Old Lady Movie Night: ‘Beauty and the Beast’
Old Lady Movie Night is a weekly (or so I try) column in which we gather, dressed like grandmothers, and watch/criticize movies in the spirit of, say, Dorothy Zbornak. (If she were in her 70s and 80s.) You’re not old if you like these movies, you’re not old if you know them. But sometimes I like to think of myself as the lady on The Simpsons who throws cats at people while wearing cardigans.
What is UP, people of the planet. I am writing this from the comfort of my kitchen table, and overlooking my backyard which is currently doing its best to resemble a Disney film. Translation: there are a lot of birds and chipmunks and I saw a bunny, too. And that’s where the similarities to Disney end. (The grass is brown and awful-looking; also I can see a McDonald’s from my window.) (Which, hey. No shame or blame in that — it’s just not very “Belle.”)
But do you know what is Belle? Beauty and the Beast, the first Disney movie I’m going to write about. I loved this movie. I loved it SO MUCH. Now, over 20 years later and as a grown-ass woman, I will say I watch it in shock. First, that it was a movie made for children. (It’s so scary — honestly, it is dark.) Second, that it didn’t come with a disclaimer like, “This is a movie about Stockholm Syndrome.” Third, that the Beast ended up being a guy with a ponytail. I can’t even tell you how disappointed I’d be if I were Belle. I don’t care if it’s France in 1800-something.
Anywho. Pour yourself a cup of tea, try to stifle your anger towards Gaston (just kidding — he is THE WORST), and let’s Old Lady this up.
1. So yes, this is a movie about Stockholm Syndrome
So Belle’s dad WILLINGLY lets her stay at the castle, then Belle is treated TERRIBLY by this creature who TRIED TO KILL HER DAD. But! All of a sudden, the servants convince him to try being nice, and it . . . works? Which, okay, I haven’t been in Belle’s position before. (*knock on wood*) But even if he had saved me from a pack of wolves, I doubt I’d start considering him to be super wonderful. Like, look. I get it. This is a movie about inner beauty. But ultimately I would think: a) I’m having a psychotic break because this wolf creature has a voice, and the furniture talks, and that is impossible, and b) Remember how you forced me to be in your castle, Beast? Also, you never told me your name. This is a sever imbalance of power.
2. Also, what kind of “enchantress” turns a teen into a Beast for not letting a homeless person inside?
HE WAS A TEENAGER. I don’t even answer the door now if it’s not somebody I know because I don’t know what their deal is, let alone when I was a teen. Um, no, I’m sorry, you can’t sleep over at my house, person I’ve never seen before. I can call a cab for you? Or take you to a shelter? But . . . right?! Is this a thing people used to do? So she turns this guy into a Beast because he was practicing common sense. I’d like a movie on who this lady thought she was. Like, was she proud of herself? “Yeah, I knocked on the door of a teen boy’s house and when he wouldn’t let me in, I turned him into a creature.” And maybe he WAS rude — but when I was a teen, I was a nightmare. I once snuck into a closed McDonald’s when I was drunk to use the bathroom. I was 15 and I also worked there. At least he didn’t do that.
See also: why punish the servants?! THEY JUST WORK THERE.
3. I would kill for that magic mirror, though
Which is cruel beyond all reason because he’s stuck in a castle just watching the future happen on a hand-held device, but still. I want one. I wanted the Disney one, but my fam couldn’t afford it, so I’d go to my friend’s and play with her’s. And if the Beast’s was even a fraction of as good as the official merchandise of the 1991 film? Boyfriend had himself a real treat. So . . . at least he had that. (And a terrific selection of capes.)
