Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

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Maclurv
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Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Maclurv »

Greetings!

I am starting a discussion topic about the mythology behind Beauty and the Beast. I would like to explore the mythology itself, as there are many different versions (see an excellent summary essay by Zara http://www.batbland.com/ODaD.htm). Then we can also explore how the mythology underpins our show, and influences how the characters were drawn, and even how plots of episodes may have been shaped.

I will start by summarizing one version of the story, as told by Binette Schroeder, and outline a structure for examining the mythology and a comparison with our show.

It is my hope that others interested in the mythology and its influence will chime in with knowledge and viewpoints.

Pat
Last edited by Maclurv on Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
Maclurv
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Maclurv »

A look at the characters from this story:

Characters:

Father (of Beauty)
Beauty (as she is called)
Two sisters of Beauty
Three brothers
Beast

Characterization for each:

Father:

Starts off immensely rich as a merchant, and provides everything he can to his children, particularly the best education possible; indulgent

Beauty:

Youngest child; good looking; better in every way from her sisters; kind-hearted, cares for the poor

Sisters:

Proudful, materialistic, thought of themselves as above most others; expected to marry above the merchant status; mean-spirited; jealous of Beauty

Beast:

Claims he is dull and stupid; ugly; does admit to being kind with a good heart.
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Maclurv »

Triggering event:

Father loses his wealth and condemns his family to a life in the country, working for a living like peasants; the older sisters cannot stand their new life and bewail and bemoan their state, resentful that they no longer could attract suitors of their expectation; Beauty could easily marry and escape this hard life but chooses to stay with her family, does what must be done without complaint, finds contentment in the work and life she now leads.

The Father hears that he may have one last source of money; leaves on a journey to find it only to find it is not to be; on the journey back, takes refuge in a storm at the home of the Beast; he sees everything he needs provided for him in this magnificent home and is treated well; on his way out the next day to continue home, he takes a rose from a rose bush (he had promised one to Beauty) and the Beast views this as ungratefulness and stealing; Beast proposes killing him, ultimately Father bargains for a daughter to live with the Beast; he returns home with expensive gifts provided by the Beast; the only daughter to agree is Beauty (the Father is willing to give his life, but Beauty won’t accept it). She goes to accept her fate.


The meeting of Beauty and the Beast

She goes to the Beast’s beautiful home, and everything is provided to her, beyond her imagination. She meets him at dinner and they converse. He proposes marriage, she declines. This continues for months. Through it all, she treats him with respect, kindness, and truthfulness. She wants to just be his friend. Then Beauty hears about her Father being very ill. Beast allows her to visit and sends her back with beautiful gowns, but extracts a promise from her to return in a week.

While at home, she finds her sisters have married unhappily. Her Father recovers, yet her sisters convince her to stay to spoil her good life with the Beast (they covet her gowns and rich life she is leading). Beauty realizes that by not returning, the Beast is sad and dying. She also realizes that he would make a better husband than what her sisters had. He had always treated her kindly, respectfully, and she is horrified that her behavior has so wounded him. She goes back, runs to him, and rouses him to tell her that she will stay with him and marry him as she realized seeing him near death that she could not live without him.

The outcome:

At that moment, the Beast transforms into a handsome prince; she is to become his queen and live happily ever after, her two sisters are turned to stone in punishment for their poor characters.
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Maclurv »

So, right away there are obvious differences, aren't there?

The one with the family in the story is Beauty; the one with the family in B&B is Vincent. Yes, Catherine has her father, but he is mostly in the background. And we know from various episodes that she feels she was seeking a family and found that in the tunnel community.

The character of Beauty:

In the story, she has most, if not all, of her best qualities all ready developed, and her behavior reflects that. It is easy to root for her because she is so good, and in the times of these stories being told, good behavior gets rewarded. Our Catherine does have a lot of good qualities, but it is Vincent's faith and support that enable her to develop them and become the person she was meant to be. I do think that we learn a lot about Catherine in the pilot. I see evidence of kindness (she talks to the receptionist, to Evie at the reception), spunk/independent streak (she refuses to let Tom dictate to her at the reception), and love for her father (at the office).

The character of Beast:

In the story, it was almost hard to like the beast. Yes, he showed kindness to strangers, yet one infraction and he wanted the person to pay with his death. Yes, he shows patience to Beauty, trying to make her as comfortable as possible, and doesn't force her to marry him, yet he is keeping her by force (at least until near the end).

Our Vincent is the antithesis to this. He is intelligent, kind, unselfish, empathic, etc etc. Even though a beast, his looks are not that off-putting. He would never do what the story Beast did; in fact, he moves very slowly in his relationship with Catherine because he fears taking her from her life and condemning her to a life below.

