The Better Beauty and the Beast

large_tnml0g604pdrjwgj5fsusykfo9After months of fasting from watching the latest Disney live-action remake, I finally got to look over Emma Watson’s most anticipated film. And actually, after all the negative views I’ve read on it, I still walked away with some surprises. This version of the 1991 classic is slower paced, and not as compelling (some scenes actually bored me enough for me to pull out my phone and check the news, waiting for the lame parts to pass). It’s lacking musical beauty, the CGI was sub-par, and the story is too top heavy, trying desperately to out-do its origin by adding tacky changes. From the start, this remake was in trouble since it was trying to perfect an already perfect original, and you just can’t fix what ain’t broke. Instead of trying desperately to improve, they should have desperately tried to honor the original. But despite these failures, here are some things I appreciated more than I thought I would, and things I think you never noticed:

—SPOILER ALERT—

  1. Right from the get go, I noticed the fly-by camera in the opening Disney Castle logo sequence. I wondered and replayed it, and took a screenshot. Here’s what I saw:StMikeDisneyThat’s right! Atop the Disney Castle logo in this film (it’s usually a flag in other films) is a gold statue of St. Michael defeating Satan. And then at the end of the film, when the curse is broken and the Beast’s castle transformed, we see yet another gold statue of St. Michael, transformed from a gargoyle into the Archangel slaying the evil one. This leads me to wonder why Disney and the director (Bill Condon) okayed these clearly traditional Christian images, especially in a film that was supposedly designed in some scenes to push immoral same-sex relationships. Could it be that despite the attempts at evil, St. Michael was snuck in to show that Mickey and company belongs to St. Michael and company?6f17a9903a9e5487675b308eec8e8f28-hamburg-germany-munich
  2. Continuing the peculiar positive portrayal of the Church is the reverend/priest in the movie, who Belle meets with regularly to borrow his books. Granted that not many were literate in that time, it’s still strange to change Belle’s connection to literature from being with a bookstore (in the 1991 version) to a Catholic priest in the remake. And how do we know it’s a Catholic priest? Because there’s a giant crucifix statue, and Protestants and Orthodox don’t use crucifixes or statues. Also, the setting is France: a traditional stronghold of Catholicism (think St. Joan of Arc).
  3. Beast also has an almost throw-away line rebutting Lumiere’s claim of Belle being “the one” for Beast. Beast says: “there’s no such thing as the one.” This immediately reminded me of the correct understanding of love and marriage without the false fantasy of fate that negates freedom, without the this-was-meant-to-be lies. Blogger and author Matt Walsh explains this hilariously and clearly in this article: My Marriage Wasn’t Meant To Be. Here’s an excerpt (but seriously read it all):

    We think that our task is to find this preordained partner and marry them because, after all, they’re “The One.” They were designed for us, for us and only us. It’s written in the stars, prescribed in the cosmos, commanded by God or Mother Earth. There are six or seven billion people in the world, but only one of them is the right one, we think, and we’ll stay single until we happen to stumble into them one day.

    And when that day happens, when The One — our soul mate, our match, our spirit-twin — comes barreling into our lives to whisk us off our feet and take us on canoe rides and deliver impassioned romantic monologues on a beach in the rain or in a bus station or whatever, then we’ll finally be happy. Happy until the end of time. We can get married and have a perfect union; a Facebook Photo Marriage, where every day is like an Instragam of you and your spouse wearing comfortable socks and sitting next to the fireplace drinking Starbucks lattes.

    Yeah. About that. It’s bull crap, sorry. Not just silly, frivolous bull crap, but bull crap that will destroy you and eat your marriage alive from the inside. It’s a lie. A vicious, cynical lie that leads only to disappointment and confusion. The Marriage of Destiny is a facade, but the good news is that Real Marriage is something so much more loving, joyful, and true.

    We’ve got it all backwards, you see. I didn’t marry my wife because she’s The One, she’s The One because I married her. Until we were married, she was one, I was one, and we were both one of many. I didn’t marry The One, I married this one, and the two of us became one. I didn’t marry her because I was “meant to be with her,” I married her because that was my choice, and it was her choice, and the Sacrament of marriage is that choice. I married her because I love her — I chose to love her — and I chose to live the rest of my life in service to her. We were not following a script, we chose to write our own, and it’s a story that contains more love and happiness than any romantic fable ever conjured up by Hollywood.

