Beauty and the Beast: A Tale for the First Time

By Ama Debrah

“Tale as old as time…”

In today’s world, there are certain rites of passage that you must complete before you can call yourself a child of the nineties: memorizing the lyrics to “Spice Up Your Life,” familiarizing yourself with the complete series of Lizzie McGuire, and watching all the Disney cartoon films. Until recently, I had only fulfilled 2/3 of these requirements, having missed out on several classic Disney films as a child. This was not due to a lack of interest or some sort of sadism on my parents’ part, but due to the fact that, until the age of twelve, I could not handle any sort of intensity in movie theatres. I regularly had to leave movies midway, which is primarily why I have still not seen the original Toy Story all the way through (at the age of four, I could simply not handle that bald doll with the spider legs). Even in Mulan (which is, in my opinion, the best movie ever made), I always had to leave the room when Sheng found out that Mulan was, in fact, not Ping. It was not until my senior year of high school, when I decided to take my life into my own hands and get over my Disney-phobia, that I finally saw Aladdin, The Lion King, and Hercules all the way through.

By the beginning of 2012, there was only one movie that was sorely missing from my list: Beauty and the Beast. Sure, I had seen pivotal scenes in passing and had a pretty clear idea of the storyline, but I had never seen it from start to finish. So when I caught wind that it was to be re-released in theatres in 3-D, I knew that it was finally time.

While most people went into Beauty and the Beast 3-D for the nostalgia I legitimately didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, I probably would have paid the $17 3-D ticket price just to see Tangled Ever After, which was a short film before the screening of Beauty and the Beast depicting the marriage ceremony of Rapunzel and Flynn (which was incredible, by the way). However, what struck me the most after walking out of the theatre was how emotionally deep Beauty and the Beast actually was. I had been expecting the ever-present Disney theme of, “Just be yourself!” and “It’s what’s inside that really matters, kids!” But what I was most surprised to see were the serious points of gender identity and socialization that the movie tackled. Maybe I’ve just been taking too many women and gender studies classes, but I was impressed that, through the character of Belle, Disney was able to deal with issues of identity and gender roles through society.

And, of course, I cried. I knew it was going to be sad, what with the Beast simultaneously dying from a stab wound (damn you, Gaston!) and with his rose quickly withering away, but I actually thought that I was going to be able to control myself. That is, until the Beast had to be all, “At least I get to see you one last time before I die.” That was it, and with the waterworks turned all the way on, my new priority was controlling my sniffles so that I wouldn’t be judged by the seven-year-old sitting next to me, who was handling the Beast’s impending death with a lot more self-control than I was. But, of course, the Beast was saved by Belle’s true-love’s-kiss in the nick of the time, and they danced away into happily ever after. With the closing credits, I could say with certainty that my childhood is now complete.

Ama is a sophomore at Barnard and Food Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of free-image.com

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