Just the other day a colleague at work mentioned in passing that there was controversy about the release of Disney’s new live-action movie, Beauty & the Beast. My other co-worker and I were shocked. Both of us remembered Disney’s cartoon classic released in 1991. What could be causing such a stir?
I, for one, hailed the original as a breakthrough film for Disney because the heroine was smart and kind. Her favorite pastime was reading. Even though other’s made fun of her, she embraced her uniqueness. This leading lady was not portrayed as a damsel in distress. She was both self-aware and self-confident…a new kind of princess. I expected much the same from the new version but without animation.
I’m really not trying to cause trouble. My goal is to offer another lens for the current conversation. Consider this: What does the story of Beauty & the Beast tell us about ourselves? How does it read us?
Although the fairy tale was introduced in the mid-1700’s, it resonates with us today because it is a story of redemption. Beauty buys back her father’s life by taking his place in the Beast’s palace. She willingly gives herself for her father’s freedom.
As she becomes acquainted with the Beast, “Beauty began to think the Beast was not nearly so terrible as she had supposed at first.” Night after night, the Beast asks her to marry him. Night after night, she refuses, even though she knows his gentle heart and good nature. It is not until the Beast almost dies that Beauty realizes she loves him. Upon profession of their mutual love, the Beast is released from the curse and changed back to his true identity as a Prince.
Is this not the story of every believer? Were we not all once Beasts, angry and isolated in our own self-made castles of despair? And then our Rescuer came to set us free from the curse and restore our true identity as Princes and Princesses of the Most High. If it were not for the love of Jesus, I, for one, would still be locked away in my own dark palace.
Likewise, are we not all called to be Beauty, ezer-kenegdo, the lifesaver…the embodiment of unconditional love toward both her father and the Beast? We are commanded to love our neighbor. I’m reminded of the Prayer of St. