This article was written by Rebekah Brannan as part of the Breening Thursdays series.
In the 1980’s and 90’s Walt Disney Studios began producing a large amount of animated fairytale films, predominately in the genre now known as Disney Princess movies. The Classification and Rating System seemed to attach a certain stigma to these films and rated every one of them G, although many of them deserve at least PG. However, from a self-regulator’s point of view, even films that seem to be worthy of a G rating are not necessarily Code-compliant. For instance, The Little Mermaid, a favorite Disney classic, although deemed acceptable for mainstream audiences by most people, contains multiple elements which would have kept it from receiving a PCA seal of approval.
For this Breening Thursday, I, Rebekah Brannan, am going to breen a beloved, famous Disney film, Beauty and the Beast. Though it contains many charming, beautiful, and sweet moments, this film also has multiple elements which could offend a sensitive viewer. In this article, I will show how this film could have been made perfectly acceptable as well as amusing and enjoyable, so that the most morally sensitive audience member could watch it without a single wince. Now, the chandeliers dim, the audience quiets, and the screen comes to life! Get ready to be our guest, because here comes Beauty and the Beast!
The storyline of this film is very well-known, particularly to fans of Disney, so I will not bother to tell it. Instead, let’s get straight to the breening!
- During the opening musical number, “Belle,” we see a man selling a woman a ham. Her neckline is shockingly low, and the man is acting very flirtatious toward her. When she asks him, “How is your wife?” the man’s wife appears behind him and hits him over the head with a rolling pin. The woman’s neckline must be brought up, and the exchange between her and the salesman should merely be businesslike and cordial.
- The next problem occurs during a later part of the song, when we see a woman trying on a hat through a store window. When she pulls off the hat to try on a different one, she also pulls off her curly red wig, revealing a bald head. It is in poor taste and entirely unnecessary to show this woman without hair. Her hair, whether it is natural or a wig, must remain on her head.
- The next problem occurs when we see blonde triplets at a water-pump, admiring Gaston, a popular man in town. The three girls are all wearing the same dress but in different colors, and their chests are very exposed and unsupported. The necklines must be brought up, and they must be given adequate support. Largely due to the lack of support in her outfit, when one of them leans against the water pump, her chest is noticeably hanging over the handle. This is extremely suggestive and must be eliminated.
- The next problem occurs when Belle gets home. Her father’s latest invention has caused an explosion and blown him into a barrel. When he tries to pull it off, he also pulls down his pants. His shorts are visible for a moment before he quickly pulls his pants back up. This is unnecessary, in rather poor taste, and must be eliminated.
- There are no more problems until Maurice arrives at the Beast’s castle after getting lost in the woods. As he speaks to Cogsworth, Maurice is unable to control a sneeze and sneezes right on Cogsworth, covering his glass face with moisture. This is rather vulgar and should be eliminated.
- The next problem occurs when Gaston arrives at Belle’s cottage to propose to her. As he enters the cottage, he looks at himself in a mirror and cleans one of his teeth with his tongue. This is rather vulgar and should be eliminated.
- In the same scene, Gaston sits down and puts his feet up on the table. He casually kicks off his boots, and Belle makes a face and pinches her nose. This is also in rather poor taste and should be eliminated.
- In a later scene in the town’s tavern, Gaston, his sidekick, LeFou, and the other villagers in the tavern sing “Gaston,” a very complimentary, admiring song about Gaston. In this song, they sing about Gaston’s many achievements, wonderful abilities, and overall manliness. There are many surface problems in this song, but I feel the song should be eliminated altogether. Although on the surface it is merely a silly drinking song, there is very serious subliminal messaging in the song and in Gaston’s character in general. The melody of the song may remain, but the lyrics must be changed altogether. In fact, Gaston’s entire character needs to be changed. Gaston is characterized as extremely strong, masculine, and attractive, but he is also depicted as a stupid, egotistical, brutish buffoon. This is an insulting stereotype, since it makes all masculine men seem like buffoons. If the song “Gaston” were changed, perhaps to a more usual Disney villain song, the character would be significantly improved. Also, it should be made clear that all the villagers admire Gaston merely because of his physical attributes, while Belle looks for character, kindness, and heart in a man. With these changes, the insulting stereotype will be eliminated, and Gaston will be entirely acceptable.
