Saturday, October 15, 2011

Beauty and the Beast makes my head hurt

We'll take a break from our regularly scheduled stupid horror game post, and have a chat about Beauty and the Beast. I'm going to start out by doing something that I don't normally do: link you to the text.

Here it is. The story's short, and worth a read, which is another way of saying that this fairy tale is so fucked up that you have to read it.

Now like most people, the only thing I knew about Beauty and the Beast was the Disney version, where Beauty is clearly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

I've seen the Disney version of Hercules, so I know that Disney is capable of committing some pretty horrific editing atrocities in the interest of selling cute plastic toys

so I wasn't expecting the Disney version to be the definitive one. Still, the back story seemed solid: the Beast is a horrible, loathsome prince who doesn't show an old lady any kindness. She reveals herself to be an enchantress—because duh—and the prince is cursed to become a beast until such time where he can feel love, and be loved in return. His entire castle is also transformed along with him since, you know, the enchantress already had her wand out and everything; and since this was apparently a small and insignificant kingdom and everyone's family members were dead from the plague, nobody realized what happened for many years. Fine.

So what's different about the original version? Well, everything, for a start. The story is centered mostly around Beauty and her two miserable sisters. Beauty's real name is never given, since she is apparently so beautiful that she's nicknamed Beauty—It is a real kindness to her that she wasn't born with a cleft palate, I'll tell you what—and none of the other characters are named at all because fuck them.

Beauty is not only beautiful, but also gentle and kind—the text is a little unclear here, but it seems to indicate that Beauty was kind because she was beautiful, which is definitely contrary to my experience. The other two sisters are always spoken of together, so we'll call them The Sisters; in addition, there's the rich merchant who fathered them all, and three brothers who basically don't exist. Mom's dead, and she's the luckiest of the group. In fact, I'm renaming this Beauty's Mom: The Dead One, because she definitely happily ever aftered, even if she wasn't alive.

So Beauty is perfect and The Sisters are vain and jealous, and everyone is just sitting around waiting for the merchant to lose all his belongings so this story will get started. Once he finally does they all pack up and move from the city to the country, which, really? Who wouldn't want a nice little cottage out in the country? Fucking hell.

And here's the first part that seemed a little strange to me.

 In the beginning she found it very difficult, for she had not been used to work as a servant; but in less than two months she grew stronger and healthier than ever. After she had done her work, she read, played on the harpsichord, or else sung whilst she spun. On the contrary, her two sisters did not know how to spend their time; they got up at ten, and did nothing but saunter about the whole day, lamenting the loss of their fine clothes and acquaintance.

First off, how does this family own a harpsichord? I know I'm focusing on the less glaring aspect of that paragraph, but really? You've lost everything in the stock market crash, and somehow you haven't sold your harpsichord? Well, obviously Beauty needs something to practice on. I bet she plays beautifully too, the twat. Also, since The Sisters are planning on just moping around all day, 10 seems like a fairly early rise time for them. Cut some slack.

Okay, right. Let's highlight it again

In the beginning she found it very difficult, for she had not been used to work as a servant”

Right, I get that they were a very wealthy family and so cleaning would have been naturally relegated to the servants, but... well, shouldn't this be written “she found it very difficult, for she had not been used to work as a normal human being”? It's sort of acting like the only two classes of people are those who do work for others and those who have work done for them. In fact, remember that part where they lost all their money and had to go and live in the forest? Yeah, I don't think this story was written by a commoner, you guys.

Everyone slaves away for a while, being normal and acting like most people have to act, and then dad finds out that a missing ship has come to port with a load of his belongings on it! Oh man, dad, this is the perfect excuse for you to get lost in the woods and meet with a mysterious monster. Dad agrees and sets off, his head filled with requests from The Sisters for finery and things. You'd think that everyone would just encourage The Sisters to stay in bed all day and spare them all the trouble, but I suppose the internet hadn't been invented yet. Beauty, being so beautiful and kind and wise and helpful and hardworking, doesn't ask for anything at all—except a single red rose, to avoid making her sisters look badly. Yeah. It says that.

 Not that Beauty cared for a rose, but she asked for something, lest she should seem by her example to condemn her sisters' conduct, who would have said she did it only to
look particular.”

Two things: one, if your sisters are asking for the Maltese Falcon and you only ask for a rose, you're probably not doing your best to avoid looking like you're being really condescending to them. And two, the text makes a huge deal about what a voracious reader Beauty was, whiling away her time devouring all manner of novels. I don't believe it. Why? Because if Beauty were truly a reader, what she would have asked for would have been a book.

