Much More Than This Poor Provincial Script {And Other Storytelling Lessons from Beauty & The Beast}

Beauty&TheBEAST_PNG

Who doesn’t love Beauty and the Beast?

anigif_enhanced-6525-1429727963-8

Well…let’s clarify. Because there are quite a few Beauty and the Beasts out there today. You have the classic 1991 animated Disney film (which is just iconic, let’s be honest); the original fairy tale (was it a Grimm’s fairy tale? Or a Hans Christen Anderson one?? Or somehow I think it was originally a French folktale??? CAN’T. REMEMBER. HELP.); and then, you’ve got the large stack of Beauty and the Beast adaptions, whether they be novels or movies or one certain multi-million-dollar production starring Emma Watson that’s SUPPOSED to be the Beauty and the Beast…and yet, somehow isn’t.

Yes, it’s got the Beast, and Belle, and a poor provincial town in France, and it’s been surrounded by hype since Day One. And I bet you all loved it because, DUH, it’s Beauty and the Beast starring Hermione (who’s been dream-casted as Belle on every single Tumblr blog EVER).

Image result for 2017 beauty and the beast gif

And yet…(don’t get mad at us)…Clara and I just feel like the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast ultimately failed to capture the essence of the original animated film. We watched the 2017 version the other night and came away from it feeling largely disappointed. Why? Because, by all accounts, it SHOULD have been a good movie: the casting was good, the sets were good, the costumes were okay—although Belle’s yellow dress was a major let-down, especially when compared to Cinderella’s iconic blue gown as recreated for the 2015 live action Cinderella.

Image result for cinderella movie 2015 gif

And speaking of the 2015 Cinderella, well, let’s just say that Clara and I weren’t big fans of that adaption either, but for totally different reasons. Really, we both just can’t stand Cinderella the character. She’s a ditz, and lacks any sort of ambition or gumption or aspiration for self-improvement. But that’s our personal opinion—our dislike of this one character colored the rest of the movie for us. Overall, however, 2015 Cinderella captured the feeling of the original Cinderella—it was bright, and whimsical, and magical and hopeful.

So there’s a major difference right there. One movie got the essence of its predecessor right, and one totally missed the mark. What’s up with that, Beauty and the Beast? Especially since—like we said—the casting had a lot of potential. AND Clara and I both personally like the character of Belle, so there’s no way we’d dislike the movie due to “I-can’t-stand-this-character” reasons.

giphy (3)
I mean, she likes BOOKS. How could you NOT like Belle???

So what’s the problem?

To put it simply: Storytelling. Beauty and the Beast made some major storytelling errors, in its script and in the execution of its characters. Okay, so we’re being rather vague, but worry not! True to Proud & Prejudice Book Thief Form, we’ll break it all down for you, so you can walk away from the post knowing exactly what went wrong with 2017’s Beauty and the Beast. And since this is a BOOK BLOG, we’ll connect B&B’s problems to real-life-writerly-applications, because what’s the point of going over something’s shortcomings if we don’t take a lesson or two away from it?? (BUT WRITING LESSONS. Much better than School Lessons). We’re talking about STORYTELLING problems, remember? Stories can be told in most any medium, and there a few tricks that apply all across the board…as you’re about to find out.

B&B1.PNG

2017’s Beauty and The Beast is not an animated film.

Image result for beauty and the beast 2017 gif

Um, of course it’s not an animated film, you’re probably thinking. That’s the whole idea of the LIVE-ACTION thing.

Yeah, we got that. What we MEAN is that certain elements, or story-telling methods, that work via animation don’t come off so well when translated to a live-action film. Let’s break it down.

Beauty and the Beast’s primary lesson is that inner beauty is the thing that counts in the end. And yet, in the animated film, Belle is beautiful on both the inside and the outside. Gaston is supposed to be the good-looking, dreamy guy around town, but seriously—look at the man. He is not handsome.

Image result for gaston beauty and the beast gif

Disney knows how to make their men attractive (think Prince Eric or Flynn Rider), and they certainly didn’t give Gaston the Pretty Treatment.