- Later in the scene, Belle’s father, Maurice, comes in and begins raving about Belle being captured by a horrible beast. When the villagers joke about the “crazy” old man, Gaston gets an idea for how to blackmail Belle into marrying him. He then sings a short reprise of “Gaston” with new lyrics. (The entire song “Gaston,” instead of being about Gaston’s many talents and attributes, could be along the lines of the reprise, merely outlining his nefarious plot.) As Gaston sings the reprise, Gaston and LeFou begin waltzing around the room together, then walk along arm in arm. This rather strange passage, as well as Lefou’s blind admiration of Gaston, could come across as a slight pansy flavor in LeFou’s character, which must be eliminated.
- Later, when Gaston stations LeFou outside Belle’s cottage and orders him not to move from that spot until she and her father return, he exclaims “Aw, nuts!” This is an extremely suggestive forbidden expression and must be removed. Rats, darn, phooey, or some other such exclamation will suffice.
- The next problem occurs later, when Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, and Lumiere are singing “Something There” about Belle and the Beast. Mrs. Potts’s son, Chip, impatiently asks his mother, “What’s there?” Mrs. Potts knowingly replies, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.” This line is inappropriate, since it implies that there is something immoral or suggestive going on between Belle and the Beast. The line should be changed to a direct answer, “Love.”
- Later, when Beast is preparing for a romantic evening with Belle, he is shown taking a bath. He gets out of the bath and is first sitting then standing with not so much as a bath towel on. Although he is entirely covered in fur, he is still characterized as a man who wears clothes and talks. Thus, he should not be standing in full sight with nothing on. He should be wearing a bathrobe, a towel, or some other kind of garment.
- On that same evening, Belle is dressed in a beautiful yellow ballgown. The neckline of this dress is just slightly too low, so her chest is indecently exposed in multiple shots. The dress is beautiful and complimentary to her figure without a low neckline, and it is entirely unnecessary to expose her in this manner.
- The next problem occurs when Gaston and the villagers invade the Beast’s castle, and a fierce battle with the personified furniture ensues. At one point during the fight, a man gets locked into a large trunk, which licks its lips and crudely burps. Although it just looks like a piece of furniture, it was formerly a person and is therefore a personified object. Thus, the idea that it is eating someone is suggestive of cannibalism and is therefore rather disgusting. Burping in general is not allowed.
- During this same battle, a man gets locked into the wardrobe, from which he emerges dressed like a woman. He looks down at himself, screams, and runs away. This is vulgar and offensive and must be eliminated.
- Later, after the Beast has turned back into a human, he and Belle share their first kiss. This kiss is excessive and lustful and must be revised. The animators must be sure that neither character has his mouth open and that they do not appear too passionate.
- The last problem occurs in the final scene. Lumiere’s sweetheart, the feather duster, has turned back into a parlor maid. She is wearing a very tight black dress with an extremely low neckline, and she walks past Lumiere very flirtatiously. Her neckline must be made higher, her skirt should be looser, and she should act playfully coquettish, not vampy.
This concludes my breening of this film. It’s amazing to see how even the most seemingly innocent films can have many objectionable elements. Even a Disney animated film meant for children contains indecent costumes, vulgar lines, suggestive scenarios, and dangerous subliminal messaging. This just goes to show that even a G-rated, animated fairytale film is not necessarily an entirely clean, family-friendly movie. Although many of you may find it upsetting, disturbing, or even cruel to criticize this famous, beloved film, I feel that it is important to realize the problems and dangers in this film.
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