Beauty And The Beast: Of Protagonists, Hero-Villains, Fiery Females

Queen E adores Emma Watson's outspoken Hermione from Harry Potter who, keenly aware of being muggle-born (born of non-magical parents and in later movies subject to persecution by those of "better" birth), works harder than any of the more erm, privileged magic-born children. In one of the alternate time lines of The Cursed Child, she even grows up to hold the most-high post of Minister of Magic. Her honest effort and hard work paying off, she earns her rightful place in the (safely fictitious, thus very useful for talking to little kids about issues like racism) magical world not by virtue of birthright but instead sheer grit and diligence.

So you can understand the pickle I'm in when THIS image starts popping up on promotional posters everywhere

So you can understand my mild apprehension when THIS image started popping up on promotional posters everywhere

Which is why we had to go watch it. (Be warned though, you're burning almost 2.5 hours, but while I don't really enjoy these kinds of shows, I would recommend going if you have kids, because their friends'll surely talk about it, and the movie does have a lot of thought put into it, many thought-provoking conversation opportunities.)

Sure enough, the moment Belle appears onscreen, Queen E goes "OMG she looks so much like Hermione"... Note to self: please let Watson not turn into another Miley or Britney before her shine with my daughter wears out....!

Queen E has been asking, "So after we get married, the boy has all the power?"

Enter Gaston, whom "every" girl wants.

You want?

You want?

Some reviews mention that "Gaston" is n-ot quite beefy enough for the role, but what Luke Evans lacks in sheer bulk he makes up for with his acting 🙂 The whole fawning over Gaston thing however is good for a lesson that achievement alone does not a good person make, and in fact all that fawning can make it very hard for a person to remember to do right.

Actor Luke Evans also visited one of the most vulnerable slum communities in Mumbai which surrounds the Deonar land-fill site - the biggest dumping ground in Asia where the mountains of rubbish reach twenty meters deep. Many parents of the children living in these slums work on the garbage dump, sorting and selling rubbish and very few children have the opportunity to go to school. To support these vulnerable children, Save the Children has established a Mobile Learning Centre – a bus which has been transformed into a classroom. This bus is taken into these communities to give children the opportunity to access an education and to ensure that any child who has fallen behind in their education is given the chance to get back up to speed so they can return to school at the appropriate level for their age.

"Gaston," just before BnB came out btw, was visiting one of the most vulnerable slum communities in Mumbai for Save the Children - pic from savethechildren.org

Gaston has some choice lines, including the proverbial description of his women as "prey" and how he's willing to forgive Belle her bookish-ness because of her beauty.. He also has an evil masterplan: Suck Up To Belle's Father So He'll Let Me Marry Her, And If That Doesn't Work Then Get Rid Of Him So She Has No One Else To Take Care Of Her, And Will Thus Have No Choice But To Marry Me. His logic when attempting to convince Belle is, "Do you know what happens to spinsters in this town after their fathers die? They beg on the streets... like poor Agathe over there..." (Queen E was, "is that why these people dress so strangely" haha)

This is how the world is changing (for is there no greater way to tell what the world is like  today than by what its citizens (and especially their children) get to watch:

  1. directors make a point of highlighting in press interviews that they are throwing a nod to the LGBT community in a big budget children's production
  2. "princess films" illustrate the absurdness of little girls being described "odd" (whole songs and film dedicated to thiszzz!) if they like to read
  3. "poor Agathe" the village spinster-hag no one wants to listen to turns out to be the powerful Enchantress who started it all by turning prince into Beast for being unkind to the less fortunate, who saves Belle's father after Gaston tries to kill him, and who has been watching over the village and its levels of bigotry ever since. (Hillary Clinton is so last season).
  4. In a word: LeFou. Gaston's fluttery sidekick-turned protagonist, and both kids' favourite character after the Beast (and in Queen E's case also "Hermione")
This guy is just fabulous.

This guy is just fabulous.

Gay Or Not was so not the point. Director Bill Cordon did himself, the movie and the actor a disservice by diverting attention to that. (How many more points do we lose by diverting attention to THIS one).. The movie screening in Malaysia has been delayed by Malaysian censors wanting to take out "the gay scene" and Disney refusing to do so. (I'm still a bit... Which scene? Because I assume they're referring to the LeFou Fawning Over Gaston bit, but if you look closely enough (thanks for that, Bill, I would not have been looking out for it if not for your remarks) there's also a fleeting cross-dressing scene where the Talking Wardrobe tells this young man she has outfitted in a wig and pink dress, "Go, be happy!" as the young man then skips off delightedly. The same young man dances with LeFou in the finale. So, which scene do they really have problems with again? 🙂

(In case you were wondering, Rockstar's attitude is Yah Some Boys Like Playing Dress-up But It's Just Not Something I'm Interested In... Unless It Involves Superhero Costumes With Gadgets That Are Sick.)

