by Camela Thompson
I have enjoyed my share of fairy tale remakes by various authors and screen writers. The one story that never quite works for me is Beauty and the Beast. Occasionally I'll pick up a book that comes close. I like the pace of the story, the writing is solid, but there is one thing I can't get past. Even if the Beast never lays a finger on Belle, the tirades, threats, and yelling paired with the inevitable isolation from the people she loves are hallmarks of emotional abuse. What makes it even worse: The moral of the story is that she is the only one who can fix him because of her love--because she stays with him no matter what.
Do we want to perpetuate that message? Do we want to tell our daughters, nieces, and sisters that they should stick it out no matter what?
I get the appeal of the bad boy. Our society has a fascination with the emotionally unavailable alpha male that runs deep. My mom happily tells everyone that I had a thing for jerks. I think she does that because she's thankful I grew up and married a kind man. And she enjoys embarrassing me, but I digress. The bad boy phase is a strange thing. I've talked to other women who were in the same boat and we all wanted someone who was rough, rude, and ripped on the outside and treated us like a princess. We wanted to be special--the one cherished above all others--the exception.
Unfortunately, that never seems to pan out. In my experience if the guy is an asshole to the waiter, he'll be an asshole at home. It may take a week or a month, but their true nature always prevails. I realize what I've just typed may enrage some people, and if you snagged yourself the unicorn of significant others, congrats. In this instance I don't mind being wrong and hope you have landed your diamond in the rough.
I've been watching the latest Beauty and the Beast television series. I watch a lot of mediocre to poor television because I learn from it. For some reason the quirks and points I take issue with motivate me to imagine how I would do something differently. Sometimes this leads to great ideas. While the relationship in the show nags at me, I wonder if there's a way to turn the classic story into something that works. Can the dynamic be updated to send a more positive message?
At first I toyed with flipping the gender roles, but the switch changes nothing. Now the woman is the abuser with the additional challenge of getting the audience to accept a woman who can physically overpower the love interest. We've made advances, but traditional expectations still exist. Then I wondered about putting both Beauty and the Beast into a single individual. I'm not sure how to pull it off yet. I keep thinking it's too close to Jekyll and Hyde or the traditional werewolf struggle. But there might be a way...
Do you disagree about Beauty and the Beast? Do you prefer the alpha dynamic and feel that too much is being read into the aggression?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.