Why warp the tale into dangerous dimensions?

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Zara
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Why warp the tale into dangerous dimensions?

Post by Zara » Wed May 27, 2015 9:34 am

This article revisited a very important issue for the "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale: "BATB: The Beast as MALE Victim of Rape" on Tales of Faerie.

Some background mythology...

In the original "Beauty and the Beast" that inspired the B&B tradition we know and love today, Villeneuve's Prince was cursed by an evil and treacherous Fairy who had been appointed to guard and educate the young Prince while his warrior Queen mother went away to do battle in distant lands. This Fairy was someone the Prince regarded and addressed as a second mother. The Prince explains (via the Ernest Dowson translation):

Villeneuve's B&B wrote:Meanwhile, the Fairy, in accordance with her promise [to the Queen], had paid every attention to my education. From the day that she took me away from my kingdom, she never left me, and she never ceased to give me proofs of the interest she took in all that concerned my health and my amusement. By the respect I bore her, I showed how grateful I was for all her goodness to me. I had the same deference for her as I should have had for my mother. I was just as eager to please her, and her goodness to me inspired me with the deepest affection for her.


The Fairy then left the Prince for several years while she pursued other nefarious enterprises. When she returned, the Prince had grown handsome, charming, clever, and strong. All due, no doubt (at least in her mind), to the Fairy's upbringing. The Fairy's ensuing conduct toward him displays all the characteristic tactics a predator uses to "groom" their victim in anticipation of a sexual assault. And remember, this story was being told in 1740. Tale as terribly old as time....

When the evil Fairy revealed her intentions at last, the Prince was astonished and repulsed.

Villeneuve's B&B wrote:On her return, she was filled with admiration at the effects of the care she had bestowed upon me, and she began to conceive for me a love which was different from the love of a mother. She had previously permitted me to call her by this name, but now she forbade me to do so. I obeyed, without inquiring into the motives which had induced her to take this step, and without suspecting in the least what it was she desired of me. I saw clearly that she was dissatisfied. But could I imagine why she complained to me continually of my ingratitude? I was all the more surprised at her reproaches, as I did not think I deserved them. They were always either followed or preceded by the most tender caresses. I had far too little experience to understand them. At length she was compelled to explain her conduct, which she did one day that I had been evincing my sorrow and impatience at the continued absence of the Queen. She reproached me for this; whereupon I assured her that the love I bore my mother in no way diminished the affection that I had for her. To this she replied that she was not at all jealous, in spite of having done so much for me, and notwithstanding all she had in view to do for me in the future. She then added that, in order that she might have a free hand to carry out the designs she had formed for me, it was necessary for me to marry her; she said that she did not want me to love her as a mother, but as a mistress; that she had no doubt but that I would receive this proposition with joy, and be filled with gratitude to her for it; that I had nothing to do but abandon myself to the pleasure of possessing such a powerful Fairy, who would protect me from every danger, assure me an existence full of charm, and cover me with glory.

I was much embarrassed at this proposition.


Recalling his betrayed and beleaguered state, the Prince goes on to recount:

Villeneuve's B&B wrote:Besides, I was unwilling to enter into any such engagement at so early an age. The only longing I had was to see the Queen again and to signalise myself at the head of her armies. I sighed for my liberty; it was the only thing I wanted, but it was the one thing that the Fairy would not grant me.

I had often implored her to let me go and share the perils to which I knew the Queen was exposing herself in my interests. But up to that day my prayers had been of no avail. Pressed to reply to the extraordinary avowal she had made to me, I, in no little confusion, begged her to remember how she had often told me that I had no right to dispose of my person in the absence of my mother and without her consent. "That is as I think," she replied. "I would not have you do otherwise; I desire only that you refer the matter to the Queen."


The Fairy, in her delusion, believed the Queen would capitulate with her desire, rewarding the Fairy's "service" by requiring the Prince to unite with the Fairy, thus submitting himself and his kingdom to the Fairy's plans for both. Against the Queen's orders to ensure the Prince's safety, the Fairy then takes the Prince to the battlefield, where he both wins a victory and receives a wound, which interrupts the Queen's campaign against her enemy and damages the status of the realm.

Bringing the matter of a union with the Prince before the Queen, the Fairy becomes enraged to discover that the Prince's mother shares her son's negative reaction. So the evil Fairy decides to punish both of them for "spurning" her spiteful and lustful attentions, accusing them of moral crimes of which she herself is, in fact, guilty. In effect, she curses the Prince so that he physically manifests in his outward appearance the ugliness of the Fairy's wicked soul. Not that the Fairy sees herself for who she is.

