‘Beauty and the Beast’: If It’s Not Baroque, Don’t Fix It

What is it about love stories that endure? Romeo and Juliet. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Beauty and the Beast. Stories we keep coming back to. Tales as old as time. Just as these classical pairings of characters fall for each other, we, in turn, fall for them. They become emblematic of love. A portrait. A song and dance. Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast may not change anything we know and love about the original, but the film reminds us why classical tales of woe are not only timeless, but enrapturing.

In a small, unfair provincial town in France, Belle is seen as a funny girl. Not the good funny, but odd and peculiar. Her only crime, partaking in the harmless pleasures of literature – progressive, given the time (and you can’t get any more progressive with Emma Watson in the role). People look down on her from their windowsills, sneering, judging. Any self-professed bookworm knows the feeling of scrutiny. She lives in a town that believes in applying themselves conventionally. A town full of farmers, bakers, and candlestick makers (even when she practically invents the washing machine, she is, once again, seen as more witch than pioneer). To read a book is so unconventional. Because honestly, who has the time?

PHDXVAbkLLZhHL_1_l

They are a small-minded folk, but none quite as small-minded as Gaston. For Belle, a book is everything. To him, the book is but a shield. It’s in the way. And why have something as meager as a book in the way when you can look and marvel at him. The only time Belle is interested in a conversation with Gaston is when he remarks on the book her hands and she then asks if he’s read it (he hasn’t). Gaston represents everything society thinks it needs: an alpha male. What we find terrifying about him is actually a trait that should be admirable, but is coated in so much bravado and chest hair that it’s something to be feared – male confidence (though with Luke Evans’ sheer charisma, narcissism has never been so delightfully entertaining).

Society enables his ego, morphs it into entitlement. In his mind, Belle is already his wife even though they hardly know each other. Is that fair? Gaston doesn’t care. And Belle is all the more despised for rejecting him each time. If it takes a village to condemn a woman, then it takes a village to enable a villain.

Beauty-and-the-Beast-Gaston-Luke-Evans-700x300

When Belle finds that Beast has taken her father captive, she believes she’s found the proper villain to her story. In fact, she’s met her Prince Charming (as the song goes, she won’t discover it’s him ‘til chapter three). She does something heroic – she takes her father’s place in the cell. I suppose time makes us prisoners of us all.

The original Beauty and the Beast story, written by Gabrielle Villeneuve, was a darker tale than Disney’s interpretation. Beauty is promised to the Beast by her father, an impoverished merchant who is given riches in exchange. Upon arriving at the castle, she’s surprised by the Beast, who lavishes her, engages her with thoughtful conversation. He asks for her hand every night. And when she sleeps, she dreams of a handsome prince, unaware that it’s the Beast reaching out to her in her subconscious.

Villeneuve intended it as an allegory for arranged marriages, detailing women’s anxieties of leaving their household, fearful of the men they’re doomed to marry. Arranged marriages were the norm, where love came after people were wed, not before. Disney’s version still retains threads of Villeneuve’s story. It’s Gaston who courts Belle’s hand, Gaston who believes marriage is a deal that can be brokered.

Beauty-and-the-Beast-Trailer-Hand-mirror

It is the Beast who knocks on her door asking if she would like to join him for dinner. Despite his royal title, he doesn’t feel entitled to her acceptance. He still takes it upon himself to ask. For someone in his position, asking requires its own form of courage. A leap of faith. Of course, Belle has more self-respect than to say yes to her captor. Beast throws a tantrum, assumes that’s the end of it. Gaston, however, can’t take a hint.

It’s only when there’s a genuine effort on Beast’s part to be kind and cordial that Belle, in turn, responds in kind (for those suggesting their ensuing romance is symptomatic of Stockholm Syndrome, remember: Belle doesn’t make any excuses for the Beast’s behavior, she stands her ground against him, and she chooses to remain in the castle). Her respect isn’t something that’s magically bestowed upon him. He has to earn it.

beauty-and-the-beast-2017-trailer-10-belle-library

Perhaps the most romantic gesture comes before their inevitable fall for each other, when he treats her to his library (the book that does the trick? Romeo and Juliet). The world, as far as she’s concerned, and it is through a book that allows them to literally travel the world. The act of reading is as intimate as it is grand. Ask any bookworm (or just ask Emma Watson) and they’ll tell you. Books are escapist, transportive. At the same time, we see a little bit of ourselves in these stories.