    Indeed, marriage is a decision, not the inevitable result of unseen forces outside of our control. When we got married, the pastor asked us if we had “come here freely.” If I had said, “well, not really, you see destiny drew us together,” that would have brought the evening to an abrupt and unpleasant end. Marriage has to be a free choice or it is not a marriage. That’s a beautiful thing, really.

    God gave us Free Will. It is His greatest gift to us because without it, nothing is possible. Love is not possible without Will. If we cannot choose to love, then we cannot love. God did not program us like robots to be compatible with only one other machine. He created us as individuals, endowed with the incredible, unprecedented power to choose. And with that choice, we are to go out and find a partner, and make that partner our soul mate.

  4. And now the question of freedom and love: Beast finally learns this when he frees Belle from being his prisoner, even though she has become a willing prisoner. Being yet not fully free, her love is unable to be true, and his love is prevented from maturing also. But once Beast let’s Belle leave, once he allows himself to lose and become incredibly vulnerable to Belle’s rejection and abandonment, only then does Belle’s return mean anything. This insight isn’t unique to this remake, but is also in the original, and is a timeless truth about how love becomes true love. It reminds us that only a heart that can break is an honest heart, a real heart. And when Beast accepts his broken heart for love of Belle and her freedom and dignity, then does love truly bless and bloom, not wilt as the cursed rose.beauty_and_the_beast_emma_watson_rose
  5. That’s all I have to say about the remake. For more about the 1991 original masterpiece and all the bursting Christian and biblical symbols in it, please see Beauty and the Beast and the Bible. Finally, it should be obvious that I believe the better Beauty and the Beast is certainly not this remake. Sorry fans. Everything that was good in this version was already in the original.
  6. For another, more thoughtful review, please see here.

BeautyBeast

Beauty and the Beast and the Bible

BeautyBeastPosterLike most typical American kids, I grew up with Disney movies in my DVD collection. Some films are great, some were great, and some are just trash.

Beauty and the Beast (B&B) is great. I’m sure you already know that if you’ve seen it. But here are some details you may not have noticed:

——1) The prologue is narrated in stained-windows… stained-windows… reminds you of what? What kind of buildings have stained-windows? For what building was stained-glass invented for? If you said castles or palaces, then you’re partially correct. The answer: Christian Castles/Palaces — aka: churches.

——2) The Rose is the main motif in the movie, especially a rose that seems to countdown. If that doesn’t hint at the ROSARY (which is a bouquet of prayers we offer to Our Lord’s Blessed Mother), then I don’t know what does!

the-assumption-of-the-virgin-1670——3) Speaking of the Blessed Mother, what colors do Belle wear? Did you know that light blue and white are Marian colors? Notice that the majority of traditionally colored Mary statues and icons show her to be wearing blue and white.

——4) Shortly after we meet Belle, she stops where and sings to what? She stops at a fountain, and she tells a story in song to a little lamb. A fountain is like a well, and in Sacred Scripture, it’s typically the place a man and woman have a significant meeting (recall Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Moses and Zipporah, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman). Well, in B&B, we see Belle singing to the lamb: “She doesn’t discover that it’s HIM till chaper 3…”

This is significant because Jesus had to be revealed to the Samaritan Woman, had to be discovered. And three is a convenient number that not only rhymes, but symbolizes the third day after Jesus’ death — when His Resurrection is discovered by Mary Magdalene. Also, Jesus is the prince in disguise!

BelleLambAnd what does a lamb symbolize in Christianity? “Agnus Dei…” which means “Lamb of God…” which means Jesus.

And Belle is Mary, and Mary is the God-bearer, and God is love… so Belle carries love.

Betcha never connected that “Mary had a little lamb… little lamb… little lamb. Mary had a little lamb whose wool was white as snow” is talking about the Blessed Mother who has a Son who is innocent and pure.