The curse scene in Villeneuve:

Villeneuve's B&B wrote:"What! insignificant creature!" interrupted the Fairy furiously. "You dare to refuse me! And you, foolish Queen, you can behold such arrogance as this, and yet not be indignant? What is it I am saying? It is you who authorise him to do it, for it is your own insolent looks that have inspired him with the audacity to refuse me!"

The Queen, stung by the contemptuous language of the Fairy, was no longer mistress of herself, and her eyes, happening to light upon a looking-glass, before which we were standing at that moment, she turned to the Fairy and said to her:

"The only answer I can make to you is one that you ought to have made to yourself. Deign to look at the object which this mirror presents to you, and let that reply for me."

The Fairy had no difficulty in comprehending what was in the Queen's mind.

"So it is the beauty, then, of this precious son of yours," she cried, "that renders you so vain; and that it is which has exposed me to so degrading a refusal. I appear to you to be unworthy of him. Well," she went on, in a furious tone, "after having taken so much pains to make him so nice, it is only fitting that I should put the crown to my work, and that I should give you both cause to remember what you owe to me. Away, wretch!" she said to me, "and boast that you refused your heart and your hand to me; away, and give them to the girl you find more worthy of them than I."

So saying, my terrible admirer dealt me a blow on the head. It was so heavy that I fell with my face to the ground, and felt as though I had been crushed by the weight of a mountain. Full of wrath at this insult, I sought to rise, but found it impossible: the weight of my body was so great that I was unable to lift myself. All that I could do was to sustain myself on my hands, which in an instant had become two horrible paws, the sight of which made me conscious of the change I had undergone. My form was that in which you found me. At the same instant I cast my eyes on the fatal mirror, and could no longer doubt of my sudden and cruel metamorphosis.

The pain that I endured made it impossible for me to move. The Queen was beside herself at the tragic spectacle. To put the last seal to her barbarity, the furious Fairy said to me, with all the irony she could:

"Now go and make conquests of which you may be proud, conquests worthier of you than an august Fairy. And as there is no need to have wit when one is handsome, I ordain that you appear as stupid as you are ugly, and that you remain in this state, without assuming your old form, until a young and beauteous maiden comes of her own accord to seek you out, fully persuaded beforehand that you are going to eat her. She must also, once her fears respecting her life are appeased, conceive for you a sufficiently tender affection as to induce her to propose to you. Until you meet with this rare person, it is my pleasure that you remain an object of horror to yourself and to everyone who meets you. As for you," she said, turning to the Queen, "blessed mother of so charming a child, I warn you that if you tell anyone that this monster is your son, all chance of his ever regaining his ancient form will be lost. Neither by the charm of his conversation, nor by the intervention of any exterior aid, may he attempt to regain what he has lost. Farewell; do not be too impatient, you will not have long to wait! Such a cherub ought soon to be able to find a way out of his difficulties!"

"Ah! cruel Fairy," cried the Queen, "if I have offended you by my refusal, let your vengeance fall on me. Take my life, but do not, I conjure you, destroy the work of your own hands."

"You are not serious, great Princess," replied the Fairy ironically. "You demean yourself too much; I am not beautiful enough for you to condescend to talk to me; but I am firm in my resolutions. Good-bye, puissant Queen; good-bye, handsome Prince! It is not right that I should tire you with my odious presence. I withdraw; but I have yet the chanty to tell you," addressing herself to me, "that it is absolutely necessary for you to forget who you are. If you allow yourself to be flattered by the respect that others may have for you, or by any high-standing titles that may be bestowed on you, you will be irretrievably lost; and you will be equally lost, if you should ever attempt to make use of your wit in order to shine in conversation."

With these words she disappeared, leaving the Queen and me in such a state as can neither be described nor imagined. Tears are the consolation of the unhappy; but our misery was too great to seek relief in them.


My heart breaks for the Prince. His tormentor's magic painfully entered his body and refashioned his shape into a hideous creature of the Fairy's devising. She commandeered his sexuality, attaching his salvation to what she believed to be impossible circumstances. And then he and his mother were rendered incapable of explaining what had been done to him, lest their words destroy the Prince. My heart breaks, too, for the Queen, who had to witness this crime being done to her son, unable to help him, understanding too late that she had entrusted her child to a monster. The Fairy's curse powerfully depicts the plight of too many victims of rape in the real world.

Beaumont's sanitized version states only that a wicked fairy enchanted the Prince into his Beast form, and does not reveal why. But the Prince's goodness and inner beauty are never in question.

Beaumont's B&B wrote:Beast had disappeared, and she saw, at her feet, one of the loveliest Princes that eye ever beheld, who returned her thanks for having put an end to the charm, under which he had so long resembled a Beast. Though this Prince was worthy of all her attention, she could not forbear asking where Beast was. "You see him at your feet, (said the Prince): a wicked fairy had condemned me to remain under that shape till a beautiful virgin should consent to marry me: the fairy likewise enjoined me to conceal my understanding; there was only you in the world generous enough to be won by the goodness of my temper; and in offering you my crown, I can't discharge the obligations I have to you." Beauty, agreeably surprised, gave the charming Prince her hand to rise; they went together into the castle...


