In recent months, I have seen two Disney movies in a movie theater. Neither of them was a blockbuster new release, but rather timeless classics, in my humble opinion. For this post, we will focus on the most recent movie I saw was just last Friday night, when I went to see Beauty and the Beast in 3D.
Now anyone who knows me, knows I am not a big fan of the 3D experience, but I am a huge fan of anything Beauty and the Beast. When the movie was last in theaters, 2002, I went with my friend Michael C. and we enjoyed the movie in the IMAX setting. So it was only fitting that we should go to see it in 3D.
We chose to go at a later time, when there would be fewer children present. Imagine our dismay when we walked into the theater and as we anticipated there were no children, but something worse! Droves and droves of TEENAGERS!!! On a Friday night! I was stunned that there would be so many teens interested in a Disney movie. So we made our way through a cloud of raging hormones and rudeness to our seats. The chattering was so loud that I really was sure that our movie experience was going to be ruined. But when the lights dimmed, everyone grew quiet and the movie began.
Belle began to sing and I won’t lie… I began to sing too. Under my breath, every word coming to my lips like I had been watching this movie everyday since it came out, all those years ago. And I wasn’t the only one. I could hear the girls behind me singing softly. And I could swear I heard Michael’s deep voice as well. It wasn’t a sing-along, but no one was mad that practically everyone was doing it.
Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Disney movies for several reasons:
- First, it is a story about a bookworm, a character I can relate with because she prefers the company of characters in a book to the company of real people. She is intelligent, kind and independent.
- Second, she aspires to do more than what the society she lives in expects from her. Whether or not she succeeds is irrelevant. The fact that she aspires sets her apart.
- Third, the movie teaches that physical appearance is not important but what is inside a person. One might think I am referring to the Beast, but no, it is Gaston who drives this point home. He’s “such a tall, dark, strong, and handsome brute”. But he is rotten to the core and no one sees that, not even Belle, until the end.
- Fourth, the movie reflects how society has a “sheep” mentality, with the majority of people follow and a minority of people challenge stereotypes and societal views. Most of these people who dare to think for themselves are educated – Belle, the bookworm and her “crazy” inventor father etc. And before anyone can point out that Maurice judged the Beast the same way Gaston did, I will ask you this, if you had been tossed into a cold, dank dungeon for no real reason other than you stumbled into a dark castle looking for shelter, and then were torn from the arms of your loving child who came looking for you and were expelled from said dank dark castle with no chance to save your kid, would you think the Beast was a cuddly loving creature who would take care of your daughter? I don’t think many people, educated/intelligent or otherwise would. Maurice had reasons while Gaston and the villagers were just going on their own stereotypical vision of what a Beast is.
- Fifth, the movie shows that people can change and mature if the motivation to do so is strong enough. I won’t say that it teaches that love changes people, because I am not certain that is truly the case. What causes the Beast to change is not love… He changes because his motivation is to become human again. At the beginning of the movie he clearly shows that he is incapable of loving or caring for anyone. As time goes by, he grows crusty and cruel, but in his heart there is a desperation, a realization that his physical appearance is a reflection of the loathsome person he was inside. He hates the creature he has become and that becomes the motivation for him to take the risk and open himself to the possibility of loving someone. After all, one of Gandhi’s top 10 fundamentals for changing the world is to change yourself. And when the Beast does change himself, his world literally does change.
- Sixth, B&B addresses the idea that love is sacrifice. Beast could totally have said, “Look Belle, go take your Dad home and when he is better, come on back.” In the more traditional versions of the story, that is what happens, but Beauty, not being as intelligent in those versions, forgets to return in the time allocated and that is what brings Beast to the verge of death. But in the Disney version I think it is important to note that Beast makes a great sacrifice by giving up m his chance to become human again, to make Belle happy.
- Finally, it has a happy ending. The only thing I dislike about the ending is that Belle is changed too. She isn’t the woman who is so independent it the beginning of the movie. She whimpers and cries out when Gaston is trying to kill the Beast as opposed to the woman of action she is until that point. Also I think it would have been pretty cool to see her kick Gaston in the face causing him to plummet to his well deserved demise. But all is well at the end and Farheen can deal with that.
This movie came out in 1991, when I was a freshman in high school. And I grew up with it as did all the teens that night at the theater. While I felt somewhat old being there with all the young people, but the fact is that a movie like Beauty and the Beast draws generations together. It is timeless. And it gave me great comfort that there were probably many people in the audience who are drawn to the romance and message of it.
It reminds me of the other Disney movie I saw recently, which was a sing-along, incidentally. But that is Part Two of this post.
*PREVIEW ANNOUNCER VOICE* “Coming soon to a computer screen near you…”