Truly a tale as old as time, the 2017 Beauty and the Beast directed by Bill Condon was a hit. Profiting over one billion dollars, it became the 7th highest box office launch ever. Not only was the new Beauty and the Beast a great profit, but it contained valuable lessons on inner beauty and self-change. Two very important lessons for young readers Spoiler alert! Much like the 1999 animated film, the 2017 Beauty and the Beast is a story of love between a tempered, selfish beast, and a beautiful, book loving village girl.
The story begins with a young prince at a ball in his luxurious castle. A poor, old woman appears at his door asking for shelter from the cold. The old woman tells him that she doesn’t mean any harm but the prince refuses to let her stay in his castle. The prince is about to throw her out when the woman reveals her true self, a beautiful enchantress. The prince tries to apologise, but the woman had already realized the lack of love in his heart.
She cast a spell on the prince, turning him into a wild beast, and the servants into household items. She gives him a rose, saying that he must learn to love by the time the last petal falls or he will stay a Beast forever. The time changes and begins to tell the story of a common village girl named Belle. Belle lives with her father in the village that used to be ruled by the prince, but brainwashed so that nobody in the village can remember anything.
She is portrayed by the townspeople as different because of her love for reading and is judged by many except for a self centered man named Gaston. One day Gaston gathers many people around Belles house to ask her to marry him. Belle refuses because of his arrogant and rude personality.
Meanwhile, Belle’s father, Maurice ventures into the woods, traveling to present his latest invention at a fair. A storm hits and he seeks shelter in a huge castle, which coincidentally belongs to the Beast. The Beast imprisons Maurice for stealing one of his roses (for Belle) and when his horse returns without him, Belle goes out looking for him. Belle ventures into the castle and finds her ill father locked up. She negotiates an agreement with the beast to trade places with her father so that he can be free, and the Beast agrees. Belle spends many months in the castle, all the while following most of the rules and beginning to become friends with the Beast until one day when her curiosity gets the best of her and she ventures into the forbidden west wing. The beast gets angry at her and she runs out of the castle. The Beast ends up saving her from a pack of angry wolves, strengthening their friendship.
The beast shows her his magical book that transports people wherever they want and Belle and the Beast travel to Belle’s childhood home where she learns why her mother passed away. Belle then tells the Beast that she yearns to see where her father is. The Beast takes her to the west wing and shows Belle her father in his magic mirror. He is lost in the woods and about to be killed by Gaston who supposedly was helping Maurice rescue Belle. The Beast lets Belle go to save her father out of love for her, showing that he is beginning to change. After Belle saves her father from the woods, she attempts to convince the townspeople that her father is not crazy saying that the Beast is real by showing them the Beast in the magic mirror. Gaston becomes jealous seeing that Belle has affection towards the Beast and claims that she is affected by magic. He throws Belle and her father into an asylum carriage and rallies the town to go fight the Beast.
Belle and her father escape and hurry to the castle just in time to catch the Beast and Gaston fighting on the roof. The Beast saves Gaston’s life after he begs that he will go back to the town, but Gaston comes back and shoots him in the back and then falls off of the roof, signaling his death. Belle rushes to the Beast’s side, and cries watching him die. Belle then kisses the Beast showing that the Beast was in love and the spell was broken. The beast comes back to life, turning into a handsome prince, the servants all become humans once again, and the eternal winter ends. The townspeople can now all remember their loved ones and what had happened when the spell was put on the town. The movie ends with all of the townspeople and castle servants dancing in the ballroom including the first openly gay moment in Disney history, when Le Fou (Gaston’s sidekick) and another man begin dancing.
Compared to the success of the 1999 animated Beauty and the Beast, the 2017 remake had a lower overall rating from critics and the general population. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the 1999 version received a 94% positive rating from critics and a 92% positive audience rating, compared to the 2017 version which received a 71% positive critic rating and a 81% audience rating. One reason the remake received lower ratings may be the controversial viewpoints of the gay moments the director, Bill Condon added to the remake. Writer Jackson McHenry describes where in the film these moments occurred in a Vulture article saying, “Early in the film, LeFou asks Gaston why he isn’t happy with just the two of them together, which is more of a slightly gay instant. Later, when Gaston asks him why he hasn’t settled down with a women, LeFou jokes that he’s too clingy — a vaguely gay insinuation. When he sings “Gaston,” he wraps Gaston’s arms around him, before Gaston pushes him aside — a gay-ish split-second. Then, as the villagers attack the Beast’s castle in the climax, LeFou shares a moment with Mrs. Potts, where she tells him that he deserves better than Gaston — some light gay condescension.
Finally, an enchanted wardrobe attacks a trio of Gaston’s henchman, forcing them into powder, wigs, and dresses. Two are disgusted, but the third smiles — a sort of gender-bending moment.” This is the first time ever that there has been an openly homosexual character in a Disney movie. Many people around the world are overjoyed that Disney is taking these steps towards creating more diverse characters, and still many people are upset because they think that Disney is pushing controversial views in the movie that they would not want their children to be influenced by. Some theaters in Alabama, Malaysia, and Russia have refused to play it for this reason. According to Bill Condon, the director of the 2017 Beauty and the Beast, ‘LeFou’s gradual reconciliation with his sexuality acts as a way of increasing LGBT visibility on screen.”
Condon’s reasoning for adding LGBT visibility into the movie might also be because he himself is openly gay. He has added many homosexual characters into other movies that he has directed such as Gods and Monsters and Kinsey. No matter your opinion on the topic of LGBT visibility on screen, Beauty and the Beast is an educational movie that can teach everyone something, and is worthwhile. Another reason Beauty and the Beast is worth seeing, is the important values regarding inner beauty and self-change that it portrays.
These are some of the most crucial lessons for kids to learn at a young age. The message of valuing inner beauty over outer beauty shows that we can change to become a better versions of ourselves. You can’t really change who you look like on the outside, but you can move mountains to change who you are on the inside. Just look at the beast. In the beginning of the movie he was an arrogant and selfish prince who wouldn’t give the old woman a place to stay, and only when she changed his outside perceptions to reflect his inner self, did he notice how rude he really was. It’s a lot easier to judge who someone is based on their outward beauty, when really they could be a beast inside. Learning this from a young age can really influence someone’s life and affect how they treat people in their everyday lives.
I think Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve probably had this main theme in mind when she wrote the original Beauty and the Beast almost 280 years ago, showing that the theme of inner beauty and self change is universal and timeless. Although Beauty and the Beast is a somewhat controversial movie and because of that received lower ratings, it also portrays a lot of classic universal and timeless lessons that are important in teaching people about inner beauty and change that represent something in all of us. Beauty and the Beast is truly a lasting movie that leaves an impact on it’s viewers and teaches everyone something. The song , Tale as Old as Time in the movie says, “Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, Beauty and the Beast.”