There is a monstrous current within our culture that shifts the moral weight of the story onto the side of the lecherous evil Fairy. In this reinterpretation of the story, the Fairy has not only the "right" but the "duty" to "correct" the Prince's "offense" against her. As Kristin puts it in her blog post on Tales of Faerie, "But if you asked the average person on the street why the Beast was cursed, chances are the vast majority will tell you it's because he was a jerk and deserved it."

A "jerk" to whom, though, in light of the original tale? A "jerk" according to his rapist? No one but the cursing Fairy believed the Prince to be a foolish/mistaken/weak/bad person...and only after this desirable, beautiful boy said "no" to her advances. Only the evil Fairy blamed the Prince for the outcome of her wrongdoing. Why have we as a culture gravitated toward the wicked Fairy's view of the Prince's identity and behavior?

It truly is a strange and terrible revision of the fairy tale to portray the Beast as a character who somehow "deserves" his curse, or who in some way brings about or maintains his own cursed condition. Koslow's version of the story, descended from Beaumont's redaction of Villeneuve, never devolves into blaming the victim for his fate, or portraying the victim as justly punishing himself for his fate. Far from it. Koslow's Beast is, beginning to end, a beautiful, wise and virtuous character who lives a life devoted to love despite everything that happens to him. Vincent's bodily form is congenital. He is cursed and re-cursed every time someone dismisses his agency and attempts to exploit his nature for their own ends. There is a composite wicked Fairy comprised of many influences that impact Vincent's life. Topsiders (Catherine most of all, in the end), Outsiders, and his oldest Underworld enemy, the mad modern-day wizard: Paracelsus.

I like the way Father/Gansa/Gordon describes Vincent in "Song of Orpheus":

Koslow's B&B wrote:...I came to know someone who had every reason to curse fate, to feel punished, and yet he accepted all that life had to offer with gratitude and love."


Catherine/Perlman/Gansa/Gordon says of Vincent in "Nor Iron Bars a Cage":

Koslow's B&B wrote:I know him, and I know that, whatever he is, he’s also the best part of what it means to be human. And if you take away his freedom, then you take away that very part that makes him most human!


And in "A Happy Life" Catherine/Koslow says:

Koslow's B&B wrote:He’s overcome tremendous hardship, he’s suffered great pain, and yet he has the most beautiful spirit, the most generous heart, of anyone I’ve ever known.


Of himself Vincent/Koslow says in "Once Upon a Time in the City of New York" (after Catherine has screamed at her first sight of Vincent's face and flung a make-shift mirror at his forehead):

Koslow's B&B wrote:I've never regretted what I am...until now.... I don’t know how [this happened to me]. I have ideas. I’ll never know. I was born. And I survived.


And in "Brothers" Vincent/Martin gently explains to a traumatized Charles that their unique faces are mirrors...

Koslow's B&B wrote:Where frightened men see the shape of their own fears, and small men see only ugliness.


Of Vincent, Ron Perlman (the actor who performed the role) has said:

Well, I mean… you know, he was the greatest example of humanity, who because of circumstance was prevented from living a life that no one deserved to live more than he, so right away he's in a really poignant and charged reality. He was so brilliantly educated and so appreciative of great things that had come before him that were the gifts of mankind and yet he was living in a world where he was not able to celebrate those things, or take part in those things. So he was probably the loneliest man on the face of the earth, who because of his spirit was able to transcend and become a positive force, and do his part to make his mark in the very, very limited ways that he was able to.


And:

I think Vincent is the Prince, and I think the job that Rick Baker has done, and the job that the writers have done and the job that I'm trying to do, bears that out in every episode. He is the most sublime thing in Catherine Chandler's life. He doesn't need to change—to become that Prince—to be accepted by her. That's how we get around the transformation. There's no reason to see this guy change, because he's as close to perfect as you're going to get...

First of all...there's not a character around that I've come into contact with who possesses as much humility as he does. That humility serves as a backdrop to his other qualities, which are incredible strength, both spiritual and physical, and an innate leadership quality based on his solitude and aloneness and good judgment, as well as his compassion for the underdog: those who have been dealt a few cards less in the big deal. Certainly he has been, and his compassion makes him a sort of Albert Sweitzer. He's achieved a sort of self-actualization in his own life and he's very, very secure in what he is and who he is. In fact, he's so secure that he is able to begin to live for the world around him rather than for himself. A character like that is very rare in life. There are those people out there, but they're usually Nobel Peace Prize winners. Those are the things I see in Vincent, and those are the things I try to put into the playing of him that people are responding to....