The point of this? The animated film took its “inner beauty” message a step further. Character’s physical appearances represented who that character was on the inside: Belle is the epitome of goodness, and she looks the part. Gaston is gross…and he looks gross.

v1KEXQ4b164Tu

The Beast is the most obvious example of this—he was cursed into a form that revealed his true (inner) ugliness, and later, when he learns to love, he returns to looking (somewhat) attractive.

But that sort of thing isn’t possible in a live-action film. And it really backfires when it comes to the movie’s treatment of Gaston, played by Luke Evans. Luke Evans is an attractive person, or at least more attractive than animated Gaston. This makes it absolutely necessary to emphasize and then over emphasize that he is an EVIL PERSON, one that Belle is absolutely justified in spurning. Instead, the film tries to give Gaston a facade of “goodness”, and slowly pull out his true nature over the course of the plot.

giphy (4)

Hey, guess what Disney? We all KNOW that Gaston is a villain. No one is going to be shocked when this “nice, sweet” hunter suddenly turns into a blood-thirsty beast killer. And so Gaston’s character came off awkwardly. He seems almost genuine in the beginning of the film, like he really cares about Belle and not just about himself. The absolute worst he does is step on Belle’s cabbages and give himself a narcissistic pep talk.

cd1a0525-2ca2-4cba-aff7-da009cb6e2ad

Okay…? That’s really bad…?

In turn, it just makes Belle look rude. Belle is a Disney Princess! She’s not supposed to be rude, to have flaws!

Wait.

To be honest, Belle really didn’t have any flaws in the animated B&B, and that’s okay. She is a symbolic representation of good, a catalyst of positive change—even her own character arc represents this positive change: she learns that she is indeed capable of adventure and fulfilling her dreams.

tumblr_o258qzjHX21rkzusmo1_400

However, using people as symbols doesn’t translate well into a live-action film with real actors. The audience now expects depth and characterization. Suddenly these elusive Disney heroines are human, and logically, they are going to act like humans, and be flawed and hopeful all at once.

The film tried to pass this off on LeFou, which was a mistake (more on this later), and didn’t bother to round out Belle AT ALL. Where are her flaws? And don’t say, “She was headstrong!”, because a “flaw” that does nothing but help the character in their journey, a flaw that is constantly praised by everyone around them is not really a flaw at all. Emma Watson’s Belle was flawless, but not in a good way. And the movie made it even worse by giving her MORE positive traits—oooh, look! She’s innovative! She’s scientific! She’s probably a feminist!

o8BYkCM

End result? Belle became so obnoxiously outwardly STRONG that she lost her iconic Disney-Princess-Inner-Strength, and ended up as just being annoying, and unidentifiable. The film tried to make her into a Strong Female Character—look, she can rescue herself! She made herself a little bed-sheet ladder and everything. Hello, what’s wrong with being a damsel in distress once in a while? (And if you think about it, Belle trying to escape the castle via her window is really just cowardice…the Beast could have pursued her, and slaughtered her family and the village–but did this even CROSS Belle’s mind?)

Image result for 2017 beauty and the beast gif
Whoa, look, “Damsel in Distress” moment. And did the world explode? (NO.) So what’s your problem with getting rescued, Belle?

Finally, what was the point of taking Maurice-the-Crackpot-Inventor and turning him into this Sophisticated- Artist-and-Loving-Father? The fact that animated Maurice was such a loon served to reinforce that fact that he and Belle were outcasts, and never really belonged in their town. Belle’s family is meant to be viewed as wacky by the townspeople, because Belle reads (*gasp*) and Maurice is the insane inventor. 2017’s B&B had everyone calling Maurice insane, but why? Because he spends his days painting music boxes? I don’t think so.

B&B2.PNG

  • EVERY CHARACTER NEEDS FLAWS. Even those female “goddesses” who seem to be soooo prevalent in YA fiction. Focus less on empowering woman and more on character development. This subject is practically its own post—and lucky you, we did a post a few months back on writing female characters (spoiler: Elizabeth Swann is your writerly-role-model).
  • Badly written/developed charters can screw with your plot. Ah, whoops, typo. BADLY WRITTEN CHARTERS WILL SCREW WITH YOUR COLONIES, ENGLAND. (What was the point of that?) Anyway–characters! Characterization matters.
  • Keep in mind the expectations of your audience, especially when doing a retelling. Usually, the readers will want some sort of twist on the original storyline, except when the remake is supposed to be an exact do-over of the original. (See: 2017’s Live Action Beauty and The Beast….oh wait.)

