Down the rabbit hole, part 1: tale as old as time

What if the hero didn’t win? I mean, like, just for a change of pace, what if Disney made a movie where the “handsome prince” goes after the damsel in distress but ends up, I dunno, just like dying instead and the girl is left to live out her life with the villain?

Psych— trick question, Disney already made that movie. It’s called Beauty and the Beast. Care to come down the rabbit hole with me?

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Everyone knows Gaston is a creep. At least, the Gaston that we see is a creep. But that’s the problem, don’t you see (heh, see what I did there)? The problem is that Gaston doesn’t make sense as a creep. Here we have a tall, muscular, handsome, skilled and popular hometown hero who deliberately abstains from the women flocking around him in order to pay attention to the inwardly and outwardly beautiful but socially inept town outcast; it all just screams classic romance.

Does anyone know if Troy is good at expectorating?
Does anyone know if Troy is good at expectorating?

Yet instead of getting Zac Efron we get a boorish, misogynistic and conniving villain, a role exclusively reserved at that time for much sleazier looking characters (read: Jafar, Hook, Ratcliffe). All the aesthetics of a hero, yet characterized as a villain. By classic Disney standards, it just doesn’t make sense. That is, until we ask, who is telling this story?

Enter the girl. Preferably with a cleverly woven musical number (bonjour!). What do we know about Belle? She’s beautiful, intelligent, bookish and the obvious choice for female protagonist. Well at least you got that part right, Disney. We also know, however, that she goes through an insanely (using that word carefully, stay tuned) traumatic event. It would only be natural to assume some psychological fallout. I’m not talking Stockholm syndrome; no, much better. Er- worse. I meant worse.

There is a generally accepted mental condition called False Memory Syndrome, in which a person forms (you guessed it) false memories concerning a traumatic event in order to cope. These false memories forge a new reality for the person, who not only believes the false memories but actively avoids any evidence to the contrary. It doesn’t take too large a leap of logic to suggest that Belle— the daughter of an actually senile old man— could have developed such a condition, forming false memories about her experience (and thus telling a warped version of the story) in order to cope with the trauma. But of course this is all speculation. What we really need is some evidence that the whole thing is a fabrication, a story created by Belle’s abused psyche. Evidence like…

Remember the bit in the beginning, in the opening musical number when Belle gets her favorite book and sings/describes the story to the sheep?

This one. This is the one I'm talking about.
This one. This is the one I’m talking about.

Nice bit of meta foreshadowing, we all thought. Think again. If Belle really is forming false memories to cope with her trauma, what else would she use as her source material but her favorite story? She wants her life to be a fairy tale so badly, then one mental shock later her life is a fairy tale. And not just any fairy tale— her favorite one, the one she’s memorized and constantly sings about escaping to. Well now she has, at least in her mind.

So what really happened? The facts are these: (1) Belle is a social outcast, imprisoned by a beast; (2) Gaston is the hometown hero, intent on rescuing and marrying Belle; (3) Gaston dies in his struggle with the beast; (4) Belle spends the rest of her life in the castle (now full of objects-turned-people) with the beast (now a prince). Do you see it? There is no prince. In fact, there’s no one in the castle, except the beast.

Stay with me, my furry friends...
Stay with me, my furry friends…

Ok let’s bring this home. As soon as Belle sacrifices herself for her father, accepting her life-sentence as the beast’s prisoner, she begins to converse with the now-animate objects in her room. Already she is cracking, forming castaway-esque friendships in her isolation. But don’t worry, here comes the hero to rescue her from the villainous monster! He doesn’t rescue her, though. He fails. He dies. Her only chance at rescue gone, her actual Disney-happy-ending-handsome-prince-marriage lying at the bottom of a ravine, Belle breaks completely. The beast becomes “the prince in disguise,” all of the objects become actual people. The story itself warps in her mind so that hero becomes beast and beast becomes hero. Tale as old as time? No; this is no love story. This is the happy ending that never was. There is no prince. There is, and forever will be, the Beauty and the Beast.

How'd I do? Agree? Disagree? Passive aggressive comment about the weather? Let me know!
How’d I do? Agree? Disagree? Passive aggressive comment about the weather? Let me know!

35 thoughts on “Down the rabbit hole, part 1: tale as old as time

  1. Oh my gosh. That has to be the most genius retelling/analysis/what have you of “Beauty and the Beast” ever. I’m still going to watch it like it’s a happy ending (duh, it’s my favorite Disney movie) but man. That made me think. That was brilliant!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There goes my favourite Disney movie. Oh well, the bubble had to pop at some point. Maybe I’ll just continue to live in a fairy land where Walt Disney wasn’t racist and sexist and Disney movies aren’t full of frightening statements about mental illness and the adult world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lol, you’ve traveled deep into the Disney Psyche…careful they may come for you. When you look at almost any Disney premise, it does make these women seem like they have an unhealthy attachment to love. I’d prefer to watch Disney movies and point out all the sexual and phallic innuendos lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting. I’m a fan of hypothesizing about Disney movies. Regardless of how “correct” it is, a new take on a favorite movie is always an interesting read. Especially when the writer doesn’t make it out to be that Disney is what is ruining the world. (Shocking how many people seem to think that, isn’t it?) Nicely done, I enjoyed reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. LOL I loved this!

    I have to admit though, I think the version I’d most like to see is Belle giving a big “fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, fuck you, I’m out” to the whole town and gone somewhere where she wouldn’t have been made fun of for reading or having a brain.

    Just saying, maybe you could write that one next 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think you jut ruined my favorite Disney movie for me. I get compared to Belle a lot because I’m a bookish brainiac outcast so I’m having mixed feelings here. This is really cool though! I’ll never look at it the same again.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I find it interesting that no one has taken a disney movie and analyzed it from a mental illness perspective like you have. I’m sure you’ve read about the ones about Winnie the Pooh or Rugrats. Thoroughly enjoyed your take! You definitely just gave me a theory for one of the scary stories I read on Reddit called Emma (I think that’s the title…or is it They Called Her Emma?). If you get a chance, maybe you can figure out that story. Haha, and then discuss it with me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this idea. I’m a huge fan of Disney, like the rest of the world. I have read theories on different Disney tales, cartoons, and fairy tales, but this one… it’s really easy to grasp. It makes sense that Belle would create this fantasy for herself since she is an outcast. It’s a story of her life, in her own perspective. In a way, we all live a life of insanity. The way we see things aren’t as other perceive them and the way we remember things are from our eyes and can be fabricated with illusions of what we believe happened. I enjoy your writing, I look forward to your posts =]

    Liked by 2 people

  9. (Insert gif of parliament exploding from Sherlock season 3 that I couldn’t get to paste)
    My mind is blown! How did you come up with this!? I love reading analyses of old stories that you’ve always just taken for granted. Great job, and it makes so much sense!!

    Emma

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for following my blog. Nice to meet you.

    Disney does have a skewed way of thinking in many of their movies. There is always a death of a major character in each film which can be traumatic to young children. I still haven’t gotten over Bambi and

    Old Yella! It seems you have a gift in seeing what others do not see. Enjoyable and creative post!

    Liked by 1 person

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