This post comes from a conversation with Chloë Forbes-Kindlen, where we ended up talking about the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. She said that the part she hates the most about that movie is that the Beast transforms into a normal human at the end, and why do that? The Beast was fine as he was. So, I asked Chloë to collaborate with me about it. She ended up writing such a great and passionate piece that I don’t want to add a thing. Here’s Chloë:
Beauty and the Beast was one of my favourite Disney films growing up but even watching it at age 5, it just felt so disheartening watching the Beast be transformed back into a Prince at the end.
The message was supposed to share the importance of seeing people for who they were and valuing love, kindness and acceptance over the superficialities of external appearance.
So why at the end of the movie would they turn the beast back into a Prince?
I’m mad at Disney.
The beast wasn’t the monster in this story.
In the movie, Prince Adam is transformed into a Beast for being arrogant. That seems like a slightly harsh punishment but I guess they figured it would be fitting to have his outward appearance match his internal persona. I get it.
As soon as he became a beast, the villagers (including the truly arrogant hunter Gaston) no longer looked up to him. They feared him. In an instant, their perceptions changed.
The Beast is supposed to be the monster in this scenario. A questionable theory given he was the exact same character, just a different appearance.
Some *may* argue the group mentality of the villagers who followed Gaston’s lead and were quick to dismiss, cast aside and stereotype the Beast without a second thought, are the truly arrogant, and ignorant ones.
It left me questioning who the real monsters were.
We are all Beasts.
Granted, the Beast was a little rough around the edges. He presented himself as the version society portrayed him to be. He started to personify that character as a consequence of being judged and stereotyped.
Belle saw who he truly was behind his hardened exterior – armour he used as protection. She saw all of him including his heart and his potential. She showed compassion, understanding and a willingness to open her heart and mind. In doing so, she was able to show the Beast how to do the same. How to let down his guard and be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is arguably one of the more human emotions there is and it’s an emotion most of us struggle with.
We are all some version of the Beast. We are all flawed. We all put our guard up sometimes. When we are judged, we react more often than we respond.
That’s the point, the one Disney missed when they decided to change the beast back into society’s version of what a Prince should look like.
The true story is better.
Now, you could argue that the Beast started off as a Prince so it was only right he transformed back into his original form. That’s such a backwards way to look at life though especially given that life is a one-way system.
Not only does it completely dismiss the core lesson, you can’t go back and you can’t just bippity-boppity-boo away all the struggles that we all go through in life.
Beauty and the Beast was based on real life events. In 1547, a man named Petrus Gonsalvus was shipped to King Henry II of France as a gift for the king’s coronation.
Petrus suffered from a condition known as Hypertrichosis. It’s a condition that causes excessive hair growth, sometimes all over the body hence why people thought Petrus resembled a beast.
This was a real man, with a real condition, who was not punished for being arrogant but rather, for being different. For having a condition he had no control over.
King Henry II did not judge him on his appearance. Instead, he taught him how to act like a gentleman. Petrus went on to marry a ‘beauty’ named Catherine and have children, some of which also had this condition and were given away as ‘gifts’.
I didn’t know this watching as a 5 year old. I just knew the beast turning back to the Prince seemed wrong. He should have remained as the beautiful (yet still flawed) version of who had grown to be. Loved as he was, for who he was.
Knowing this and knowing the message, I’m mad at Disney. They completely failed to see that this was an opportunity to teach children (and adults) that it’s not about being a different version of yourself but rather, a better version of yourself.
The Beast was handsome in his beast form.
Whether it was those long luscious locks or his kind eyes or all his little slip ups on his journey to being a better version of himself, the beast was extremely handsome. I say that jokingly but in all seriousness, having the courage to be yourself is extremely attractive. Even more so, sharing the true version of yourself with others so that you can empower them to also be themselves.
Beauty comes from within and I think deep down, we all perceive it that way.
If this is in fact a tale as old as time. I think we need to write a new one. Redefine what it means to be ‘normal’.
‘Normal’ shouldn’t be a red velvet rope we are all trying to get through by waving some entry ‘See, I belong’ band you paid way too high a price for. It should be more like an all access party where everyone gets to show up and share their story of what normal looks like for them.
Chloë Forbes-Kindlen is a web designer and Squarespace Expert living not all that far from the kind of castle that might have a Beast roaming its upper halls. She’s a writer and poet and creative business expert.