B&B3.PNGLet’s just get this out of way: WHAT’S WITH THE RANDOM MINORITIES IN 16th CENTURY FRANCE???

This is not racism. This is logic. Disney has plenty of films focused just on minorities characters—Mulan, Moana, The Frog Princess. When those films get their movie adaptions you can bet there aren’t going to be any white people shoehorned into the background. So why are there minorities placed in a setting, where historically, they wouldn’t have existed? It takes away any sort of credible historical accuracy. Honestly, it’s just ridiculous.

Now, we’re going to tackle the next subject on the docket in our discussion-y back-and-forth format, so that a.) Clara can get her say (because even thought this whole post is mostly from a “we” POV, it is I, Hermione, who is typing it up. BUT WE DID DO ALL THE BRAINSTORMING/POST-PLANNING TOGETHER.) and b.) Because we want to. And it’s our blog. Eat that, you illiterate muggles!

(Hopefully that little outburst didn’t just fling all our credibility to the wind. Because calling your readers “illiterate muggles” is OBVIOUSLY the best way to get them to respect your point of view in a controversial issue.)

Hermione: So, Clara, tell me your thoughts concerning the 2017’s Beauty and The Beast’s handling of LeFou.

Clara: As we mentioned earlier, the transition from an animated film to a live action one is not easy. So, you have to make your characters more human, and give them quirks and flaws and depth. It might have been a little creepy to spend 130 minutes watching Luke Evans beat Josh Gad to a bloody pulp.  Something did have to be done with the character of LeFou. Unfortunately, Disney made all the wrong choices. There was a hilarious moment in Gaston’s song where LeFou is trying to spell Gaston’s name and is all: “It has just occurred to me that I’m illiterate and have never had to spell it out loud before…” That was FUNNY. LeFou’s original role was one of comic relief, so why not give him more funny one liners? This would have endeared the audience to the character, and added some much needed humor. Instead, LeFou was given awkward characterization that only served to enhance how shallow the other characters were, like Belle and the Beast.

Then there’s the whole gay thing. This is A CHILDRENS MOIVIE!!!! It is not an opportunity to push your personal agenda onto everyone watching the movie. I think it’s twisted how actors and actresses can be blacklisted from Hollywood for being in a Christian film, but it’s totally okay to turn a beloved Disney film into a statement about Gay rights. Again with the historical accuracy: Gay people in early 18th century France would have NEVER flaunted their sexuality in front of people. I mean, come on, they would have been burned at the stake!

Hermione: Yeah, exactly! Giving LeFou’s character substantial depth not only portrayed him as a major character (even though he’s not, he’s a side character, the comic relief—like you said), but it was also only done because he was the character made out to be homosexual. In comparison to Gaston, LeFou is painted as the sympathetic, human guy, the one who sees Gaston’s warmongering for what it is, the one who we’re all supposed to identify with. Oh, yeah, and he’s gay. Not a coincidence! The homosexuals have a clear agenda. First, the YA genre goes completely and irrationally gay, and now it’s being translated into children’s movies. Are all of the Disney live action remakes going to be propaganda vehicles? (Yes.)

Clara: SAVAGE!!!! *DABS*

Hermione: Hush, Clara. No dabbing needed. We’ve undoubtedly offended enough people as it is. And here’s the thing, if you are very offended and mad at us right now, then leave us (a polite) comment, explaining your point of view. The Internet today is extremely cautious and all about tiptoeing around on eggshells, desperately trying not to offend anyone. All that does is restrict free speech. We’ve a right to our opinion, even if it’s not a popular one.

B&B2

  • HAVE A CARE WITH DIVERSITY. Don’t spit in the face of historical accuracy just to please Hollywood. (Honestly, we JUST talked about this.)
  • If the sole point of your book/movie is to convey an agenda (such as homosexuality), then you’ve missed the entire point of storytelling and you should go into writing propaganda pamphlets. Of course some of your political/ethical views are going to be translated into your book (*cough cough* Charles Dickens), but these should come across in subtext, or in small, background detail/character dialogue.

