watched Disney's Beauty and the Beast for the first time since i was a little kid. it held up pretty well, but this was always one of my favorites. one thing that really impressed me that i didn't really have an appreciation for as a kid was how gorgeous the backgrounds are. maybe some of the best i've ever seen in an animated film. one thing that kinda bothered me though was i didn't really like the style or whatever the background/extra characters were drawn in...i get that they have to be simpler than the main characters, but they just seemed too much so, and they seemed rounder, cartoonier, like Warner Bros. style instead of Disney. i guess it's not really a big deal, but it kept getting to me for some reason.
one of the main reasons i've been wanting to rewatch it was that i've read a few feminist blogs/essays commenting on how sexist Disney films are, and the messages they are inundating into youth, especially young girls. (this is probably the best one i've found.) something i kept reading about Beauty and the Beast was that, in a nutshell, it's basic lesson is that if a woman stays with an abusive beast, he'll turn into a kind prince. i think this is a bit of a simplistic viewpoint. i find the relationship between Belle and the Beast to be perhaps the most dynamic and interesting of all Disney relationships. yes, things start off rocky when your new room mate has locked your dad in his dungeon and you have to barter for his life. but they actually spend time together, get to know each other presumably, unlike other Disney romances that blossom after one chance meeting and a song.
the Beast is abusive, i make no excuses for him there. but coming at it from the perspective of someone who intimately knows people that have been abusers, i can kind of sympathize with Beast to a degree. still, that gives him no right to continually traumatize and intimidate Belle, and she finally tells him as much and leaves, only returning when he saves her freakin' life, which i guess is pretty redeeming. (yes, i know it's lame that she has to be saved at all, but to her credit, she's holding her own against the wolves before Beast shows up. but yes, she still has to be reliant on a man, argh.) i guess i see it less as a woman putting up with an abuser and more as a woman realizing that, although deeply flawed, an individual may be worth her time once he realizes he must treat her with respect. it's something that happens in the best relationships: people bring out the best in each other. but obviously i'm in the minority, and i'm not sure very young viewers would understand how complicated and multi-faceted people and relationships can be.
another thing i can't help but like is that the dashing, handsome, muscly guy ends up being the villain.
things i don't like include Nafu, or whatever Gaston's sidekick's name is, reinforcing the stereotype Disney always has of short, squat, fat people being comedy relief not to be taken seriously, and they're usually evil or aligned with the evil party. also love, love, LOVE how Belle starts off in the movie, an alienated, educated daydreamer who is beautiful but doesn't use her beauty as a commodity, who wants adventure and something more than "this provincial life," only for her "grand adventure" that she longs for to end up being giving up her life for her father's to live in a dingy old castle with a beast who she then marries, the end. it kinda gives the impression that if young girls long for a better, more exciting life, marriage is the answer.
man, the scene where Belle fumes about Gaston's arrogance in presuming she'll marry him, and she runs outside and there's that beautiful sunset over the fields of grass and the forest as she emotes with her arms and proclaims "i want ADVENTURE in the great, wide SOMEWHERE! i want it more than i can tell!" wow, that scene got me so fired up as a kid, even at 6 or 7 or however old i was, watching that art combined with that sentiment on the big screen in front of me, i was absolutely riveted! and it still holds up, that scene still gets me. i just wish that Belle was the Belle we got through the rest of the film.
and while i admit it's a little sad that Disney doesn't try harder or realize the effects it has one children and our culture in general, especially on things like gender roles, it also feels unfair to me to lump all of this blame on Disney when their movies are just retellings of folktales and fairytales that go way, way back, and therefore embody a different set of morals and values than we embrace today.