Koslow's/Perlman's Beast is the ultimate Prince in Beast-shape. Compare all this to the Beast/Prince in Beaumont's "Beauty and the Beast":

Beaumont's B&B wrote:At noon she found dinner ready, and while at table, was entertained with an excellent concert of music, though without seeing any body: but at night, as she was going to sit down to supper, she heard the noise Beast made; and could not help being sadly terrified.

"Beauty," said the monster, "will you give me leave to see you sup?"

"That is as you please," answered Beauty, trembling.

"No," replied the Beast, "you alone are mistress here; you need only bid me be gone, if my presence is troublesome, and I will immediately withdraw: but tell me, do not you think me very ugly?"

"That is true," said Beauty, "for I cannot tell a lie; but I believe you are very good-natured."

"So I am," said the monster, "but then, besides my ugliness, I have no sense; I know very well that I am a poor, silly, stupid creature."

"'Tis no sign of folly to think so," replied Beauty, "for never did fool know this, or had so humble a conceit of his own understanding."

"Eat then, Beauty," said the monster, "and endeavour to amuse yourself in your palace; for every thing here is yours, and I should be very uneasy if you were not happy."

"You are very obliging," answered Beauty; "I own I am pleased with your kindness, and when I consider that, your deformity scarce appears."

"Yes, yes," said the Beast, "my heart is good, but still I am a monster."

"Among mankind," said Beauty, "there are many that deserve that name more than you, and I prefer you, just as your are, to those, who, under a human form, hide a treacherous, corrupt, and ungrateful heart."

"If I had sense enough," replied the Beast, "I would make a fine compliment to thank you, but I am so dull, that I can only say, I am greatly obliged to you."

Beauty ate a hearty supper, and had almost conquered her dread of the monster; but she had liked to have fainted away, when he said to her, "Beauty, will you be my wife?" She was some time before she durst answer; for she was afraid of making him angry, if she refused. At last, however, she said, trembling, "No, Beast." Immediately the poor monster began to sigh, and hissed so frightfully, that the whole palace echoed. But Beauty soon recovered her fright, for Beast having said, in a mournful voice, "then farewell, Beauty," left the room; and only turned back, now and then, to look at her as he went out.

When Beauty was alone, she felt a great deal of compassion for poor Beast. "Alas," said she, " 'tis a thousand pities any thing so good-natured should be so ugly."


And from Villeneuve's foundational fantasy:

Villeneuve's B&B wrote:"What anxious moments you have caused me!" she said to him. "I did not know that I loved you so fondly. The fear I was in of losing you has proved to me that I was attached to you by ties stronger than those of gratitude. I swear to you that I had made up my mind to die, if I did not bring you back to life."

At words so tender the Beast felt himself completely revived, though his voice was still feeble as he answered her.

"It is good of you, Beauty, to love a monster who is so ugly. But you do well. You are more dear to me than life itself. I thought you would never come back. It would have been my death. But now that you love me, I am going to live. Now go and rest yourself, and be fully assured that you are going to be as happy as your good heart deserves."

Beauty had never heard the Beast make such a long speech before. It was scarcely eloquent, but it pleased her on account of the gentleness
and sincerity she discerned in it. She had expected a scolding, or at least reproaches. From that moment she formed a better opinion of the Beast's character ; she ceased to think him stupid ; she even regarded the shortness of his answers as a sign of prudence. More than ever prepossessed in his favour, she retired to her own room, her mind filled with the most flattering ideas.


As Jenny of Halfway to Fairyland points out, after Beast-blame proponents establish an alternate scenario of "an unpleasant young man being justly punished [or "corrected" or re-educated or whatever] by a good woman"...

Halfway to Fairyland wrote:...we do the exact same thing Beauty spent the entire [original] story learning not to do. We immediately assume that ugliness of body must signify ugliness of spirit, and we adjust the story accordingly. This is meant to be a story about a girl learning to see past appearances—about Beauty becoming a better person. Instead it’s become the exact opposite—Beauty helping the Beast to become better.


New fairy tales about static/stoic Beauties who "forgive" or "redeem" their Beasts for being beastly, through and through, completely miss the powerful messages of the original story. Beast-blame tales (including mopey-Beast-blame tales that attack the Beast on the basis of his disablement or purported self-victimization) reinforce business-as-usual for dismantlers of love. I am grateful Koslow's 1980s television series broke away from this evil tendency, as much as TV-Land would let it. But even Koslow's tale wandered into the warp-zone at times. I think it would have been a better story if it hadn't.

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Re: Why warp the tale into dangerous dimensions?

Post by Cosi » Tue Dec 15, 2015 3:17 am

Excellent essay!
--
Claire ~ Cosi ~ NYC Utopia ~ L'Icare ~ la Grive

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