The JCC is in need of some elevation and serious business, or something. So here we go. This whole idea came to me when I saw some random post somewhere with an argument between two feminists about Beauty and the Beast. One argued that the film demeaned women because Belle was made fun of for reading, she was thought of as quite odd. The other said that this was rubbish, because we are obviously meant to sympathize with her. I decided to watch the film again, having not seen it in years, to ascertain the truth. As that first song began, I could see how the villagers were criticizing her--but she would have none of it, and repeatedly called them provincial. She wanted something greater than the drudgery of small-town life. Indeed, these paragons of normality had their own problems: disorder, illiteracy, muddy streets, husbands seeking lusty trollops, that sort of thing. Their champion, of course, is Gaston: a man's man, muscular, with a heroic voice and profile, a great hunter, eater of red meat, etc. This is obviously a Republican constituency. Gaston is clearly a hero in the old mold, and this is how Disney turns the head on its previous stories. He has everything those previous princes had; except he is vile and terrible. The Beast, though a prince, is a horrible creature and must be awakened by the mission civilitrice of Belle. The heroine breaks down his coarse exterior and helps bring about his inner nobility--which is a message that belies the usual superficiality of Disney heroes. And while it's true that it's a literary trope that the wellborn will have this inner grace, it's not particularly important here. Gaston goes after him by fear-mongering: the peasantry is roused against the Beast by horror stories. And since he looks differently and lives differently from them, he's easy to villify. His populism leads him straight to the castle, where the Beast's loyal retainers fight off everyone save for Gaston: who persecutes the good Beast and taunts him for not being a barbarian like he is. Belle, then, is the agent of culture and civil society: she is the catalyst of this story, gently taming the horrid beast (cf. Virgil, bella! horrida bella!). She is the champion of the good and the noble against the common and the provincial. It would be a lesson we would learn well today: value the gentle littérateuse over the rambunctious jock. It's a fascinating film, really, mostly since it mocks Disney itself--Gaston wanted a wife who was barefoot and pregnant, and that didn't really happen here. Instead, she became... well, she should have become a countess, but for some stupid reason the Beast is a prince. I blame Carmen. She became a different sort of princess, one that wasn't subordinate to her "man"--indeed, he was utterly whipped. Do you agree? Disagree? Present your findings here, and we can broaden the thread by discussing other Disney characters as well. By doing so, we will broaden our minds as well.