During the film’s climax, Belle has to prove to the villagers that the Beast exists. Using the magic mirror, she shows them what is essentially a reflection of themselves, and the monsters they’ve become. They see a beast; she sees only a man. Beauty, as they say, is in the eyes of the beholder.

Whereas Romeo and Juliet sees love as a tragedy, one that reconciles a bitter feud between families, Beauty and the Beast views love as a fantasy, one that frees Beast, his servants and the rest of the townspeople from the enchantress’ spell, its impact and allure far-reaching. It dares to depict love as a joyful song and dance. An endless waltz. There’s a wonderful irony in the symbolism of the red rose, encased, its petals falling one by one like an hourglass. Beauty and the Beast has endured over the centuries, with remnants dating as far back as 4,000 years. Because stories like these aren’t just timeless; they’re enchanting.

Beauty-and-the-Beast-header-700x300

‘Logan’: A History of Violence

“There are no more guns in the valley,” Laura says in her eulogy. She and her band of mutants are no longer on the run, but their safety, much like their hopes of a future, come at a cost. The line is a reference to the 1953 Western Shane, a film that operates as key thematic influence in Logan; a film within a film. Logan itself is a film within a larger film universe (and an ever-expanding Marvel brand), which, like it’s overt film referencing, is all but impossible to ignore. Logan stands tall as an outlier, doing away with end-of-the-world plots, superhero team-ups, and allusions to future installments, servicing an even greater payoff that not only honors its comic book origins, but transcends them.  Continue reading

25 Reflections at 25

  1. Fuck
  2. I’m 25 and I’ve literally accomplished nothing
  3. I’ve spent half of my life on social media and I’m learning to accept that (I’m delightful on Twitter, less so on Facebook, but I absolutely killed it on Myspace)
  4. I am in lesbians with movies
  5. I quote movies without warning. This is my curse.
  6. Sometimes that means cutting people out of your life who have no idea what you’re saying (you shouldn’t be friends with those motherfuckers to begin with)
  7. Sarcasm isn’t just a defense mechanism. It’s a way of life.
  8. To err is human. To err repeatedly means you probably had too much caffeine.
  9. Anxiety is the most effective alarm clock
  10. Student loans are a lot like drowning
  11. A Liberal Arts education was a brilliant idea! (sarcasm)
  12. Self-respect is a thing I need to work on
  13. Dating is also a thing I need to work on but let’s not get into that right now
  14. Sleep is bae
  15. Coffee is bae
  16. 25 seems like a reasonable cutoff for using the word ‘bae’
  17. Staying in on a Friday night is a thing of beauty
  18. True friendship is staying at the table long after the check is paid.
  19. Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.
  20. Things often don’t go the way as planned and that’s okay
  21. I will never accomplish all the things I set out to do and that’s okay too
  22. If someone tells you to give up on your dream, you have legal grounds to punch them in the face (Self-Respect Clause 22)
  23. You were lucky to have loved the women who came into your life. Remember that.
  24. You chose writing. Writing didn’t choose you, ergo it doesn’t owe you anything.
  25. Listing counts as writing so good job.

*If you came here for advice, I sincerely apologize

In all seriousness, I’d like to give my thanks to those who invested in me and took the time to read my blog (you could have watched another panda video and you didn’t and I appreciate your sacrifice). It’s because of you I decided to make a personal investment and purchase this domain. That’s right, Adrian Vs. The World is official now. Here’s to a new chapter of punctuated nonsense.

‘La La Land’: A Bit of Madness is Key

What is it about dreams that make them so unbearably cinematic? Perhaps it’s the chase, the song and dance of it. The grandiosity, vividness. Or its proximity. How close it seems once we’ve projected the idealized versions of ourselves in the cinema of our subconscious. I suppose the real question is what makes us want to chase our dreams when the world tells us otherwise. When we’ve faced rejection, tasted failure. How long do we go on chasing something until we realize we’re just making a fool of ourselves?  Continue reading

‘Arrival’: The Universal Language of Film

“Language is the cornerstone of civilization,” Dr. Louise Banks writes in her preface. Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist, counters that science is the true foundation, completely neglecting the communicative platform that enables him to express this belief. I suppose we all take language for granted. We know how to construct words that form sentences that in turn express thought, but we fail to recognize the system that allows us to frame thought into words. Syntax. Order and meaning; it’s symbiotic but in many ways alien to us, because even the slightest misunderstanding can have dire consequences: “[Language] is the glue that holds people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.”  Continue reading