I am a huge fan of the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. The feminism is portrayed excellently by Emma Watson is an essential message that so many of us need to hear. That woman can make their own choices and will not be forced into it by men. Also that song, Evermore is my new obsession.
However, the message I want to talk about permeates the film. Throughout the film, from beginning to end, we see a quiet battle between shallow beauty and physical strength and learning and education. One side is seen through the characters of Gaston and some of the villagers and through the song sung by La Fou in the tavern. The other side comes through Belle and the Beast in his glorious library.
Female empowerment comes through education. In the film, we see the disgust of the headmaster and other villagers when they discover Belle trying to teach a young girl to read. In the song that introduces Belle, we see the disdain the other villagers have for Belle, believing her odd because she has her nose in a book. Later on, we see their admiration for Gaston because of his good looks, physical prowess and hunting expertise. They even follow him into battle because of it.
But on the other side, we see the love develop between Belle and the Beast because of their love of literature. Belle is surprised to learn the Beast can read (now in the original cartoon, he can’t which always seemed strange considering he was a prince, but they fixed that) when he mocked her for having Romeo and Juliet as her favourite. He proceeds to introduce her to his library.
I want that library
Now, I’m going to stop for a moment because the library they show in the film is gorgeous. It is a thing of real beauty. I have always had a serious love of libraries, especially those with oak wood, gold trimmings and shelf after shelf of leather-bound books. When I think of my dream library that I would have in my home, I picture one similar to that of the Beast’s.
But back to the point, this film is filled with references to the classic, again including the works of Shakespeare and the legend of King Arthur and the Round Table. There are history, literature, and poetry all alluded to throughout the film. There is even a joke about how the only reason Beast hasn’t read all the books is because some of them are in Greek.
Genuine love of literature
This is a film where the two main protagonists are educated, lovers of literature that value reading highly. The antagonist values physical strength, physical prowess and appearance and his own personal desires above all else. He does not care that Belle is an educated young woman. Gaston says when he was first introduced, that Belle is the most beautiful girl in the village and that makes her the best. This film is about how reading and education win out over simple brute strength. How love can be created through the shared passion of literature.
This is rare in film. It is why I connected with it so closely. It is why I have seen it three times in the cinema (I mean the music helps too). For myself, on a personal level, I felt inspired when I realised how essential reading was to the lives of these two characters, Belle and Beast. To someone like me, it is a reinforcement of how I have lived my own life. And it is a great example for those kids who will have watched this film and will have seen that reading is more important the physical beauty or strength because of how it affects Belle and Beast and brings them together.