The outcome:

The biggest difference, perhaps is that in the story, with love, the Beast turns into a handsome prince, and we get happily ever after. Not so in our B&B. Vincent is what Vincent is. Love does transform him, but never physically. Through love is given the possibility to dream of a life full of love meant only for him, for a life that can result from that love. But for this to be, Catherine must accept him for who and what he is as that will never change.

In my view, this telling of the story in B&B is a more powerful story than the storybook edition. Yes, the book does get us to see we must look beyond to what is underneath; yet it weakens that moral lesson by having the Beast turn into the perfect man, a prince. Beauty is not saddled with the Beast forever; life goes back to 'normal' for her, only better. Our story goes beyond just the 'look beyond' adage, to learning that with love, acceptance is possible; and also, with acceptance, love is possible. Many things can influence how accepting we are of others. No matter. These things are not important when it comes to love; and with love, we are more able to accept others and whatever differences there might be. Hats off to Ron Koslow for his vision.

Thoughts, anyone?

Pat
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Maclurv »

Further pondering on the Beast characterizations

The Beast in the story was the wealthy one; he possessed a fine castle and provided both Beauty and her father with everything they could want when they were there. He also sent Beauty home for her visit with a trunkful of beautiful gowns, and he gave her father when he left a chestful of treasure to provide for his family. These things would often appear magically, so there was some elements of fantasy in this story. Indeed, it was a fairy who turned the Prince into the Beast in the first place. In the story, the Beast needed to learn a lesson, kindness and love, to be loved for his heart only, which was the reason that he was turned into a Beast. The reward would be to find someone who could truly see him for his heart and love him for that alone.

Vincent's origins are unknown, but we have no reason to suspect it was an object lesson for him. He has lived his entire life as 'a beast' whereas the Prince only had a year in his Beastly state. Vincent did need to learn to accept himself, all parts of himself, but that was not contingent upon someone else falling in love with him. It did play a role, however, because it started him down the path of truly examining himself to see if he was worthy of the love of Catherine, his Beauty.

Vincent was far from wealthy. He lived in tunnels, depending on resourcefulness and community to make his life possible. In our show, it was Beauty who was the wealthy one. Vincent in one respect was like the story Beast: he had to be accepted for his heart alone. He did have the wealth that truly mattered: a loving family, purpose, and a gentle soul to share with others that belied his ferocious looks and strength, and a caring heart.

There are no real elements of fantasy in our show (such as a fairy), although we were blessed with Kristopher's presence, and some may argue that this is fantastical at least. I think I would classify things on our show as more or less the unknown, rather than true fantasy. How did a ship get Below? How does Narcissa do what she does?

Another aspect about Vincent different from the story is that Vincent was more of a hero character whereas the story Beast was not. Vincent often rescued Catherine; he defended his home community from harm; he would often go out of his way to help the downtrodden or vulnerable. The Beast in the story sat at home feeling sorry for himself for the most part. Vincent got on with his life as best he could and, as Father remarked, didn't let his circumstances make him bitter or resentful, but embraced life for all it would offer him.

More musings to come. Thoughts, anyone?

Pat
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Maclurv »

As I ponder about the mythology, I am reading (although slowly due to time constraints) the book, Beauty and the Beast Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale by Betsy Hearne. Not very far into the second chapter, she comments how passive the Beast is in this story along with all the other males in the tale and how Beauty is the active one. One context of the time of these fairy tales is how obedience was expected of women toward men. So fairy tales were used to try and change this expectation.

Clearly, our show is not set in that context. Yet, it got me to thinking. If we look at both Vincent and Catherine in terms of interest in advancing their relationship, that is, actively working on it to help it move forward, is one more active than the other? To be honest, I think the reason this popped into my mind as I was reading the book was because to me, Vincent seems so reticent about moving forward in this relationship. But is that true? What do each do toward deepening and advancing the relationship? What evidence can we find for each character?

Thoughts anyone?

Pat
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Zara »

When you speak of "moving forward," what action do you believe constitutes "movement"?

And moving forward toward what?

~ Zara
Maclurv
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Maclurv »

Whew! Someone has replied! It was getting lonely over here. :)

Good question. What are they moving toward and what is movement?

Generally speaking, I would say a deepening of the relationship at whatever level they are found at a given time. Trivial example: Go on first date. They both like the other. Once calls the other for another date (with acceptance). The forward mover is the caller; the action is the phone call asking for the second date.

