S wrote:I don’t think that no one else can remotely understand Vincent. Not fully, but not remotely either. Also because he can’t fully understand himself either. Again, it’s a process, a slow process, and in the development of the episodes we see both Father and Catherine (and himself!) slowly gaining a better understanding, thanks to their love, thanks to the new challenges and situations. That’s the beauty of the series. Yes, of course – see above – Vincent is incomprehensible, the Creature There Has Never Been, impossible to be fully known, and again, all this will only be a neverending process: and such process is love, the truth *beyond* knowledge.
Thank you especially for this. You are correct, and wise. Taking your thoughts into account, I think I could revise my notion to say: I get the sense that Vincent often*feels* that no one can understand him, particularly when others believe they do understand...but in fact they do not. I also think it is intelligent humility on Father's part to tell Catherine that he's not sure any of them can begin to understand what Vincent faces in his moment-by-moment struggle to be who he is to those he loves.
S wrote:There is no answer to the “whys” of Vincent, period. So, what replies can he give? Only: love me, and your love will let you understand me. That’s valid not only for Vincent.
Valid not only for Vincent, very very true. Yet his reply, as you have perfectly phrased it, is of special interest to the themes of the fairy tale...and the nature of the Beast.
If I may elaborate...
Here is a link to that rough little retelling I did a while back. "Beauty and the Beast," the source fairy tale
In this fairy tale, the title lovers ask character-specific questions of each other. Beast: Will you love me (enough to wed me), Beauty? And Beauty: I know you love me, Beast, but do you love me enough to help me find my own freedom? Beauty initially answers the Beast with, "No." And Beast always answers Beauty's question with, "Yes." The story hinges on Beauty growing free enough and complete enough unto herself to change her mind and offer her breathtaking "Yes!"
And here is part of an ongoing discussion I am having with myself, that I peck at writing down now and then.
...There is what seems to me a peculiar and off-target approach common in B&B fandom which reverses the fairy tale scenario between Beast and Beauty. It is NOT a simple switch of genders, where the story offers a female Beast and a male Beauty (and which is itself a powerful mythic approach that carries important messages of its own). Rather, this particular off-target pitfall reverses the MOTIVATIONS of the original characters. In this reparsing of their relationship, Beauty asks, “Beast, will you love me?” And Beast says, “No, Beauty. No. I cannot.” Then Beast asks, “Will you grant me my freedom?” And Beauty says, “Yes, Beast. Yes. It is granted.”
The original lessons in Beauty and the Beast revolve around the main characters’ personal freedom to understand the depth of humanity that lies beneath outward appearances. Beauty learns to look beneath her superficial expectations to discover what is truly beautiful. Beast learns to grow beyond the limitations of his circumstances to embrace true freedom. Both lessons teach these characters (and their audience) things they each did not yet know about love. Together, they enact a graceful relationship of honesty and maturity, which is not free from conflict, yet permits the lovers to rise above their conflicts as they learn how to meet each other’s needs in a healthy, life-affirming way. These characters are true heroes in romantic and marital relations.
Reversing the needs of our hero and heroine warps the essential nature of their heroism. When the gentle male Beast whose soul asks for redeeming love meets the virtuous female Beauty whose soul asks for honorable liberation, they interact as equals in a caring relationship of reciprocal balance. But switch it around, and the balance fails. A Beauty who asks Beast to love her is making an empty request, for adoration and social acceptance are already her worldly due. She is "Beauty," after all. Some tellings even give her plenty of ordinary suitors in her father's world. So to ask for more love, especially of a physically irregular male character, however tactfully articulated, is an expression of vanity, and this demolishes Beauty’s inner virtue. A Beast who withholds his love from Beauty, especially when she presumably offers a way out of his enchanted captivity, is revealing an inner ugliness, a selfish masochism which cannot comprehend the transformative power of love. This alternate fan-created couple has traded respectful equality for miserable co-dependency.
You tell me. Is this self-seeking “Beauty”...Catherine? Is this self-flagellating “Beast”...Vincent?
The original fairy tale also turns our notions of imprisonment and freedom inside out. At first glance, it appears that Beauty is the prisoner, and Beast the imprisoning power. But in reality, it turns out that the Beast is the prisoner of his cursed state, while Beauty initially upholds his imprisonment with her own assumptions about him. By the end of the story, the characters have grown and changed so that Beast places himself completely at Beauty’s mercy, and Beauty becomes the liberator of all the characters in the story, including herself.
This juxtaposition strikes at the core of misogyny and male dominance in Western culture. It also speaks meaningfully to the issues of empowerment and hospitality. Beast’s choice to initiate a relationship with Beauty shows that he is a hopeful character, not a hapless prisoner of his fate, and that he is willing to take active risks to better his situation. What freedom he possesses, he exercises (just as with our Beast in Koslow's rendering). Beauty’s appearance in his life gives him a new and necessary means to exercise and expand his humanity. His conduct shows how much Beast values freedom. He upholds the ancient obligations between host and guest with both Beauty’s father and Beauty herself...but he also proves himself a generous host. He spares the life of an offending guest, offering a contract the offender may use to make reparations. And when Beauty arrives, he gives her everything that he has: his home, his respect, his company when she accepts it, and his absence when she does not. Any need or desire of his guest, he fulfills. Any refusal or withdrawal, he accepts and honors.
