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Progressive fairy tale

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens (Disney Enterprises)

Culture

Progressive fairy tale

Disney projects elitism and nontraditional values on ‘tale as old as time’

It had to happen eventually. At some point, Disney’s brilliant streak of remaking its animated classics into live-action blockbusters would hit a flat note. Not that the new Beauty and the Beast doesn’t offer a visual feast or better flesh out certain characters. But as a whole, the production doesn’t hold a candelabrum to Kenneth Branagh’s lovely 2015 version of Cinderella, to say nothing of the 1991 Beauty original.

To start with the good is to start with the two leading men—Luke Evans and Dan Stevens playing, respectively, the villain Gaston and the princely Beast. What Evans lacks in size and chin-jut he makes up for in rakish swagger. Stevens gives the Beast, whose personality previously consisted of little more than temper and regret, real individuality. The temper’s still there, but comes with dry wit and a sweet, self-reflective melancholy.

Thanks to a storyline that bestows more humanity on the living objects populating the castle, the supporting cast provides more emotional heft as well. Much as I adored Angela Lansbury’s Mrs. Potts, she never made my eyes go misty as Emma Thompson does when she’s reunited with young Chip.

Emma Watson, on the other hand, fails to fill Belle’s slippers. While she certainly looks the part and her singing voice is pretty, her overall presence lacks liveliness. However, even the lead actress’s detached performance wouldn’t have tarnished all the glitter and gilt in this Beauty if not for the tedious changes director Bill Condon (Chicago, Kinsey) makes to the story.

Reportedly at the behest of Watson, Condon tacks in a clumsy attempt to make Belle more “feminist” by giving her a desire to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an inventor. Nothing wrong with being an inventor, but this new characteristic constitutes nothing more than a single scene, disconnected from anything that comes before or after it. Was a country girl loving literature and yearning for adventure in the great wide somewhere not iconoclastic enough for 18th-century France?

Condon also takes pains to make those poor provincial villagers (whom, let’s be honest, Belle was a little hard on back in 1991) as ugly and anti-intellectual as he can. Here they not only think Belle’s bookishness is peculiar, they threaten her for teaching a young girl to read, and they shun a penniless widow who lives in the woods.

At a recent press conference, the composer of the original Beauty and the Beast songs, Alan Menken, tried to dampen furor over Condon’s revelation that his LeFou is Disney’s first openly gay character. Said Menken: “To me, [LeFou] has always [looked] up to Gaston, in a nerdy kind of way. … As far as I can tell, some journalist in England decided to make it his cause célèbre to push this agenda. And it’s really not really part of the movie in any overt way at all … any more than it was in the original.”

Kudos to Menken for standing against the trend to rewrite classics in the image of modern cultural obsessions, but as for the current film, he’s simply wrong. While the film’s “exclusively gay moment” has been oversold, it is undeniably present.

Josh Gad’s LeFou minces and gazes at Gaston with undisguised ardor, wrapping the bigger man’s arms around him in the tavern number and cheekily asking “too much?” Yes, it is. And so is a gender-bending moment when a thug finds himself delighted to be dressed in women’s clothes. A split second at the end where LeFou and the gown-loving goon lock eyes in a dance apparently accounts for the groundbreaking scene Condon promised.

While younger children might not catch the message, older ones certainly will. So although the PG rating is officially for fairy-tale battle scenes, the real concern should be over the film’s sneering attitude toward those little townspeople kids may very well equate with their Bible-believing parents.

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  • Laneygirl's picture
    Laneygirl
    Posted: Thu, 03/16/2017 09:19 am

    The only shocker is that it took so long for Disney to push the LGBQRSTUV agenda. 

  • aredshaw
    Posted: Thu, 03/16/2017 11:03 am

    This is so sad. It really was one of my very favorite stories, but such changes really kill it for me.

  • TxAgEngr
    Posted: Thu, 03/16/2017 12:22 pm

    The Left always figures out a way to destroy anything it gets its hands on.  

  • Hans's picture
    Hans
    Posted: Thu, 03/16/2017 01:06 pm

    Speaking of projection, it seems a bit of a stretch to argue that a character literally named "the fool" is supposed to represent the enlightened Left, even as he and the backwoods townspeople are on the same side opposed to the protagonists. Somehow we are supposed to walk away from the movie understanding it to be a parable of how unenlightened Christians (the townspeople) are stupidly opposed to gays (represented by the idiot sidekick of the town hero and his townsperson lover)? How does that come from the story at all? It strikes me as if one wouldn't have found offense if one didn't go looking for it because we all read some headlines about how this was supposed to be Disney's big coming-out moment.

  • Just Me 999
    Posted: Thu, 03/16/2017 07:51 pm

    I hope that a loss of revenue for Disney from conservative Christians will encourage them to retune their navigation in these murky waters.

  • Terry L Brown
    Posted: Sat, 03/18/2017 10:01 am

    It's irrelevant if this version of Beauty and the Beast is a visual feast. Satan can and does provide that when it suits his purpose and with the pro homosexual message this version poisons us with it certainly serves his purpose. And Satan will smile as each person pays for the privilege of being poisoned. This is the same tactic he used in the Garden of Eden.