For me, movement forward for Vincent and Catherine would have as the ultimate goal the achievement of their dream of finally being able to be together (truly together, as Catherine once asked). So, forward action along that trajectory is what I am thinking about.

Passive for me would be maintaining the status quo at whatever point at a given time.

Clearer or muddier?

Pat
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Zara »

Muddier, actually.

You believe Vincent is not a "forward mover"?

And what would you say "being together" means?

~ Zara
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Maclurv »

No, my gut leans toward Vincent being more inclined to the status quo. He's waiting. But I may be wrong, hence the question.

Being together. For me, and I believe for Catherine, the ultimate dream for her would be a couple as in husband and wife. Living together as a couple, although not needing to be together 100% of the time, as I still see Catherine working Above in some capacity.

Other forward movement examples I thought of (not all of them necessarily applicable to this show):
- bringing up issues rather than letting things lay;
- being first to say 'I love you'
- showing affection through traditional means (flowers, candy, etc)
- showing affection physically (hugging progressing to kissing progressing to ...)
- asking someone to move in with you
- referring to the other in the relationship in an introduction to someone else as 'my girlfriend/boyfriend' for the first time (a public acknowledge of the relationship status)
- discussing what you want out of life/expectations of being a long-term couple

Any kind of action that continues the relationship in a way that says 'I want this relationship to last and to go further, ultimately hoping we can be together always.'

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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Zara »

Ah.

Then I suspect we are talking about two different Vincents. Even two different Catherines. And perceiving utterly separate relational movements throughout their story.

~ Zara
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Maclurv »

Could be.

May I ask what you understand 'truly together' to mean? The fairy tale ends in marriage, so why not this show?

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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Zara »

I understand "truly together" to refer to marital intimacy, certainly. Thing is, I believe the marriage in this show essentially occurs at the end of Season One. In Season Two, we watch Vincent and Catherine functioning as a wedded unit, after Catherine finally decides to commit herself to the relationship.

You say Vincent is inclined to the status quo, but I think if that were so, Vincent would never have showed up on Catherine's balcony in the Pilot episode in the first place, and there would have been no story to tell at all. I don't perceive reticence in him, either, for after Catherine's repeated acts of acceptance in the Pilot...occurring at intervals in separate and significant contexts...Vincent actively courts Catherine from the second episode ("A Children's Story") onward. He brooks no delay in making his affections known. A Zara-list in prose, if I may, though it's not written in any particular order.

Vincent gives Catherine volumes of his favorite literature, reads beautiful words to her, spends as much time as he can with her, holding her, touching her tenderly, talking with her, listening to her. He gives her red roses, again from the second episode onward. Yes, red roses! He has direct conversations with her about their relationship: again, from ACS onward, including later episodes like "Siege" ("Do you love this man?") and "China Moon" ("You looked so beautiful..."). He brings up important issues rather than remain silent about their problems: Catherine's habit of endangering herself ("No Way Down," "The Alchemist," etc.), Catherine's fears and misgivings ("Terrible Savior," "Dark Spirit," etc.), Vincent's feelings about their relationship ("A Children's Story," "Nor Iron Bars a Cage," etc.), his own fears and misgivings ("Down to a Sunless Sea," "Ozymandias," etc.).

He talks to others about her, and about his love for her; not only his family Below, but also kindred spirits like Brigit O'Donnell and Devin, even upon first meeting them (or first meeting as adults, in Devin's case). Vincent grieves, heartbroken, when Catherine pursues romantic relationships with other men, but makes no infringement upon her freedom to do so...and Catherine knows he grieves, knows he is in love with her. He shares a Halloween night with Catherine, a night that ended in what would have been a kiss at dawn, but for the passing Topsider's reminder that Vincent cannot survive in Catherine's world. Vincent gave Catherine the most beautiful gem his world could produce, crafted into a priceless neckless, as an anniversary gift. He gives frequent thanks for her presence in his life. He comes to her when she needs him most and supports her in every way that he can as she pursues her dream of bringing justice to victims of crimes. He supports her in pursuing all of her dreams, not least her dream of a happy life with him.

Compared to the examples you have listed of what moving forward entails, Vincent is doing perfectly well at traveling toward ultimate togetherness. Catherine is the one who tends to struggle to keep up with him.

Remember the fairy tale. The Beast gives everything in his magic realm to Beauty and declares himself hers, if she will have him. He also comes to her each night asking, "Beauty, will you marry me?"

Beauty always answers, "No, Beast. I cannot." At first she is frightened, and later she is sad, but always:

"Beauty, will you marry me?"