B&B4Do you know what a dead cat does?

Nothing.

Do you know what the plot of Beauty and the Beast did?

Nothing.

Okay, okay, some stuff did happen. But a “plot” is more than just a sequence of events—it is an act of storytelling, and it demands tension. Tension is what keeps the elements of a plot held together, it’s what gives your story suspense—even if you’re not writing a crime thriller.

giphy (2)

The plot of Beauty and the Beast lacked any sort of tension. Sure, we all know the plot, and how the storyline is supposed to play out, but that doesn’t give the movie an excuse to play out so complacently that some parts come out as downright boring. What the movie needed was a giant kick in the pants—or a Beast that was actually frightening.

Image result for beauty and the beast gif 2017 beast
Sorry…but I’m very much not intimidated??

Villains need to be VILLIANOUS. Like with Gaston, this is an issue of characterization, but while the movie could have pulled off their portrayal of Gaston, the very nature of The Beauty and The Beast demands a frightening, evil Beast. A character arc is much more satisfying when it swings from being dark and cruel to beautifully, suddenly light—especially when you’re dealing with a redemptive character arc.

giphy (1)

And from the beginning, even when The Beast is shown banging on Belle’s door, demanding she dine with him, he contains an element of civility. Viewers are instantly assured that this is no true monster, but a man trapped inside an aggressive persona. There is no wild rampage in the West Wing, no part in the movie were the beast seems utterly inhuman.

Image result for beauty and the beast get out gif

Ultimately, this did a grave disservice to the movie, stripping the plot of some much-needed darkness.

To make matters worse, the plot was then also bogged down by several pointless subplots. WHO CARES HOW BELLE’S MOTHER DIED??? Sure, three minutes of dialogue stuck somewhere in the movie wouldn’t have mattered, something along the lines of:

MAURICE: Belle, your Maman contracted the plague, and so we had to leave her in Paris.

BELLE: How very sad. But isn’t it great we lived in Paris? Because it’s not like there’s any other city in France that we could have lived in.

MAURICE: She loved you, Belle. Also she liked books.

BELLE: I’m touched.

Wow, look how simple that was. Instead we got an entire scene in some attic, and a whole new song about the “Paris of Belle’s childhood.” Woo-hoo.

The idea that the servants stuck with the Beast because they felt guilty for not intervening more in his bringing-up was an interesting one, and one that could have been explored further. It seemed to be a bit of a teaser subplot, like someone flashing a diamond ring before your eyes and then stowing it away before you can get a good look at it. If the plan was to give the Beast a Tragic Backstory, then said Tragic Backstory should have been fleshed out more. At the same time, does having a traumatic childhood really excuse the Beast’s behavior? Just saying.

giphy (5)

In the end, and based on what we remember of the animated version, Beauty and The Beast stuck pretty closely to the plotline of the original film. This is great…except for the thing that we brought up way back at the beginning of this post—that 2017’s Beauty and The Beast failed to capture the essence of the original film. So maybe a few things could have been changed up and the quiddity of the first film thus recaptured? For instance, the song “Home” (from the Broadway version of Beauty & The Beast) would have been a great addition to the film, as it would have given Belle’s character a chance to showcase some inner strength. On the other hand, maybe it’s better the song didn’t show up, because while Emma Watson does have a nice voice (much better than Emma Stone’s whispery disaster in La La Land), she doesn’t exactly have a Broadway voice.

