'Beauty and the Beast' A Delight, But What About Those Stereotypes?

The movie is visually beautiful, but the messaging needs work.

There is no question about the quality of Beauty and the Beast, regardless of whether you watch the animated or the live action version of the film. The films are both visually stunning, and the music is gorgeous.  Emma Watson as Belle also has a surprisingly good singing voice, and Dan Stevens makes the most of acting through a heavy layer of makeup.  In all, the new film is in many ways on par with the 1991 animated one.

However, there seems to have been a bit of an uproar since the announcement that LeFou, Gaston's right hand man, was actually gay. There have been comments galore regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ individuals in the Disney canon, and most recently, there have been comments regarding the inclusion of firearms-related violence in the movie.

Can we talk context and stereotypes for a moment?

Beauty and the Beast is a story originally set in the mid-1700s, which means in any number of fairy tales - of which Beauty and the Beast is pretty much a part - chasing down the "evil" creature with torches, pitchforks, and yes, even firearms of some shape or creation would have been acceptable and perhaps even necessary.  While muskets would have likely been the timely weapon during that period, there were unquestionably firearms around.  Would grisly gun-oriented violence be acceptable in a Disney picture?  No way.  Would some gun brandishing and firing be acceptable, given the time frame?  Perhaps, especially when confronted with an animalistic beast that no one really understands.

Beauty and the Beast also has a slight problem with the stereotypes and how they are portrayed.  Case in point:  LeFou.  In the animated film, at least, LeFou is portrayed as an overly agreeable, if bumbling, yes man.  One could only imagine how the character is portrayed in the live action film, and I am hopeful that while Josh Gad has fun with the character, the outcome isn't quite so outlandish as was portrayed in the animated film.

Gaston is an egomaniac who thinks everyone should worship the ground he walks on, and when someone threatens to replace him as the object of attention, particularly in Belle's eyes, he immediately wants his rival eliminated.  Belle's father is somewhat blinded by his love for his daughter and yet not 100 percent aware that she is actually laughed at by the rest of the town.

Then there is the Stockholm Syndrome that Belle displays towards the Beast.  You could make Belle as independent as humanly possible - something that is very definitely a significant challenge, given the views about women during that period of time - but there's no changing the fact that she is a captive, albeit a willing one, who falls in love with her captor.  She demonstrates a lot of personal strength throughout the experience, but the bottom line is, it's Stockholm Syndrome.

Will all of this take away from my overall enjoyment of the live action Beauty and the Beast?  Likely not; I've been a fan of the animated classic for years, and I am a huge fan of Emma Watson and of Disney movies in particular.  However, there are issues with either version of the movie that are difficult to ignore.  While I am all for leaving psychology and negative vibes at the door when I go see a movie, the issues that are pervasive throughout Beauty and the Beast can send dangerous messages about how we view people in general and those that are different in particular.  It is up to us how we filter those messages to our kids as a result.

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'Beauty and the Beast' A Delight, But What About Those Stereotypes?
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