Monday, 6 June 2016

Musical Monday #106

For some reason I have had this song stuck in my head today, so here it is:
Gaston Reprise from Beauty And The Beast

I know that a lot of people go crazy for Beauty And The Beast, but it is personally one of my least favourite Disney films.

I don't know why I wrote 'least favourite'.  That's a stupid turn of phrase.  My 'least favourite' would probably be Sleeping Beauty, in that it IS one of my favourite Disney films, but is the worst of that list.  Whereas Beauty And The Beast is just a turd.

Here are a few random reasons why:

1, It doesn't make sense.  In the opening narration we learn that a selfish prince wouldn't let an old crone into his house in the middle of the night and then she turned into a beautiful enchantress and turned him into a monster to teach him about appearances being deceptive, and turned all his servants into cutlery, and cursed his kingdom into a scary wolf-infested dump.  The prince has until his twenty-first birthday to give and receive love or he will remain cursed forever and we know that this is in a couple of days.  But during 'Be Our Guest' the candlestick says they have all been cursed for ten years.  So the prince was not even ELEVEN when he was cursed.  An enchantress punished a CHILD for not letting a stranger in when he was home alone.  What a ******** (please fill in whatever word you find appropriate)!  Plus, why did she punish his servants?  How come no one knows about the beast since all this only happened ten years ago?  Don't people in the village wonder where the castle went?  And how is the baby cup alive?  He must have been born a cup because he is way younger than ten.

2, Belle is often referred to as the bookish and intelligent Disney princess.  Really?  Coz she is reading love stories about girls meeting princes and falling in love.  She is the Disney equivalent of a someone who enjoys Mills and Boon.  Not such a shock that she falls for her brutish kidnapper now, is it?

3, The villain is boring.  Sure, he's a bit rapey, but then I don't particularly like potential rapists in my children's cartoons.  His evil aim is.... to marry the protagonist.  Really?  That's it?  Who cares?  If the villain doesn't turn into a giant dragon during the finale, you have lost my interest.

4, When Gaston goes to murder the Beast, Beast (who is a total jerk by the way) just sits there and takes it because he's feeling sad.  Sure after a little bit he notices Belle (who is a massive snob by the way) wander into the yard and all of a sudden he decides he won't sit here and get murdered, but by then it's too late to care.  When Gaston arrives and the cutlery all put in a massive effort to stop and defeat an angry mob, the Beast, who is the HERO, just has a bit of a sulk and would just lie down and die, probably from boredom, if Belle hadn't wandered in when she did.  Are you kidding me?!  Eric, shouting, 'I lost her once, I'm not going to lose her again' dives underwater where he CAN'T BREATHE, to go after Ariel and fight Ursula.  Aladdin manages to escape an icy cliff of doom and journey all the way back from the Ends Of The Earth in just a vest for Jasmine and to fight Jafar.  But no, Beast just gets a bit depressed and waits to die.

5, You know how these musicals have one massive ensemble number that encapsulate something really important in the story?  Like how Sebastian desperately tries to convince Ariel of the dangers of land and that she shouldn't want to live among the humans in Under The Sea but her desire is just too strong to be quelled?  And how the Genie makes Aladdin's first wish come alive and turns him into a prince so that his dreams can come true and he can marry Jasmine in Prince Ali?  And how Simba sings about how I Just Can't Wait To Be King which is the culmination of all his youthful zest and folly which will be brutally crushed from him when he discovers the true responsibility that comes with being king?  Well the big ensemble number in Beauty In The Beast is about Belle having dinner.  That's it.  No subtext, no irony, she just has some dinner.



  1. Sacrilege!

    Yes, Belle reads romance, but she has read ALL the books in that shop. And what's so wrong about guilty pleasure reading? Also, she is not a princess to begin with, which is quite rare among Disney "princesses"

    The villain is not just rapey, he's a hunter, an oaf, and one of those people who resent education and knowledge. He persecutes those who are different (Belle's father) and he's manipulative, turning otherwise peaceful townsfolk into a frothing lynch mob. He's a hunky Donald friggin Trump with muscles. Pure evil. In fact, while the villains who were also dragons or monsters scared me as a kid, I now find the villains who are more human-like also more troubling. Gaston, Mother Gothel, Frollo (the villain from Hunchback of Notre Dame)...

    As for the musical numbers - you're being a bit unfair. Beauty and the Beast starts with a big ensemble number that sets up Belle as a booky, antisocial outsider ("Bonjour!"). It has the "Tale as old as time" song with its "there may be something there which wasn't there before" message. The Be Our Guest musical number might be the one with most spectacle and least substance, but Aladin had "Prince Ali", Lion King had the incredibly boring "Can You Feel The Love Tonight", and much as I like it, The Little Mermaid's "Kiss The Girl" is also more decorative filler than plot-crucial exposition.

