March 21, 2011

Cynicism with Love

The tumblr Hell Yeah Tangled recently linked to an article on Hathor Legacy titled "Pride and Possession: Magic Flowers, Hair, and Women (and the Kidnappers Who “Love” Them)". Negative analysis of Beauty and the Beast, especially of the Beast, always makes me a little nervous. Am I missing something, or are the critics being cynical about Beast's motives?

Comparing Beast to Gothel is an odd choice. Both hold captives who can escape very easily and stay captive as a sort of sick choice, but that is only the setup in both respective movies. The story of Beauty is that Belle's presence, from when she volunteers to replace her father to the end when she mourns and loves who Beast became, serves as a reminder of what humanity is to someone who had lost touch with his humanity. The spell is reversed when Belle reciprocates his love at the end of the film, but he had already redeemed himself when he learned from her example and released Belle out of the human feeling of compassion. Beast needed Belle's love to undo the spell, but his early forced attempts to woo her fail dramatically and everything after that is presented to suggest he isn't conspiring against Belle. Gothel is an entirely different case. Gothel is shown to plot against Rapunzel from the moment she discovers that the hair loses its magic until Gothel dies. She never repents for becoming a captor and spends the remainder of the movie trying to recapture Rapunzel in order to restore the status quo of using Rapunzel for her own ends.

Bonus content from the cutting room floor:
Taking Disney Animation to task for (almost) universally negative portrayals of stepmothers is beyond fair and something that should be done. What isn't fair at all is to say that Gothel is a stepmother who serves as any kind of commentary about love or family. She is nothing more than a kidnapper who lies about her relationship with Rapunzel in order to keep Rapunzel pliant.


  1. I'm gonna have to go read that article, but already I'm with you. The Beast doesn't go after Belle with any ulterior motive. He makes a stupid mistake in an immature moment of passion (i.e., the whole thing with the sorceress, throwing her dad in a cell), and slowly he grows and redeems himself, with Belle's help.

    Not so much Gothel. Who is not her stepmother. Also, it's not just Disney giving stepmothers the bad rap; it's a long-standing tradition in fairy tales. I'm sure someone has written long essays about the Role of Stepmothers in they represent the child's inner fear of becoming an adult, or some crazy thing...

  2. I made a mistake with the blanket stepmother statement. Of the three stepmothers that I can think of, Snow White's, Cinderella's, and Medusa, none of the three really married or adopted for forthright reasons in the first place. I would argue that if there is any grand point here, it is that (step)parenthood isn't really about the title so much as honest concern, care, and love.