Beauty’s choice to fulfill the obligation that has resulted from her own dream of romance (often presented as her request for a blooming rose in winter) shows that she is a responsible character, not a naive or distressed damsel, and that she is someone who whole-heartedly keeps her promises. In the story, she loves her father, her family, and also her conscience. Her entrance into the Beast’s magic realm gives her a new and necessary means to exercise and expand her compassion beyond the dictates of duty. In the company of the Beast, Beauty learns how to love the unloveable creature...and she learns how to love herself, developing her interests and talents in an environment that encourages her holistic maturation.
The exchange empowers both of them. It is important to notice that the very thing each is silently asking to receive from the other is the very thing that each is giving to the other from the outset of their relationship. The Beauty who seeks freedom is freeing. The Beast who seeks love is loving. The offerings that each receives from the other gradually improve the inner integrity of Beast and Beauty as each character exercises his or her separate abilities to give, and to accept gifts, and to grow. The merchant-class woman practices a new-found freedom in the enchanted prince’s realm. The man-monster prince practices selfless love. Their practice culminates in the climactic centerpoint of the story, when the empowered Beauty finds herself free enough to come and go from the magic realm as she chooses...and the ennobled Beast finds himself loving enough to lay down his life that his beloved might be happy and whole.
This dynamic between genders, and between ideal and ordinary realms, was quietly revolutionary in its time. It remains positively subversive to this day. So it is, once again, that a switch of motivating need destroys the integrity of our heroes.
The old tale took deliberate care to avoid this outcome, because the enchantment inflicted upon the Beast forbade him to explain the nature of his captivity. He COULD NOT ask for freedom from the spell, for that was not the deeper nature of his problem. He could, however, seek acceptance and love. It was his responsibility to participate in a loving relationship without wallowing in his own misery (or in our tale, Vincent's aloneness). His loathsome exterior required him to develop a high quality of character in order to become someone worthy of a Beauty’s devotion.
In our televised fairy tale, the Beast’s physical curse is genetic and unalterable. The force that shuts him out of Beauty’s world is not an evil spell, but societal hatred for the Other. This Beast is the Ultimate Other, a creature with no rights whatsoever in Beauty’s world. He claims what freedom he can with secrecy and with courage.
In the midst of this reality, external freedom is something Beauty simply cannot give to Beast. A Beast who asks her, not to love him, but to set him free implies a self-centered, shortsighted Beast who has never mustered the hope to reach for freedom on his own behalf. This is a Beast who misunderstands the systemic (Topside-Down) evil that confines him, a Beast who is not afflicted with the painful effects of others' prejudices against him, but rather a Beast with personal problems of his own making, for which he is responsible (and also blameable). He equates freedom with "normalcy," and being without hope and without understanding he also cannot be like Vincent, our responsible champion of true freedom for the city’s outcasts among whom he lives.
Meanwhile, a Beauty who claims that she can grant personal freedom to the Beast is quite simply a liar. She can offer him approximations of an ordinary life, material comforts and pleasurable (if possessive) companionship, but such “freedom” is illusory. This illusion ignores, sometimes even mocks, the Beast’s Otherness, imposing upon him a new curse of false normality.
You tell me. Is this hopeless, helpless “Beast”...Vincent? Is this insipid, untruthful (or perhaps self-deceived) “Beauty”...Catherine?
S wrote:I can remember only two times in the episodes (not in intros or interviews or whatever) where it said that their love is impossible, this and in AHL. And both times it’s *Catherine* who says it. Vincent does feel all this. Why this is NEVER remembered when fans blame him for his hesitance?
For whatever reason (andI've been puzzling over it for months now), perhaps Vincent makes a good scapegoat/whipping boy/private toy for the revised fantasy that fandom cultivates? I don't get it either. And the prevalence of blame toward Vincent frustrates me so much! (Of course, don't get me started on Father-blame, ha ha. That drives me nuts too.)
Maybe folks believe that a certain form of "normal" = the ultimate good in the whole world, for all people in the world? Maybe folks are trying to "cure" Vincent of his "abnormality" so he can be as happy as they want to be themselves, in the same ways they want to be happy (luxurious Brownstone or other expensive housing in NYC, domestic bliss either Above or Below, ecstatic sex on demand, Beast telling Beauty in essence, "Oh, my love, you are so right about EVERYTHING and I was so completely wrong to oppose any of your ideas, ever! I vow to fulfill your every desire forevermore to make it up to you! I will no longer deprive you of the love you need as I have so self-centeredly done up until now, and I will no longer brood incessantly over my ever-so-low-self-esteem!" Etcetera, ad nauseam)? If this is so, it is a condescending Lady Bountiful approach that I cannot participate in myself.