Beauty and the Beast’s Obeisance to the Big Gay Machine
by Jennifer Roback Morse, Crisis Magazine:
My son and I saw the new Beauty and the Beast. It was lovely, magical, following the 1991 cartoon, almost scene for scene, song for song. This is the story everyone wants to hear: darkness and evil and selfishness transformed by love into light and good and self-surrender. Life and love conquer death and fear.
This just happens to be the Christian story. That is why we never tire of hearing it. We were meant for love, for communion with others, for radical self-giving.
We want the Beast to be transformed. We want Belle to see beyond his looks and love him. We love Belle’s father and mother when each of them sacrifices themselves for their daughter. (Spoiler alert: we find out what happened to Belle’s mother.) We do not need to be talked into loving these moments. We love them instinctively, from the deepest part of our hearts.
We love the authentic portrayal of masculinity and femininity. The villain, Gaston, is a caricature of manhood. He is a preening, self-indulgent bully. He uses his strength and power to lord it over everyone around him and get what he wants. We are meant to despise the trio of girls who fawn over Gaston. And we do, because they are caricatures of authentic womanhood. They are absorbed with their looks and in snagging a high-status man.
We love Belle, not because she is an embodiment of some new feminist protagonist, but for the same reasons we have always loved our heroines. She is kind, faithful, and capable of radically self-giving love. Yes, she speaks her mind. Yes, she is competent. Yes, she likes to read. But who ever thought these traits were incompatible with genuine femininity? Shakespeare? Tolstoy? Laura Ingalls Wilder? Only feminist ideologues in their fantasy worlds ever thought otherwise.
We love the Beast because he is transformed from being a punk like Gaston into a truly manly man. His willingness to sacrifice his life for the sake of Belle’s happiness transforms him. This just happens to be what St. Paul enjoins of husbands in Ephesians 5: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for her.”
We do not need to be taught to love this story. It is written on our hearts by our Creator. In spite of the ravages of sin, in spite of all the ways we Moderns have distorted ourselves, we still respond to the story of self-giving love triumphing over selfishness. Ideologically-concocted fantasies don’t satisfy.