4. Also, true love before age 21?!
Cracked did this amazing takedown of Beauty and the Beast in November, and the following point was brought up: true love before 21?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I know it happens, but do you know who I loved when I was 21? An openly gay man, who I was trying to convince to “turn straight” for me. (I’ve told you guys about this before, and yes, he and I are cool now.) Honestly. That is how I spent my 21st birthday. Drunk, on a curb, outside of my house, half-crying to a gay man because he wouldn’t “be straight” for me. I’d be a Beast forever, if this movie was about me. The Enchantress would even be watching and thinking, “Yikes. I . . . grossly overestimated this person. Why is she wearing a seashell necklace?” This poor guy, no wonder his rage issues are so severe. Not to say they’re warranted, but if we were to analyze him the way Criminal Minds analyzes people, this probably has a lot to do with it.
5. I still know all the words to “Belle”
That’s right, friends. Because there goes the baker with his tray like always; the same old bread and rolls to sell. I remember this, but not the periodic table. This is my life.
6. But why was Gaston such a catch?!
Those three women LOVED him. Why? Because it was the 1800s and he could “provide”? Okay, yes, I guess that’s exactly why. But what was up with Belle’s Dad not shutting it down when Belle was obviously very uncomfortable with Gaston, you know, BARGING INTO HER HOME and telling her how he plans on impregnating her immediately? What was his job, even? Hunter? Being a white man? I remember HATING the line about how “every last inch of him was covered in hair,” and to be completely honest, at 28, I still do. Why are you telling everybody that? Why is that on your resume? Who are you? Oh, yes, ANOTHER GUY WITH A PONYTAIL. Can’t we just have some chill guy come in and be like, “Yo Belle, let’s build a relationship on a foundation of friendship — sound good?” I mean, if we had to cast a main guy at all — maybe this could just be a story about Belle finding herself, then deciding she’s going to travel and become a professor.
7. By the by Belle is TOTALLY Gaston’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Right?! Non-conventional so she thinks he’s the ultimate go-to. And it’s a lie! All lies! It’s like in 500 Days of Summer when we’re supposed to hate Summer! WRONG ALL WRONG. It’s Gaston’s problem — and his weird, creepy friends too. (UGH but remember when Gaston just takes off his boots and his socks are covered in mud? WHY. WHAT WERE YOU DOING OUTSIDE, GUY.)
8. Although let’s all join hands right now and admit that this is a beautifully animated movie
Remember when Belle runs into the sunset on the hill? HELLO, YES, WE ALL DO. I remember watching that and thinking, “I could TOTALLY draw that if I wanted to.” And do you know what? I could not! I couldn’t at age seven, and I absolutely can’t now. And I won’t be able to, ever, actually, because I’m terrible at art. So cheers to the animators — you made the individual wheat sheaths look very, very real.
9. Meanwhile, WHY DOES THE BEAST IMPRISON MAURICE?
What is WRONG with you? (Other than being a 20-year-old boy trapped in a giant wolf costume.) But okay. Maybe I’m just spitballing, but say I’d been tricked into becoming a monster by a woman who was pretending to be homeless. I would be EXTRA nice in hopes of earning even more like/love. I would be like, “Oh! Old man! It’s okay! What do you want? Dooo you maybe want to invite some people over? Like, honestly, just hang here. We cool? Do you want a present?” Because hey — at least if I didn’t find true love, I’d still have friends that weren’t pieces of furniture.
10. All I wanted in my young life was to cry on the bed ala Belle in Beauty and the Beast
Do you guys know what I’m talking about? When she just face-plants into the mattress and sobs uncontrollably and it’s super tragic-looking? Of course you do! We all do. Sometimes we even think about it in our spare time. Obviously, I wanted nothing more than do that thing EXACTLY. Only instead, I would try (in the middle of a tantrum about eating vegetables at dinner, probably) and fail spectacularly, hurting my face in the process, thus making me cry even harder. Also, how old is Belle here? Is she a teen? If so, that changes this. Then this is technically a major kidnapping situation and the mob maybe wasn’t 100% wrong to be a little upset about the frequent kidnappings going down at that castle. THAT IS ALL.