So Pops makes it into town and for one reason or another is unable to make any money off his waterlogged belongings, so he heads back home. On the way he gets lost, and finds himself in an enchanted courtyard. He gets everything—food, a place to rest, plenty of clothes to wear—and on the way out decides to take a single rose for Beauty.

And for the first time in this story, the Beast appears. And he flips the fuck OUT.

 "You are very ungrateful, (said the
beast to him, in a terrible voice) I have saved your life by receiving
you into my castle, and, in return, you steal my roses, which I value
beyond any thing in the universe; but you shall die for it; I give you
but a quarter of an hour to prepare yourself, to say your prayers." 

The merchant begs for his life, and the Beast agrees to spare it, as long as the merchant sends a daughter in his place. Oh, and then gives him a load of gold. Passive-aggressive much? It's almost like he'd be the perfect companion for Bea... oh. Right.

Beauty decides to take her father's place, because of course she does, and eventually finds out that the Beast just plans on her living there for the rest of her life. He doesn't want to harm her at all. He just wants to look at her.

 "Beauty, (said the
monster,) will you give me leave to see you sup?"

Oh wow. Oh WOW.

 when he said to her, "Beauty, will you be my wife?" She was some
time before she durst answer; for she was afraid of making him angry, if
she refused. At last, however, she said, trembling, "No, Beast."
Immediately the poor monster began to sigh, and hissed so frightfully,
that the whole palace echoed. But Beauty soon recovered her fright, for
Beast having said, in a mournful voice, "then farewell, Beauty," left
the room; and only turned back, now and then, to look at her as he went out"

Ooooooh WOW. Somebody's read The Game.

What's the best part? The best part is that Beauty spends 3 months in this castle before anything happens, and the Beast asks her to marry him EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Every single night! And even though she thinks the Beast is wonderful and kind and sweet and gentle, she can't bring herself to marry him because he is a horrible beast.

It's a good thing the gentle, sweet, kind, thoughtful, intelligent Beauty was also born beautiful. Yep.

The Beast finally agrees to let Beauty go back to her home, just to see her father for a week. In this time, her sisters have found some wealthy gentlemen to marry them. Great!

They were both of them very
unhappy. The eldest had married a gentleman, extremely handsome indeed,
but so fond of his own person, that he was full of nothing but his own
dear self, and neglected his wife. The second had married a man of wit,
but he only made use of it to plague and torment every body, and his
wife most of all."


The agreement is that Beauty can spend a week with her family and then must return immediately to the Beast. The Sisters decide to derail her plans because she had the audacity to come home all dressed up and shit—that bitch—and because the both of them are stupid and have forgotten that they hated having Beauty around.

What's their big plan? To be nice to her until she agrees to stay two weeks. GASP. Just go ahead and assume this crackerjack idea works, because it does. Even though Beauty has the ability to return to the castle AT ANY TIME, INSTANTLY she doesn't go back to tell him that she's staying an extra week or anything, no no. No, the deformed animal that asks her to marry him every fucking night will certainly understand when she doesn't show up.

After 10 days, Beauty has an awful dream that the Beast is dying, and finally decides to return to the castle. She wakes up in her normal bed, and then spends the day to herself. You know, getting some alone time.

She put on one of her richest suits to please him, and waited
for evening with the utmost impatience; at last the wished-for hour
came, the clock struck nine, yet no Beast appeared.

Oh shit, maybe she shouldn't have spent so much time playing solitaire. That's how it gets you!

And here is the best part of this story. THE BEST FUCKING PART.

 "You forgot your promise, and I was
so afflicted for having lost you, that I resolved to starve myself; but
since I have the happiness of seeing you once more, I die satisfied."


Oh man. Oooooh man. Someone forgot to tell the Beast that women don't like men who pretend to be their friends and emotionally blackmail them into liki-

"No, dear Beast, (said Beauty,) you must not die; live to be my husband;
from this moment I give you my hand, and swear to be none but yours.

Fuck it.


Postscript: So what's the Beast's real backstory? Well...

a wicked fairy had condemned me to remain under that shape
till a beautiful virgin should consent to marry me: the fairy likewise
enjoined me to conceal my understanding; there was only you in the world
generous enough to be won by the goodness of my temper; and in offering
you my crown, I can't discharge the obligations I have to you."

Why? Well, it doesn't really matter because she comes back and turns Beauty's two sisters into stone statues. Teehee!

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