Before I start writing this, I will mention as evidence against my defense, that Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie of all time. If you disagree with me, you may be tempted to use this to disprove my thesis. However, keep in mind the ad hominem fallacy; do not think that you can dismiss my arguments simply by saying that I am biased. The arguments must be dealt with on their own terms.
My other disclaimer is that I am most certainly NOT a feminist. I believe in all the tenets which St. Paul taught about the submission of wives to husbands; I even think there is evidence that in certain intellectual aspects (certainly not all aspects) woman qua woman is inferior to man qua man, and that the dominance of men in almost all fields of learning is at least partially due to a real superiority in these fields. However, I also think that man and woman are equal “in Christ Jesus”, and that any given woman may have equal or greater skill, even in those aforementioned fields, than any given man.
Certain Criticisms of Beauty and the Beast
It is common now, among orthodox Catholics, to criticize Disney unfavorably. (The ‘unfavorably’ is not redundant; criticism is not necessarily, by its nature, negative.) I will not name names, but you know who I am talking about. Far be it from me to disagree, on the whole. There are many detestable aspects to Disney, including some of its movies. I may later mention a few of the other movies which have fallen into this category of criticism, but for now I will confine myself to the case against Beauty and the Beast.
I will divide these criticisms into four parts.
1) Criticisms of its perceived anti-domesticity.
2) Criticisms of its portrayal of men.
3) Other criticisms.
1) most closely involves the character of Belle herself and her aspirations. She longs for ‘something more’ than she thinks she can find in this ‘poor provincial town’. She is bookish and dreamy; besides, she is beautiful and conceivably considers herself superior to the peasants who live around her. This shows, some argue, a contempt of what G. K. Chesterton called the ‘wildness of domesticity’. She believes she is too good for the plain life found by the other villagers, and too good to settle down to a normal married life with Gaston. That is for other poor souls who have no higher aspirations. Besides, it reaches beyond and is opposed to her proper feminine role, which is to nurture a home (for most women, anyways, whose vocation is marriage). In other words, she is a feminist.
2) is the second most serious criticism brought against Beauty and the Beast. Gaston is a macho brute, Belle’s father is an ineffectual dimwit, and the Beast is, well, a beast. There are no positive male role models in Beauty and the Beast. Gaston, who is the only young male in human form throughout the movie, is a mockery of true manhood. It is anti-male; it is emasculating; it is feminist; it breeds contempt for fatherhood in the minds of the children who watch it.
3) primarily concerns the portrayal of the enchantress. She performs an evil action (turning the boy into a beast) for the sake of a good result (his repentance). This is an example of evil means working for a good end, which is unacceptable.
It also concerns the modesty of the dress and behavior of the characters. I am sure there are some others I intended to write about, but at the moment I am unable to remember them.
Many conclude, looking at all this, that Beauty and the Beast is unsuitable for children and that they will not show it to their family – a reasonable conclusion, if it is as poisonous and anti-family as this evidence would seem to suggest.
Part II – still working on it.