11. Okay fine yes I would probably be kind of into the Beast in SOME capacity if he gave me that library
But still probably only as a friend AT BEST. Like, not even a close friend. First: he has never told me why he’s a Beast. Second, he’s got a very strange obsession with a rose that he’s also not explained. Third: He won’t let me leave the castle, so our relationship will always be one-sided. But the library would make it less of a “I hate you and WILL poison your food to set myself free” to “okay cool . . . also, do you have Netflix?”
12. Also, though, how does everyone in the town think Gaston is totally right to lock Maurice in an asylum?
So Belle and the Beast sing “Something More” which hey, it’s great — it’s a great Disney song. Sure! But then, just when things are going well, she looks into the mirror and sees her father dying in the snow (why the mirror didn’t show the townspeople gathering up her father and attempting to commit him I don’t know). So she goes home and SURPRISE! There’s a gathering of people ready to rock just because this GROWN MAN named Gaston wants to marry a TEENAGE GIRL.
Bringing us to our next point: what is UP with these townspeople?! Who are they?! Is Gaston their mayor? Why can’t they say no to him? This seems to be a village absolutely thriving: there’s a bakery, there’s a book store, there’s a fountain, there’s the deli… who is Gaston? Like, what is his actual job? Hunter? They can’t stand up to him because he’s a hunter? Does he just represent the patriarchy? Because if Gaston actually just represents the patriarchy, we are GOOD. This is a brilliant movie. But I have a feeling that’s not what he represents. I think he’s just a man who abuses steroids.
13. Gaston just… get out
GET OUT OF HERE. So he thinks Belle wants to hook up with the Beast because she DEFENDS HIM (guys, I have defended strangers — I don’t want to marry them) and also he’s a psychopath, so he’s like, “Oh! I will kill this person she cares about then — THAT will win Belle’s affections.” And again this town just thinks, “ABSOLUTELY. Let’s trust this maniac despite the fact he is obviously cruising for an underage girl, and yes I know it’s the 1800s but hey — I don’t care, it’s still wrong and I am ignoring how wrong it is.” Fortunately for us, they’re defeated by the magical servants. Not so fortunately for us, Gaston sneaks up on the Beast, then the Beast LETS HIM GO. Look. I think it’s amazing that this 20-year-old boy lets this grown man escape unharmed. But if someone were to break into MY house and try to kill me, I would be Beyoncé in Obsessed. And Gaston would be my Ali Garner.
14. The back-stabbing scene KILLED me as a tiny child
I remember losing it because WHAT THE HELL. And even my Mom who was watching it with me was like, “Whaaaaaaat is happening.” Because COME ON. Honestly just the worst. Of course, yes, he falls to his death, but can we talk about how traumatizing that was to watch? Both for us and the characters in the film? Also, I will say, it looks like he stabs him in the side, so TECHNICALLY the Beast would probably have lived, ALL I AM SAYING is that I have seen a lot of Grey’s Anatomy, and those two people lived while impaled on that pole for an entire episode. (You know the one.)
15. But it’s fine! The last rose petal falls and LOVE HAPPENS
And I know I tweeted this before, but how bummed out do you think Belle was when the Beast turned out to be a guy who would go on to have a ponytail? I mean, yes, it was 19th century France, but I’d kind of hope maybe we start with a solid “whatever hair Chris Evans has in Captain America.” I don’t think that’s asking too much, especially since Belle had been locked in a castle for one million years, and all she got was a library and an impressive assortment of clothes. Not enough. Give me Chris Evans hair or give me death, Beast. No? That’s fine, we will just get married, I guess. Never to answer to those townspeople who probably wondered where the Beast went and why Gaston is no longer with us. (Or maybe they were relieved? All we can do is assume.) (So on that note, let’s assume Belle and her Dad went on to invent wonderful things, all sponsored by the Beast with his fortune and castle. The end, and bless us everyone)
(Where were his parents?) (Also, Angela Lansbury if you’re reading this, please let’s hang out.)