    On the other hand, you're right that the plot makes no sense, that Beast is a total jerk (short-tempered, with violent tendencies, and a habit of moping and wallowing? Dear God, he's going to be an emotionally and physically abusive husband. The marriage between Belle and Beast is destined to end badly, quickly), that Belle is a snob.

    Even so I love the film, quite probably BECAUSE Belle is a bookish, antisocial, outsider, snob. She has terrible taste in men (I blame Stockholm Syndrome), but she's a female Disney hero that it's easy to identify with. (Arielle was too much the petulant teen, and a spoilt princess, with the world at her fins... not dislikable, but not nearly as easy to see oneself reflected in as Belle).

    In the end, I believe Beauty and the Beast is one of those instances when Disney really did their best to improve upon the source material. The original fairy tale, written by a French noblewoman during a fad for literary pseudo-fairy-tales. It basically had the moral that merchants and people who get rich through work are less worthy than those with blue blood, and only by recognising the inner nobility of the Beast does the working girl achieve any worth. Perhaps Disney should have picked better source material, but I like the movie they made, despite all its flaws.

    1. When it comes to Disney films, there’s not much point arguing. They’re designed to give us a fluffy tingly warm feeling inside and different films resonate with different people, usually based on which ones they saw as children.

      As for what’s so wrong about guilty pleasure reading? How can I answer that? Do I think there’s something wrong with guilty pleasure reading? Yes. Do I scorn and deride people who read ‘50 Shades Of Grey’ or ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’? Yes. Will this stop them doing it? No. Is it any of my business what other people choose to read? No.

      Is not being a princess rare? Belle was the 5th Disney princess. Out of five, two of them aren’t princesses by blood. The other being Cinderella, the most famous Disney princess of all time. I’d say nearly half doesn’t count as rare. The official Disney princesses are Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel and Merida. Out of those, Mulan and Pocahontas aren’t princesses at all – okay Pocahontas is the daughter of the leader of the tribe, so I can why you’d call her a princess, but Mulan is never a princess either by birth or marriage. Cinderella, Belle and Tiana aren’t born princesses. Aurora and Rapunzel grow up with no idea that they were born to royal parents. Ariel, especially Jasmine and Merida would happily quit being princesses if it meant they could have freedom and independence in their lives. That leaves Snow White, who is treated like a servant for her entire life. In conclusion, being a princess is not actually the lifestyle that ANY of these characters either live or want.

      Yes, Gaston is an evil villain. Not as bad as Frollo, who is a murderer, rapist and genocidal loon – but my point there was that I’m not sure that’s all that suitable for children. Frollo is definitely a hundred steps too far. But I just don’t find ‘marriage’ a big enough motive for villainy (it makes him annoying and tedious more than anything), and I want spectacle in a cartoon. That’s why I like Sleeping Beauty so much, despite some obvious character flaws, because it’s so damn EXCITING.

      I probably shouldn’t have used ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ as a parallel. These musicals tend to have certain staples. The ‘dream ballad’, the ‘love song’, the ‘villain song’ and the ‘big visually impressive ensemble piece akin to stage musical that ends act 1’. So comparatively, dream ballads: Part Of Your World, Belle, One Jump Ahead (Reprise), I Just Can’t Wait To Be King; love songs: Kiss The Girl, Beauty And The Beast, A Whole New World, Can You Feel The Love Tonight; villain songs: Poor Unfortunate Souls, Gaston Reprise, Prince Ali Reprise, Be Prepared; ensemble ends of act 1: Under The Sea, Be Our Guest, Prince Ali, none – Mufasa too busy being trampled to death.

      (I contest that Kiss The Girl is irrelevant, because it is vital to the plot that they do kiss, unlike the love songs in the other films – it is also the only one that didn’t have me dying of boredom when I was a child, because it is funny.)

      I agree that Ariel is too headstrong – she comes across more as stubborn. Unfortunately, while there may be much to admire in Ariel, Belle and Jasmine as brave women, they are also all defined by their relationships to men; their fathers and their boyfriends. At least Ariel has a female nemesis. I never identified with any of the heroes from these films as a kid, because they are just about a) wanting freedom and b) settling down immediately. Also, from child-perspective, they were much older than me, and from adult-perspective, they are much younger than me. If I identified with anyone, it was the put-upon but situation-manipulating Sebastian.

      Disney can often be relied upon to fix bad fairy tales, just as they can be relied upon to ruin great novels.


I look forward to your enthusiastic and loving comment.