And in B&B, everyone thinks Belle is such a strange, funny girl, such an odd girl unaware of her own beauty. Well, Mary is odd too! She was immaculately conceived, and no one else was. She would obviously have been singled out as exceptional and strange and completely oblivious to how beautiful she is (because of her humility). Oh, oh, oh! You don’t know you’re beautiful! Oh, oh, oh! That’s what makes you beautiful!

BeautyBeast——5) What about what causes the prince in B&B to be cursed? Wouldn’t that be the sin of pride? Being spoiled, selfish, unkind… and pride causes us to be isolated to the point that we curse ourselves. Pride was the Original Sin, and it caused us to be disfigured, naked, ashamed, lonely and doomed to die. And so after the prince commits this sin, he becomes a beast: ugly, naked, ashamed, lonely, and doomed to die.

——6) Our sin never affects us in isolation. Sin is like contagion: it spreads. And so Adam and Eve’s sin caused all of us and the rest of Creation to crash and burn. In B&B, the curse spreads throughout the castle, infects the servants, the forest, the world around the property. Sin is never personal; it affects everyone eventually.

BeautyBeastBalcony——7) And only what can redeem Beast and his servants? Only if he truly loves and is truly loved in return, right? And doesn’t Belle bear that love? She’s the one to break the spell… she must give her love to him, must give her word to him. Notice later in the film that it’s only when Belle says she loves him is the curse busted. This is so symbolic of Mary’s fiat to the Archangel Gabriel, when she said “let it be…”

——8) At the ball, notice the colors of Belle’s gown: yellow and white. Those are the colors of Mother Church, the Bride of Christ, the redeemed. The colors of the Vatican flag hint at this.

PiercedSide——9) When Gaston (whatta jerk…) attacks Beast, where does he stab him? In the side! The right side! Take a look at any crucifix and you’ll see that’s exactly where Jesus was pierced (John 19:34).

——10) Then, when Beast dies in Belle’s arms… it looks a lot like the Pieta.

——11) And earlier when Beast released Belle after the ball, he in effect accepted sin (the curse) and death. Recall Beast’s response when his servants warn him of the mob’s approach: “It doesn’t  matter, just let them come.” This is a bit similar to when Jesus accepted our sin (though he was sinless) and accepted His impending death, even death on a cross.

——12) But true love breaks the spell (remember that God is love). After Mary gives her fiat, God is allowed to intervene (allowed to love) at the ground level of our humanity to redeem us through the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. And in B&B, after Belle’s fiat, we see Beast rise from the dead in glorious light. His body shines forth as a glorified body. This is totally an allegory in the movie for the Resurrection of Christ!BelleLoves

——13) And Beast’s salvation also saves the whole castle (transforms all the gargoyle’s too!), all his servants and the world around him.

——Bonus) Beast can be seen as a Christ figure, in that Jesus is also known as the Lion of Judah, an idea that C.S. Lewis used when writing the character Aslan in his Chronicles of Narnia.

Aslan

So there you have it, 13 or so details I noticed one day while re-watching this classic.

——BONUS) Found out recently via a comment below that the Prince’s name is actually Adam (thanks Anh-Thu!)! This further adds to Biblical symbolism, since the New Adam (Jesus) and the New Eve (Mary) in a perfect way undo the sin of the first Adam and Eve. We see this played out in Beauty and the Beast because Adam (the Prince) becomes a new man at the end (a new Adam), undoing the past sin (most importantly with the love and help of Belle [who can be seen as a type of Mary, a new Eve.]).

——BONUS 2) Here, we see an even deeper connection with points 5 and 6 above. Now that we know the Beast symbolizes Adam, we also can see how similar their reaction to sin is. After the Original Adam sinned, he felt great shame, thought himself ugly and hid himself. So too does the Beast do this!

——BONUS 3) That’s right, it gets better! According to the film’s plot summary, the beggar visits the Prince on CHRISTMAS EVE. Now, this definitely makes me recall that on the First Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph [and the unborn Jesus] were beggars trying to find a place to stay. The people they asked turned them away, not knowing the beauty of the Holy Family and that someone very powerful, special and beautiful was hidden within the Holy Couple: Jesus.

——See here for the review over the 2017 remake