"No, Beast. No."

...Until she returns from her dissatisfying visit to the ordinary world and realizes she loves her Beast after all.

Koslow's Beauty does the exact same thing, all through Season One, until the end of "A Happy Life," when Catherine finally says, "Yes."

I agree that Vincent is waiting...for Catherine to become ready to love him, however she is able, at each new moment in their journey. He loves her so purely that he does not pressure her in any way. He does not seek dominance (as did Tom Gunther), or conquest (Elliot in "Seige"), or possession (Stephen Bass). He pursues a fulfilling romance between equals, gently, respectfully. No other man we know Catherine to have been involved with did that for her. She never pressures Vincent either, nor asks for any other style of romance from him. After those other dangerous relationships, surely Catherine finds her safety with Vincent a change in the right direction!

Finally, Vincent accepts all that Catherine gives to him with wonder and joy. He loves her, and he protects Catherine and her chosen lifestyle as she grows, and as he grows, and as he waits. Even in Season Two, after Catherine commits her love to Vincent forever, he continues to match her pace. "Orphans" and "What Rough Beast" prove that Catherine is still not ready to be "truly together" with him, as she puts it. Because the other force in Catherine's life that pulls her away from their togetherness is not any residual love she may feel for anyone else (like, say, Elliot Burch), but rather Catherine's love of her work and the life she lives in the world Above. Nothing whatsoever wrong with that. She has a good life, and she's doing important things for herself and her city. The tension between her dream of life with the man she loves, and her dream of making a positive difference in the world has always been her dilemma. It is the dilemma of many women in our society, and was a particularly pertinent issue for 1980s womanhood.

If Catherine Chandler wanted to live in the Tunnels with Vincent, she would be living in the Tunnels with Vincent. Her work Above is not a "job" to her; it is an essential element of her identity. At no point during the TV series is Catherine ever ready to give that part of herself up, not even for Vincent. And he never, never asks her to. The most he says is that statement in "Orphans," when he replies that they must understand how great the sacrifice and how large the fears, and be able to move through them, before they can be "truly together."

It is Catherine who carries their light. It has always been Catherine. She's the one who sets the boundaries of their dream. In a world where too many men fail to honor the boundaries of too many women, the love between Vincent and Catherine offers a unique gift and a necessary dream of something better for us all.

~ Zara
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Maclurv »

Yea! My brain does a happy dance at a lovely Zara response on which to contemplate!

I believe the marriage in this show essentially occurs at the end of Season One. In Season Two, we watch Vincent and Catherine functioning as a wedded unit, after Catherine finally decides to commit herself to the relationship.


I see how you can view this as such, but for me, A Happy Life is more like they agree to 'go steady' (am I really that old!) and I would say the marriage analogy would be Orphans, where they actually begin talking and thinking about being together after having spent some days together.

I was thinking about the Pilot in terms of active/passive actions. For Catherine, the active elements I saw were these:

- Catherine pulls down his hood to look fully at him and smiles

- Embraces Vincent at her threshold upon going back after his care (Vincent responds with his hand clasped to her back)

- On the balcony, Vincent backs away after telling Catherine to find someone, to be happy and Catherine reaches out and grasps his hand asking him not to leave

- After her rescue, Vincent tells her good-bye, Catherine hugs him (initiates) and tells him ‘For now…”, making it clear she expects to see him again

Vincent's active elements I saw:

- Took her Below to care for her, recognizing something in her

- Cared for her during recovery (he could have put her in the hospital chamber/asked Mary)

- Rescued her at the safe house

- Brought her a gift: Great Expectations

Vincent had made up his mind not to go to her, yet succumbed to check on her and bring her the book, but I do believe he would have left (with his noble intentions) had she not entreated him to stay. While his interactions were perhaps more broad sweeping than hers, I find hers the more intimate. And I do understand how carefully Vincent treads this path because of who he is and how he comes across to people in his experience. It is this aspect, I think, that causes me to see his role more passive than active. I appreciate his thoughtfulness in this regard early in the relationship; what I wonder is if it doesn't color his approach throughout, even after Catherine has accepted him as he is.

Vincent actively courts Catherine from the second episode ("A Children's Story") onward. He brooks no delay in making his affections known.


