We all know the opening lines to Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The music, the imagery, the soothing narration, the Bambi cameo; they all come together to create a breathtaking moment that drags you into another classic animated world where anything can - and does - happen. But if you take a moment and really pay attention to what David Ogden Stiers says, there's a dark side to this family favorite.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle. Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind. But then, one winter's night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the prince sneered at the gift, and turned the old woman away. But she warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within. And when he dismissed her again, the old woman's ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress. The prince tried to apologize, but it was too late. For she had seen that there was no love in his heart. And as punishment she transformed him into a hideous beast, and placed a powerful spell on the castle and all who lived there. Ashamed of his monstrous form, the beast concealed himself inside his castle with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his twenty-first year. If he could learn to love another and earn their love in return by the time the last petal fell, then, the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope... for who could ever learn to love a beast?
That Enchantress meant business. She showed no mercy to that brat-prince as she passed judgment and condemned him to (possibly) a life as a horned, furry freak of nature. All she left him was a magical rose with a very specific expiration date.
And did you notice that? The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his twenty-first year. Disney was very specific there; Prince Adam (Robby Benson) had until he reached drinking age to break the spell. Lucky for him, Belle (Paige O'Hara) arrives just before his big day, eh?
So just in time, he learns to love, she sees beyond the face not even Gillette can save. And we have a happily ever after.
So, how long was he a fuzzy wuzzy all sad and dejected? Well, Lumiere (Jerry Orbach) just happened to sing a song about that.
Ah, those good old days when we were useful...
For being spoiled, selfish, and unkind, Prince Adam was turned into a horrible, monstrous beast. And, y'know, for denying some little old lady a dry place to rest on a dark and stormy night, he totes deserved to be transformed. Heck, he even deserved-
Woah. Wait. Gimmie a minute. Okay, subtract two, carry the one, divide that by (what? I'm a writer, not a mathematician)... Holy DCF, Batman! Prince Adam was eleven frikkin years old when he was turned into a living, breathing Popple! What kind of sick, twisted, evil witch would punish some kid for following Stranger Danger rules? AND turn his entire castle into a living hell for his also transformed staff!?
And they said Gaston was the villain. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, The Enchantress was the Big Bad.
Aside from taking her insanity out on people who had nothing to do with the situation, she went all psychotic cruel and unusual power-rager on a boy. A boy whose parents weren't even there (which, by the way, is not uncommon in historical royalty; children were often given lands and titles and raised by someone not mommy and daddy). So what if he was spoiled, selfish, and unkind; he was a bloody child and quite possibly freaked out by the soaked leatherface offering a freaking rose in exchange for bunking in an underage royal's home.
Listen, if that showed up at my door, I'd tell her to sit on it thorny side first. That right there is the mystical Chester. Bet she hide the van just outside the gate.
Now, while it may seem Adam only begged forgiveness because the old woman's ugliness melted away to reveal a Hottie McHottie and he was all should've said yes and made babies please keep in mind he was ELEVEN. He'd just seen one heck of a magical voodoo and I'm betting he pooped his tights. Admit it, you would, too.
When you realize that Prince Adam spent his entire teenage years dealing with far more body hair than any boy should ever need to suffer, perhaps you, too, see the Enchantress as more of a Wicked Witch type character than a teacher of some kind; honestly, what was she trying to prove by getting all diva-like when she tried lying her way into some prepubescent boy's home?
Quick, someone call Chris Hansen!
Now, I know some people may poke holes in all this; I kind of expect it (cause I've heard a few). The most popular one is but the painting he tears is him! Um, no, it's not. It's his father. Some boys are the spitting image of their daddy; the fact that he looks so much like his pops is easily explained. 'cause science.
Gaston was a misogynist and uber-rapey but he wasn't the true villain of this tale. He was there so we got some of that D.I.D. vibe fairy tales are known for (not that Belle is necessarily one; she is a damsel and she is in distress but that doesn't mean she was a damsel in distress). Gaston was a jerkface tool shed who could only think with one part of his overcompensating anatomy. So now I'm waiting for the real baddie to finally get her comeuppance. Someone needs to bring that child abuser to justice. And after all, Miss, this is France so I think we all know what that entails.
One last thing:
The forthcoming live action version seems to verify the age of Prince Adam in no uncertain terms as they cast Rudi Goodman (Richard Grey, The White Queen) as a pre-Beast prince. I think this puts all other arguments to rest. It really makes you wonder what kind of deep seeded neurosis spawned such an obvious oversight (at least, I hope it's an oversight) in the still amazing film.
What do you think?