B&B2

  • If your novel is not character driven, if it has some element of action (like…I don’t know…wolves chasing old men through the snow…. blood-thirsty French peasants going after hairy mutants)—then your novel needs to have the stakes be raised. Plotting matters. Don’t plot drop in favor of pretty characters (though pretty characters are nice too).
  • As we said, make your villains VILLAINOUS. They can have a “tragic backstory” and still be dislikable (Remember the Stepmother from the Cinderella spin-off Ever After? The Stepmother’s life certainly didn’t turn out the way she wanted it to—two husbands dead, a pushy mother—and yet she is still unquestionably nefarious). Even Loki, who is the EPIC SLYTHERIN VILLAIN, and so cunning with his plots, is ultimately a rather weak “villain” because his tragic backstory consumes him. Honestly, do any of us even think of him as evil?? Just keep in mind the kind of villain you are trying to write—either the tragic one that was wronged/that you can sympathize with or the truly evil one. {This is also a subject that deserves its own post. We will get to this. Someday.}
  • Hopefully these takeaways have been somewhat helpful??? Honestly, a lot of them seem to be pretty much commonsense: characters are important. DEVELOP them. Plots are important. DEVELOP them. But at the same time, the fact that we even feel a need to say anything at all says something. And really, aren’t characters/plots really the heart of every book, and when we write any sort of book review, aren’t our main issues usually with the characters or the plot?? Food chocolate for thought.

0231

And there you have it. Really, if the movie had just had a DIFFERENT SCRIPT (*I want much more than this poor, provincial script…* Aren’t we clever?), a different director, and possibly a different Belle…

ANYWAY.

If you have somehow actually managed to get all the way through this beastly long post (pun intended), then, seriously, we thank you. Hopefully you have a lovely day!!!

B&B5.PNG

Have you seen the remake of Beauty & The Beast? Did you like it? Do you agree with any of our points or have we offended you terribly? Also, who’s your favorite Disney Princess? 😉

Advertisements

6 Comments Add yours

  1. shar says:

    This is really really interesting! I watched Beauty and the Beast this year when it came out, and I watched the animated version a year before that. I really liked both of them, although I think that plenty of your concerns are legitimate. With the whole ‘not enough plot thing’, I think you’re being a bit harsh, but you’re not entirely wrong either. Also, the whole ‘paris of my childhood’ thing was really random and unnecessary, and I also agree that the beast was not really redeemed when he was kind of likeable from the start. Also yeah, I agree that in terms of historical accuracy all the brown people thrown in didn’t make much sense; if there were people of colour in France at the time, they were probably very low class and also lived in the cities. *pretends she knows stuff about french history*
    I personally don’t have a problem with homosexuality. But it seems likely that it is overrepresented in the YA genre compared to real life. And LeFou would definitely not have been explicit about it because it was just not a thing people talked about in that era. Also, if they were going to discuss his homosexuality, then it should have been properly part of the story instead of just thrown in awkwardly for representation’s sake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the long comment, Shar!!! (I seriously love long comments…😍😜)

      Our goal in writing the post was mainly to showcase a pov that doesn’t show up on the internet all that often, and I’m glad that you agreed with some of our points!
      ~Hermione

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dude. I was so disappointed by this movie, and you’ve hit the nail on the head with why it was so terrible. Honestly, Belle was an excruciatingly boring character. In the animated movie, she was dramatic and romantic and clever, like Anne of Green Gables. But Emma Watson played her far too subtly. When Belle sang about longing for adventure, I was just like, “Where did that come from??” And the whole thing with how her favorite book is Romeo and Juliet– unless she’s prone to flights of fancy and is a ridiculous romantic, that would not be her favorite book. It especially would not be the favorite book of the sophisticated, literate woman they tried to make her into!
    And they tried to do so many things with LeFou (LGBT representation! Comic relief! Bumbling sidekick!) But they failed at ALL of them. I didn’t have a problem with the ethnic minorities (there are talking teacups, for crying out loud) but since they tried to make everything else more “realistic” and “historical,” wih the black death and all, it kind of took you out of the story.
    Basically the directors tried to make it a bunch of things, and they ended up with a preachy story with a boring main character. “Poor provincial script” is right.
    Ian McKellen was a pretty great Cogsworth, though. Pity he only had like 2 lines.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad to find someone who agrees with us!!! Thanks so much for the long comment!😜 And YES that is a great point about Romeo and Juliet…anyone who’s ever read Romeo and Juliet knows it’s NOT really a love story–why couldn’t Belle be reading The Tempest or The Taming of the Shrew or some other Shakespeare play? Then she’d actually come off as someone who’s “well-read.”
      And I agree with you that Ian McKellen was good casting…as were a couple of the other voice actors…but yeah, they were pretty sidelined.
      Thanks for much again!!!
      ~Hermione

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s