Disney’s highly anticipated live action Beauty and the Beast is largely described as a modern, feminist remake of the classic tale. In the exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette, director Bill Condon illustrates Belle as “the first modern Disney princess,” adding that she’s “someone who is more interested in figuring out who she is than in finding a guy and getting married." Emma Watson, who plays Belle, speaks similarly of the ‘new’ Belle. Watson said, “We wanted to give her this element of being quite industrious, and very inventive."
Back in November, Beauty and the Beast made headlines when Watson spilled that the remake would feature Belle as an inventor, like her father was in the original tale, rather than just a bookworm. Plus, earlier this week, Condon spoke to the UK magazine Attitude about LeFou, claiming LeFou is set to have the first ever gay scene in a Disney movie.
But is the movie really modern or feminist? While all positive and progressive additions to the story, it just doesn’t seem like enough in 2017. If we’re going to subscribe to the narrative that this story can truly be feminist, then there are some things we have to address—well, a lot of things. In fact, let’s just gender-swap the entire film to better grasp the patriarchal undertones of this classic tale.
Picture this—the most handsome man that Planet Earth has to offer: a doe-eyed, tan-skinned, carved-armed delicacy. His father is an inventor. He’s not expected to follow in his father’s steps nor take over his business, even though he actually has similar interests. This man, let’s call him Ben, is quite smart. So smart, in fact, that he is ridiculed by his neighbors because of his strong opinions. You read that right: a man, ridiculed for having strong opinions. He becomes such a social outcast in his village—because of his brain—that he is forced to leave town in search of his own adventure.
Enter Princess Anna: a woman consumed by arrogance and conceit. Despite being socially conditioned, as a woman, to believe that she has natural maternal instincts and therefore must cater to those around her, the princess meets an old beggar and refuses to give her shelter. She’s not even fearful of the old beggar calling her a nasty woman! The old beggar, secretly an enchantress, turns this self-obsessed woman into a half-bull, and the spell can only be broken if Anna—a woman—learns to love someone besides herself.
Can you imagine being a woman in the world who loves herself so much that a witch has to curse her in order to see her flaws for the first time in her life? As if her flaws aren’t splayed across every billboard in the enchanted forest and drilled into her skull from the second she learns about gender roles (probably around age 3)?
Speaking of vanity, let’s talk about Gaston—whom we will henceforth call “Carmen.” Carmen is a heightened stereotype of her gender; she’s the most vivacious, voluptuous, pompous, smug aristocrat in town. Any man would want her—in fact, every man does; Carmen is beloved by the townsfolk and the envy of every woman. Though she pulls out all the moves for Ben, sadly, she finds her love unrequited. But, as a woman, she just can’t take no for an answer. She relentlessly accosts Ben, showing off her skills in archery—and other things that somehow prove that she is strong—to no avail. Not once is Carmen called “thirsty,” “extra,” or “the most.”
Eventually, Ben—the super hot man who could definitely be on The Bachelor—meets literal bull-woman Princess Anna and is like, "hell yeah, she can get it." Not only is he completely unbothered by the fact that she has locked him in her castle—weird—or by her ghastly appearance—she is a bull—but he also makes her realize that she can love other people besides herself.
…You get the picture. We have a lot of work to do before a feminist Beauty and the Beast can actually flourish. But for now, we’ll take a smart, career-driven Belle and a queer LeFou. Beauty and the Beast hits theaters nationwide March 17th.