So. About Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’…

…I didn’t think the Beast was ugly when he turned back into a human.

I will freely admit that it was a bit startling when he turned around all at once like that and stared at you. Not Belle. You, the person on the other side of the screen.

His eyes stared into your soul.

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He was like that dramatic chipmunk, only about sixteen years too early.

So yes, startling. A bit odd when combined with that strange under lighting. (Where was that even coming from????)

But ugly? I certainly didn’t think so. Then again, I was about four at the time, so I was hardly one to judge.

I wasn’t even aware that people were displeased with the result until years later, when I was reading a book about fairy-tales that referenced the film. It said that the Beast was made so dashing – what with his white poet shirts and cloaks and his dapper blue ballroom coat – that many viewers were disappointed when he turned back into a human. They preferred the Beast!

This made me wonder on and off, over the years, about the ‘ugliness’ of the prince.

And, a little while back, I asked my sister thusly: ‘Darling sister of mine, answer me well and answer me true: did you think the Beast was ugly when he turned back into a prince?’ (Well, maybe not quite thusly, but you get the picture, I’m sure.)

To which she replied, very simply, ‘Oh, yeah.’

When I, much intrigued, quizzed her on why she thought the prince was ugly, she responded with something along the lines of ‘he was weird-looking.’

Which I couldn’t really argue with; see above. Granted I’m still not one to judge, but he does have rather a strong nose. And heavy brows, and noticeable lips, and…

…umm…

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…that’s a problem? I guess?

Personally I think the issue people had with human Beast was that this version of him got maybe four minutes of screen time, right at the end of the film, so we didn’t really have a chance to get used to him. All cartoon characters look strange at first, even the realistic looking ones, and they didn’t like having to give up a familiar face for this one.

Even though I don’t really see what the problem is.

And anyway, my sister went on, she’d gotten used to Beast, and the whole point of the story was that Belle fell in love with the Beast’s soul, so it was a bit of a cop-out that, when she finally admitted she loved him, he went and changed into someone else.

Well, I couldn’t deny that she had a point there.

I went away and thought about it a little while, and eventually came to a conclusion that lots of other people far more knowledgeable when it comes to this story than myself  have no doubt already deduced:

When it comes to Beauty and the Beast – at least, in this version – the transformation is not Belle’s reward. The transformation is Beast’s reward. And, even if the form he ends up with isn’t conventionally attractive, that isn’t what matters. (In this version.) What matters that it’s what he looks like now there is no longer a spell on him, ie what he would have looked like if he’d grown up normally. If he isn’t handsome, that doesn’t matter, because guess what? He wasn’t trying to become handsome, he was trying to get back to normal, but really to learn to be a decent human being.

This whole film has been about looking beyond appearances and seeing the beauty within. The prince is just as beautiful within now, with all that he’s learned and done, as he was five minutes before when he still had horns and fangs. He’s still the same guy.

Who unfortunately just happened to be under lit at the worst possible time.

Really, when that’s gone, he looks pretty normal and, more to the point, is able to snog Belle without ripping her face off. Everybody wins!

But, each to their own, I suppose…

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