The live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast is finally here, and Disney fans are abuzz with chatter over how it compared to the much-loved animated original. Did Emma Watson's voice do those classic songs justice? Was Luke Evans convincing as Gaston? And what was up with Mrs. Potts' face?
But musical numbers aside, there's still some important aspects from the original that were either dealt with in an unexpected way, or simply ignored altogether. And given Disney's attempts to make the film slightly more relevant to the audiences of 2017 than 1991, it's a surprising oversight. Let's take a look:
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The Beast's Behavior Is Still As Toxic As Ever
The 1991 animated #BeautyandtheBeast wasn't exactly a great example of healthy relationships. The Beast is known for raising his voice, towering over those around him, and being prone to bouts of rage— just look at what he did to Maurice.
While he did allow Belle to trade places with her father on the condition that she'd be eternally relinquishing her freedom, he did give her her own room, access to most of the castle, and use of his servants. In the newer version, however, this isn't the case.
If anything, the new Beast is even more domineering and aggressive. He treats Belle like a neglected house pet; and then just one week later, the pair are a happy couple. The original Beauty and the Beast may have taught children that they should learn to love those who mistreat them, but the new movie takes normalizing abuse to a whole other level.
Truth be told, if it wasn't for the Beast's servants, Belle would still be locked in her cell, cold and starving. But even their hospitality isn't as innocent as it seems...
The Castle Staff Are Enablers
While the Beast seems to have accepted his fate to remain a monster forever, his servants aren't quite so content with facing a future as inanimate objects— especially ones that can't even sing anymore. They're aware of what little time remains for them to reverse the curse, and are desperate to free themselves.
Right from the get-go, Lumière is determined to make Belle fall for the Beast, pulling out all the stops to "charm her". Granted, Cogsworth is quite opposed to the scheme to start with. He chides Lumière for releasing her from her cell, making dinner for her and his continued disobedience against their master's intentions for his new "prisoner".
Lumière isn't alone in his efforts, either. After the Beast flies into a rage upon discovering Belle in the West wing, she attempts to flee, terrified. Upon seeing this, the servants frantically attempt to stop her from leaving.
To be fair, it's easy to see why they would react that way. They've been trapped by this curse for years, and they may not get another chance at freedom— which means they might just have to help their tyrannical master imprison a young girl.
But here's the thing with Beauty and the Beast: Belle is constantly being told that being trapped there isn't a bad situation at all, despite the importance of her own wellbeing and safety. At one point, Belle expresses her concern over her captor's temper to Mrs Potts— who simply tells her to disregard anything said in anger. While it's certainly true that hurtful words are often exchanged during heated moments, sending the message that abusive and controlling behavior should be simply ignored and even accepted is pretty terrible.
Belle's Compulsion To Mother The Men In Her Life
Belle may be one of the most headstrong Disney princesses yet, but the way she relates to the men in her life proves she's not as independent as she might think.
After Maurice lost his wife to the plague when Belle was just a baby, he was forced to leave Paris and raise Belle on his own. Now an adult, Belle helps her father out wherever possible, from household chores to assisting him with his work.
It's clear to see that Belle has had to take on a lot of responsibility without the presence of her mother. While her everyday chores aren't unusual for an 18th Century villager, it does say a lot about the emotional duties she's had to take on. Belle assumes an almost maternal role, keeping her father and the household running smoothly.
In both the original and the adaptation, Belle has grown up accustomed to this caring mother/wife role; something that becomes very obvious when the Beast collapses after fighting off a pack of wolves. Belle hesitates, knowing this is her one chance at escape— but then decides to save him. Tending to his wounds in the castle, the Beast validates her subconscious need to mother and even "fix" the male presence in her life.
Much like the original, this same sequence in the live-action adaptation could suggest that Belle's decision to return to the castle was a product of her inner wounded child, and based in emotional trauma.
The Stockholm Syndrome Theory Still Stands
Is Beauty and the Beast a case of Stockholm Syndrome? There's arguments for and against that, but it's not entirely possible to give a definitive answer. This is a work of fiction, not a real-life case study.
However, the same indicators — if not more — that Stockholm Syndrome might be affecting Belle can still be found in the remake. Unlike the 1991 original, the Beast doesn't give Belle her own bedroom or allow her to roam the castle— she only does those things behind his back, with the help of the castle's servants. He threatens to starve her if she doesn't accept his dinner invitation; and her feelings for him suddenly switch from disgust to love in a matter of a week— much like the original Swedish robbery case that coined the very name for the syndrome.
It's a bizarre choice, considering it's the biggest criticism the original film faced. Wouldn't Disney want to distance themselves from that stigma?
The task of paying homage to the magic of the original Beauty and the Beast whilst also offering something fresh and relevant was an immense challenge, and one the film easily manages to satisfy in many ways. But in regards to some of the story's more troubling aspects that caused so much controversy over 25 years ago, Beauty and the Beast is still stuck in the past.
How did you think the new Beauty and the Beast compared to the 1991 Disney original?