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Disney’s magical re-do of Beauty and the Beast is finally out, and unsurprisingly, the new tale as old as time is filled with plenty of sumptuous visual wonders, as well as a great many Easter Eggs. References to other Disney films, their animators, and even other Hollywood movies have been firm staples of Disney’s output for many years now. However, in their latest live-action remake, there’s one particular hidden detail that you probably overlooked…
“A Culinary Cabaret!”
Beauty and the Beast is an unabashed musical, one that #EmmaWatson, Dan Stevens and the rest of the cast perform admirably. Yet, as closely as it hews to the original, there are several lyrical differences in the new version, such as in 'Gaston' (#LukeEvans) where the scoundrel brags about his preferred hunting techniques — And it's here, in one of these altered songs, where the reference in question features.
Just like in the original version, "Be Our Guest" turns out to be a huge standout in the picture — #EwanMcGregor nails the extravagance and showmanship of Lumière's character as he entertains Belle with the help of the castle’s catering staff. Near the beginning of the song, Lumière sings the following lines — which I’m sure we’re all familiar with:
“Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious!
Don't believe me? Ask the dishes,
They can sing, they can dance,
After all, Miss, this is France!”
Now as you’ll no doubt remember in the animated movie, the cutlery rearranges itself into a facsimile of the Eiffel Tower to emphasize where the movie is set. However, as Lumière sings these lines in the 2017 movie, we see him reach out and press down on a large knife, which cuts some food up loudly before he then carries on his exuberant serenade.
Even though we were sorry to see that the Eiffel Tower had gone, this kind of change is understandable. As the movie’s period-appropriate costumes showed, the live action remake was aiming for a more grounded approach. Therefore, this replica of Eiffel Tower would definitely seem a bit out of place, especially given that Beauty and the Beast clearly takes place well before construction had even begun on that landmark.
So what’s the significance of this change? Well, it’s the manner in which the food is chopped, since the sound and swift, downward motion of the slanted blade are highly reminiscent of a guillotine. And this allusion to guillotines hints at a rather horrible and tragic truth...
“We’ll Lay Siege to the Castle and Bring Back His Head!”
To best understand the importance of the guillotine in Beauty and the Beast, we need to head back in time. From 1789 until 1799, the French Revolution took place in...well, France... and though it laid the groundwork for human rights and modern systems of government, it wasn’t the nicest of times to live through. Indeed, the embittered and downtrodden French took their revenge by overthrowing their monarchy and aristocracy, condemning them, as well as other vaguely defined “enemies of the Revolution” to their deaths. That’s where the guillotine comes in.
These new devices apparently provided a humane and painless way of executing someone (as if they’d know), and they became highly popular. Thousands upon thousands of people were beheaded using these apparatuses, and they’ve become as synonymous to the revolution as the tricolor flag.
Which brings us to Belle and her handsome beau. You see, the events of the new Beauty and the Beast have been confirmed to take place between 1750 and 1770, which is obviously only a short amount of time before the revolution begins in real life. And the handsome prince, with his wealth and nice digs, definitely falls under the remit of the revolutionary mob.
Lots of fans and moviegoers pointed this out following the release of the animated version, but the remake only seems to ram this fact home by adding in the guillotine-esque knife in "Be Our Guest". The movie may end on a high note with everyone singing and dancing, but really, the future for Belle and the Beast remains questionable. The mob, in all likelihood would come calling again, preventing the couple from living out that happily ever after, after all!
However, let’s not immediately assume that Lumiere and the staff are threatening Belle a la Michael Scott in The Office US. He may be a passionate character, but as the movie shows, Lumière and the other inhabitants of the caste hold great affection for Belle, the Beast and for each other. This historical allusion is probably just a clever and affectionate little nod to France and its history, from director Bill Condon — And heck, who knows? In this reality where enchantresses and magic are real, the French Revolution may not have even happened.
But if it does, here’s hoping that Beauty and the Beast survived the proletariat’s purge of the upper classes. Maybe they could have used that magic book of the Beast's to whizz on out of there, and so live out their days reading their favorite books.
Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. It’s as certain as the sun rising in the east!