I watch episodes in Production Order, rather than Airing Order, and as such, I would disagree about the' no delay.' Yes, Vincent gave Catherine the book with the rose, and that is an active gesture. But when she meets him, she comments how long it has been (I wonder if we are not to conclude it was since the evening of the Pilot). I will also confess that the rest of that conversation does not make as much sense (endure the pain, savor the joy) given the context of it having been a while since they've seen each other. He does give her the book of Shakespeare's sonnets, and one marked which does convey what she may mean to him, so he gets credit for that active gesture. Catherine really doesn't do much to forward the relationship in this episode that I can see. Actually, this is where she meets Elliott, so I would argue she goes counter to the relationship. Yet at this stage, I don't think she is clear on what the relationship exactly is - love or a deep friendship.

I don't count talking to others about your love for someone as an active element. For me, it must be said to the person, and Vincent doesn't directly speak it to her until the end of Season 2 (which I find odd). She hears it when he tells her Father on his death bed, and that is nice to hear, yet again, not to her. He is terrific at the indirect actions of showing love: gifts, listening (too rare among many men!).

Vincent gave Catherine the most beautiful gem his world could produce, crafted into a priceless neckless, as an anniversary gift. He gives frequent thanks for her presence in his life. He comes to her when she needs him most and supports her in every way that he can as she pursues her dream of bringing justice to victims of crimes. He supports her in pursuing all of her dreams, not least her dream of a happy life with him


I was thinking about the first anniversary gifts this morning. I love the necklace (and I have one!), and the journey to get it and asking Mouse's help is part of the gift. Yet, I see Catherine's gift of the rose as more personally meaningful. She gave something to him that was a treasure from her mother, a precious memory of her childhood when her mother was still living. But I am a sentimental person, so that may matter to me more than for others.

To the last part of your comment, I would point out that Catherine wants and does try to be there for him in support. She pulled him back from the hallucinogen in The Alchemist; she tries to be there for him after The Outsiders; she cared for him in her apartment at the beginning of his 'illness,' and she is the one who goes into the cave at the end of Season 2. She looks for ways to share Above with him, she helps him when he asks (A Children's Story, Siege, Song of Orpheus, Arabesque to name those that I can remember at this time!). I think in terms of support, I would call it even. Yet it is Catherine who bears the burden of secrecy in her world, while Vincent does not.

I agree that Vincent is waiting...for Catherine to become ready to love him, however she is able, at each new moment in their journey. He loves her so purely that he does not pressure her in any way. He does not seek dominance (as did Tom Gunther), or conquest (Elliot in "Seige"), or possession (Stephen Bass). He pursues a fulfilling romance between equals, gently, respectfully. No other man we know Catherine to have been involved with did that for her. She never pressures Vincent either, nor asks for any other style of romance from him. After those other dangerous relationships, surely Catherine finds her safety with Vincent a change in the right direction!


Well said and I can agree with this.

"Orphans" and "What Rough Beast" prove that Catherine is still not ready to be "truly together" with him, as she puts it.


In Orphans, the only conclusion I can draw at that point is that they still must be talking in an 'always Below' state, rather than 'day Above and night Below,' which would allow Catherine to do the work she needs to do. Which is an aspect they never discuss (in front of us, at least :) ) I'm not sure about What Rough Beast. I need to go back and watch that. It's been too long for my memory to come up with what you might be addressing.

The tension between her dream of life with the man she loves, and her dream of making a positive difference in the world has always been her dilemma. It is the dilemma of many women in our society, and was a particularly pertinent issue for 1980s womanhood.


This is why I can't believe they would be thinking in terms of her moving down permanently, both day and night (aka much akin to the days of being the 'little woman' and taking care of every need of the husband). And I so wish they had let Catherine ask, at some point, why is this the love than can never be?, because I would have loved to hear her argument against it! :)

Must move on to errands.
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Re: Mythology and Its Importance to BATB

Post by Zara »

...Thus, my conclusion that we are talking about two totally different tales and sets of characters.

One thing you may wish to keep in mind as well: I know you often like to ponder dichotomies and the patterns they can form, as with your exploration of passive/active elements in B&B. But the section in Hearne's book that you referred to was talking about characters' activity and passivity in Villeneuve's/Beaumont's "Beauty and the Beast" whilst comparing it to the motif of command and obedience in the ancient "Cupid and Psyche." It is a discussion of power and freedom, and how each may be applied to human relationships, and also how "Beauty and the Beast" changed the ancient roles assigned to male and female characters. Read on to the sixth chapter, in the "Characters and Characterization" section. You may find that Hearne's take on passivity vs. activity differs greatly from the application you have made to Catherine and Vincent. She describes how Beast's "passivity" takes the form of humble and honorable hospitality rather than relational immobility, while Beauty's "activity" reveals the flow of her learning experience as she grows out of fearful, if kindhearted, naivete into perceptive maturity and wisdom.

Peace,

Zara
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