Feminist Agenda // Taylor Kirby
This week’s blasphemy: I like the new Beauty and the Beast more than I like the original.
I won’t argue the live-action version is a perfect piece of filmmaking that usurped the place of a classic in my heart—Beauty and the Beast always ranked low on my list of Disney favorites, so it wasn’t too difficult to top. The songs were catchy, and the animation was groundbreaking, but I always despised how Belle’s dream of “adventure in the great wide somewhere” ended with her settling down with an angry, illiterate man a mile away from her village. Gaston and the Beast were the same character except for how the story asked us to perceive them, and I could never buy into the Beast’s allure.
The 2017 production amended all of the original’s fatal flaws. Now, the Beast is a character who read prolifically, who helps Belle achieve her goal of escaping provincial life and travelling the world, and whose traumatic backstory provides more sympathy for his selfish ways. In hindsight, it even made me appreciate the animated film more.
This is not the way remakes usually go, but it is why I advocate so strongly for their existence. People point to them to bemoan a newfound lack of creativity in the film industry, forgetting that writers like Chaucer and Shakespeare almost exclusively produced remakes of stories that had already been written. Remakes are a tale as old as time.
To people who resist conversion from animation to live-action, or from novel to film, try to find the root of that concern. At adaptations’ best, they give people a new way to access a beloved story. At their worst, the original is the same as it ever was and is waiting to be returned to.
Go to any article about Beauty and the Beast (or Thirteen Reasons Why, or The Handmaid’s Tale trailer) to see people complain that the newcomers are annoying and that the original was better. But if someone really loves a story, they’d be happy that more people are finding their way to it. Instead, these complaints make it seem like someone’s more in love with their perception of themselves as a trendsetter who is in some way superior to the “normal” people that surround them, and that kind of mindset isn’t doing anyone—or any narrative—any favors.