2c01290f29534ce88bf4406bdd321914 lego-batman-movie-tuxedo

(Lego Batman in the latest Lego Movie loves Tuxedo Dressup Party!) - pics from dk.com and screenrant.com

But wait, one megalomaniac at a time. As you were so fabulously saying, LeFou?

Josh Gad's fluttery, fawning protagonist who, despite his adoration for Gaston, is able to see him for who he really is in the end... thus - wait for it - earning Rockstar's respect

...Even as Josh Gad steals the other show in that scene, as the fawning protagonist who, despite his adoration for Gaston, is able to see him for who he really is in the end... thus - wait for it - earning Rockstar's respect (pic from digitalspy.com)

As Josh Gad does his thing, Queen E turns to me and declares "I like this guy a lot more (than Gaston). He's so cute." Rockstar later observed, "He's the only person in that village who could see Gaston is bad. What's wrong with all these people?" (Btw, in another delicious "poor Agathe"-esque irony, "LeFou" literally translates to "The Fool". The one they name The Fool however is the only one of Gaston's hangers-on in the village who is not a fool.)

Rockstar had a point about The Fool. And I had the opportunity to point out to him that pack mentality and just basic human folly mean that popularity and niceness can easily be mutually exclusive (though of course we can always hope not). 

(If you want a more.... classic illustration of the sheep-like quality of mobs, check out Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - Mark Antony's Friends, Romans, Countrymen, the powerful oratory punctuated by slightly differing contexts of the phrase "Brutus is an Honourable Man" turns the position of the gathered townsfolk 180 degrees, from condoning the assassination of Caesar, to angrily seeking "justice," intent on killing Caesar's assassins. Yes Shakespeare uses sarcasm - more someday, because I have a love-hate relationship with Rockstar's natural.... snarkiness :P)

Ok, next one - speaking of crowds, and community, and doing the right thing, being kind - sometimes you have to be brave, in order to be kind, is how I put it to Queen E. Author Emma Thompson, in her role as the Talking Teapot, explains to Belle that in saying nothing, allowing the prince a.k.a. Beast to grow up increasingly spoiled and mean, the enchanted, imprisoned staff in the castle are not simply innocent bystanders after all. Notably, she herself has a very well-mannered little boy.... who runs in during the commotion following the Enchantress' confrontation of the prince in the earlier scenes and is caught in the spell, thus transformed into the Talking Teacup..

Emma Thompson as the talking teapot

Emma Thompson as the talking teapot - pic from eonline.com

"Poor Agathe"-who-is-actually-the-all-powerful Enchantress, has a lesson to teach the villagers and the castle staff (some of whom later turn out to be the long-lost family members and spouses of the villagers) - you have a "moral obligation" or "greater calling" to others but especially to yourself, not to allow injustice, for choosing to do nothing is also a choice, because no one really lives in a bubble after all, and so it's going to come back to bite you in the behind in ways you can't possibly fathom 🙂

They "made (their) own bed and have to lie in it," doomed to be talking furniture and antiques that increasingly become more inanimate, unless they can right their wrong, coaching the monster they created (in more ways than one) towards such virtue within, as to make outward appearances completely negligible and thus breaking the curse on all the castle's inhabitants.

Oh, you think people can't see beyond physical appearances "no matter what" in real life?

Nick Vujicic is an inspirational speaker who has, among others, moved many teenagers suffering from "body issues" like anorexia

Nick Vujicic is an inspirational speaker who has, among others, moved many teenagers suffering from "body issues" like anorexia

Queen E really liked hearing about this guy, particularly when he described how he has no limbs and cannot walk, but he can fly. He's been to almost 40 different countries as a motivational speaker (gave his first talk aged 17), was voted school captain aged 12 (in addition to being on the student council), and graduated with a double degree in Accounting and Financial Planning.

Anyway. Back to Beauty.

"Flowers?" pic from screenrant.com

"Flowers?" pic from screenrant.com

Q: Who do you choose, the boy every other girl wants, or the boy everyone thinks is too hideous to live, but who really gets you?

(It also helps, that the village girls who worship Gaston are portrayed quite bluntly as fools with an exaggerated amount of makeup. The bit that might be less noticed however, is the disdain Gaston himself displays for them, the silly village girls, he shows them no respect.)

