quiz: who was the villain of Beauty and the Beast? If you said “Gaston,” you are 100% wrong. Yes, he’s a total jerk face, but the real vilian is revealed at the opening of the movie. You probably don’t remember it because they glossed over it in an opening monologue read by David Ogden Stiers. He sounds so important that you don’t question him. But read the opening in my whiny voice and the red flags start dropping like a [sports reference that I don’t have for you folks…sorry] Let’s take a look…
Once upon a time, in a faraway land,
A young Prince lived in a shining castle.
See? Right off the bat we have to stop. There’s already 2 problems in the first sentence:
A) Where’s the king and queen?
How does a prince live alone in a castle? Either he’s a prince and lives with the King and/or queen, or he’s the new king. Is that not how it works? When there’s no one ahead of you in line for the throne, you can’t stay a prince, can you? Don’t you at least have to change your name to that symbol?
B) Who is he ruling over?
If he’s a prince in his castle, who are his subjects? They mention later in the film that this is France. Were there just random princes scattered throughout France? And when this guy becomes a beast in a few minutes (spoiler?), doesn’t anyone in his “kingdom” notice he’s gone missing? Who’s settling major disputes? Collecting taxes? Handling foreign relations? I’ll admit I’m an American and I have no real idea what a monarchy does…but back in these days it had to be SOMETHING, didn’t it?
Although he had everything his heart desired,
The Prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind.
But then, one winter’s night,
An old beggar woman came to the castle
And offered him a single Rose
In return for shelter from the bitter cold.
Wait…did the prince answer the door? He doesn’t have someone to do that for him? Where were all the servants? I know there are a ton of people working in this castle because they all become talking props later in the film (more on that later). In fact, later in the film we see the servants welcome two strangers into the castle without the prince finding out for a healthy amount of time. Couldn’t they have just hid the enchantress in the castle somewhere?
Repulsed by her haggard appearance,
The Prince sneered at the gift,
And turned the old woman away.
But she warned him not to be deceived by appearances,
For Beauty is found within.
Okay, I have to side with the prince on this one. If some stranger comes knocking at my door in the middle of the night, I’m turning them away. Maybe I’ll give them the number of the nearest hotel, but you don’t just show up on my doorstep unannounced and expect to have an impromptu sleep over. And this isn’t about beauty. I know the prince was “repulsed by her haggard appearance,” but that make sense. If you show up looking like a transient bag lady, I’m definitely not letting you in. The homeless population is not known for having the most stable members of society. But even if she was super hot…I’d immediately think she was a con woman. No way. You’re not on the list, you’re not getting in. And you can shove that rose where the sun don’t shine. Not only am I a rich prince (somehow) who can afford all the roses I want, but you probably stole that rose. It’s not like you grew it in your hobo garden. Move along, sister.
And when he dismissed her again,
The old woman’s ugliness melted away
To reveal a beautiful Enchantress.
The Prince tried to apologize, but it was too late,
For she had seen that there was no love in his heart.
And as punishment,
She transformed him into a hideous beast,
And placed a powerful spell on the castle,
And all who lived there.
Woah, woah, woah…ALL who lived there?! Okay maybe a few of the people should have answered the door like I said earlier, but there seem to be a butt-load of people in that castle. EVERYBODY has to pay because the spoiled prince didn’t want to let the bag lady in? How is that fair? Especially the low level servants. They had nothing to do with this.
“Hey thanks, enchantress. My station in life wasn’t low enough as it was. I was mopping the floors for the meagerest of wages…now I AM a mop and I still have to clean the floor, but now it’s with my head…which is now the bottom of a mop. Classy move. You’re a real fighter for social justice. Way to take me down yet another peg just to teach the prince a lesson. Since this is a Disney cartoon, I hope you become a mother soon so that you die.”
Ashamed of his monstrous form,
The beast concealed himself inside his castle,
With a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world.
I love how they just tuck that in there. “Oh and…uh…he has a magic mirror. Don’t worry about where he got it. He’s got it. Just go with us on this.”
What is he even looking at with it? Doesn’t seem like he has any interest in the outside world. He doesn’t use it until Belle is in the castle…and then he just uses it to spy on Belle. Then he just gives it to her. “Hey have a magic mirror. Let’s you see anything. I’m trusting you not to use it to look at me when I’m poopies.”
The Rose she had offered,
Was truly an enchanted rose,
Which would bloom until his 21st year.
If he could learn to love another,
And earn her love in return
By the time the last petal fell,
Then the spell would be broken.
If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast
For all time.
Hold the phone. You really don’t realize how messed up this is until the “Be Our Guest” number. The rose blooms until he’s 21. The rose has begun to wilt at the end of the movie. So presumably the Beast is 21 years old when we see him later in the movie. During “Be Our Guest,” Lumière sings, “Ten years we’ve rusting. Needing so much more than dusting.”
So 10 years minus 21 years old means that poor prince was 11 years old when the enchantress came to the door. This makes everything I’ve pointed out so far even worse. OF COURSE an 11 year old was a selfish brat. That’s what you are when you’re 11. Especially when you apparently have no parents around. The only people who ARE around are servants that you rule over. And why were the servants letting an 11 year old kid answer the door?
“Creepy-looking old lady at the door? Eh, the kid can handle this one.”
And EVERYONE in the castle is being punished because an 11 year old kid was a brat? Are you kidding me?! If this enchantress ever comes to America, we’re all going to be a bunch of singing/dancing Crocs, Snuggies, and truck nuts!
So there you have it, the TRUE villain of Beauty and the Beast. The movie can call her an “enchantress” if they want to, but I know a wicked witch when I see one. Cursing an 11 year old orphan boy and everyone who lived with him? And if she has that kind of magic, why did she even need shelter? She’s just walking around being evil for fun. Who’s to say she wasn’t the one who offed the kid’s parents?! If they ever make a sequel where Belle and the prince (did he ever get a name?) hunt down and murder that magical demon woman, I’m totally on board! Go get her.
Oh, the opening monologue isn’t quite over…
As the years passed,
He fell into despair, and lost all hope,
I don’t blame you, kid.
For who could ever learn to love…a Beast?
That’s the least of your problems. What if that witch comes back? She’s got your address. Run! RUN!!!
UPDATE: There is now a Part 2 to this blog