This post is about “Beauty and the Beast”, but it’s not about the recent hubbub about what may or may not be allueded to in the new movie. That’s a topic for someone else’s blog. This post is about people unwilling to believe in fairy tales anymore.
Here’s the thing about fairy tales – they’re a means for explaining truth to audiences, typically (but not always) children. The truths are simple and good. Good triumphs over evil. The wicked get their comeuppance. Kindness, loyalty and bravery are rewarded. Love is simple and love always triumphs.
They’re simple lessons, but they’re not for simpler times. In fact, if we need these simple lessons at any point we need them now. In a world surrounded by tides of relativism we need truth, beauty and love more than ever.
Yet, apparently, there is a war being waged on fairy tales. It is not enough to wave our hand and dismiss them as childish fancies as other generations might have done. No, now we can’t just leave well enough alone. Now we either must twist the stories – spinning them on their heads so that good becomes evil, evil becomes good or everyone just gets muddled together in a relativistic soup. We’ve seen this is recent movies and T.V. shows where we explore the “bad guys” story and background – the bad guys aren’t really all that bad in fact they’re just misunderstood or maligned by the ones who appear good. The moral of most of these “retellings” seems to be “trust no one”.
Now I’m all for creative storytelling especially when it comes to fairy tales – one of my favorite graphic novel series is called Fables, and it’s a wonderful creation using fairy tale characters to tell a new story – well known characters get gritty, realistic backstories; a few bad guys get redeemed and a few good guys show their “true colors”. However in Fables, it is a world of it’s own creation, just peopled with a familiar cast of characters. For as much as it spins stories on their heads it’s intention is still within the realm of the fairy tale – good wins, evil is vanquished, while love, loyalty and bravery are rewarded. It’s a new telling of an old story and as an aside I highly recommend the series to everyone I know – from it’s powerful statements on war, an amazing no-nonsense pro-life scene, cameos by one of our favorite allegorical lions and perhaps some of my favorite characters ever developed in modern fantasy…. but I digress.
Back to the point at hand, the other side of the fairy tale war, the side being waged by trolls… internet trolls. We’ve all seen it – it’s been building for years. Photo montages of Disney Princess “unhappy ever afters”. Crass videos of true confessions of fairy tale characters. The nitpicking of every little plot hole until your favorite childhood story is left in tatters.
One of the most popular right now is to drudge up the “bestiality” and “Stockholm Syndrome” arguments against “Beauty and the Beast”. Let’s just say for the sake of time these arguments are ridiculous and I won’t waste our time getting into the why – they are simply logical fallacies of the absurd variety. However, it is important to note that they’re being used to tear down these stories and it’s the why that’s important here. Why waste time tearing down a beloved children’s story? What do you possibly gain from convincing people that a story about love despite appearances and despite faults is just a mask for kinky sex and mental abuse?
It’s because we’re uncomfortable with Truth.
We live in a world where appearances are everything and consequences are nothing. We live in a world that touts acceptance, but sneers at physical or mental handicaps. We live in a world where vows of love can be broken when one party becomes anything less than perfect. We live in a world where wrongdoings are merely in the eye of the beholder and personal growth, healing and forgiveness only come from the self. We live in a world that is now afraid of fairy tales.
We are afraid of fairy tales because we do not want to live in a world where someone can be punished for a having a selfish, ugly soul. We do not want to live in a world that expects us to give unconditional love without any promise of things ever changing. We do not want to live in a world where outter beauty is no guarantee of inner beauty. So we tear down a story meant to illustrate all of this because it makes us uncomfortable.
So now “Beauty and the Beast” can no longer be a beautiful, if obviously hyperbolic story of suffering, sin, redemption and love. No, all those are things that require more from us than we’re willing to give. So we must lie to ourselves that it’s about an abuse victim falling in love with her captor because she has a “thing” for human on animal love. We are so afraid to see ourselves reflected in a story of a man so inwardly ugly that he’s cursed to live wearing his sin for all to see. We are so afraid to see ourselves reflected in the story of a woman, so different and pure from her superficial neighbors that she sees the redeemed man underneath the grotesque and chooses love with no promise of any type of happy ending. We are so afraid to see that sacrifice, love and loyalty might actually reap the best rewards. So instead we tear it down, piece by piece, telling ourselves the whole time that it’s just a silly fairy story. None of it is real. It can’t be real. It can’t be true…. can it?