"No thanks, I prefer the books" pic from tracking-board.com

"No thanks, I prefer libraries" - pic from tracking-board.com

What was the question again, which boy do you choose?

A: You may choose neither. 

There exists a third option, kids. You Can Say No. No one gets to push you into being with them until you're ready. And you can choose to not settle just for the sake of settling. Like every choice you will ever make, choices come with consequences of course, but these are no better or worse than others. As illustrated in the whole movie, "poor Agathe" is not helpless and dependent on the social pressure to get married, particularly if you aren't sure of the person.

A very good indication of a person's heart is how they treat you when they don't get what they want from you or, for that matter, when things are hunky-dory everyone can look like a prince. A good indication of a person's true colours is by observing what they are capable of in anger:
He'll take it. (pic from screenrant.com)

He'll take it. (pic from screenrant.com)

Boy No One Wants saves Belle from wolves despite his anger after she wanders into and snoops about his living quarters, then walks out on him for trying to control her (hence roaring at wolves, above). And so she chooses to go back to him.

Boy Every (Other) Girl Wants tries to manipulate Belle's father, then threatens him, then locks Belle up with him, and as Gaston manipulates the angry mob (even as LeFou observes who the true beast on the loose is), Queen E is howling at the angry villagers who intend to hunt down and kill Beast. Y-eah you probably don't want to go to the movies with Queen E with her many, many opinions when you're sitting in the cinema 😛

Beauty Is In The Eyes of the Beholder, You Are Beautiful By Your Actions.

A lot of life lesson opportunities; Queen E enjoyed it she really loved the Beast and LeFou, Rockstar's verdict: "Meh movie, but the Beast was sick."

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ps: 

Yes I know about this.

Yes I know about this.

Emma Watson came under fire recently for this photo for Vanity Fair. My personal opinion is, I wouldn't wear it, but that's cos magazine shoots and what works running after kids or well, living life,  is just not the same. (Also, Imma closet nerd, have you heard my views on promiscuity? Which is why I will not be trying out for a role in showbiz. *Cough*)  In a nutshell, It's Not Playboy, Why Are People Behaving Like It Is? Femen activitists are known for aggressively going topless, but Emma Watson gets flamed for this picture? Besides, her male co-star Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter himself) has been nude in the name of art (stage productions I think it was) for ages and at the height of HP fame, almost from when he was legal (in some interviews he describes himself as "17 and sh*t-scared"). I don't remember anyone screaming as much about that... Here's another more positive inspiration: In Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban, Hermione punches (!!) the snivelling Malfoy for getting a mythical animal put down after he fails to adhere to safety instructions when approaching the hippogriff (doesn't listen to safety warnings Mythical Creature Studies Professor, said creature then rears up and claws him): Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 11.29.51 am Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 11.06.51 am Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 11.06.30 am <sheepish> I have a huge chip on my shoulder pet peeve re kids and animals - naughty kid doesn't listen to instructions/ mistreats animal, animal understandably bites back, animal gets put down, everyone fusses over the "poor kid". One of the reasons we ended up with JD when we had no intention of getting a dog was because we used to wistfully drive up to this huge doggie compound each weekend, and invariably there would be kids begging and begging their parents for a puppy, "Because it looks so CUTE". Please. I'm begging you. If this is your child's only reason to want a LIVE animal, say no. (So if you are one of those people who "always" thinks it's the animal's fault, stop reading. My kids are so hyper they fly off the furniture, run into or up the walls, scrawl on the piano keys or cupboards...... but they NEVER mistreat their pets.) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On a further aside, if you needed further indication of how the entire world is changing this generation, check out features editor of Huffpost India Piyasree Dasgupta's scathing review of Bollywood romantic comedy Badrinath Ki Dulhania (Badrinath's Wife)

pic from dnaindia.com

pic from dnaindia.com

Excerpt: "...said lover boy picks up said lover girl, tries to gag her, stuffs her inside the trunk of a car and drives around as she begs to be let out. And all's forgiven. Because, with two Arijit Singh songs that scream 'What kind of a pathhar dil naagin can't see this is love', you've been asked to believe that the boy doesn't deserve to be thrown into jail and be given two tight slaps." 

I enjoyed the theme song dance sequence in Badrinath more than in Beauty and the Beast though, so after watching the Youtube (85 million views!) I was all Holi! Holi! Holi! Abs! Abs! Abs! - serious inspiration for that 6-pack

badrinath gif

Here's to a colourful, energetic week ahead, dears  

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About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
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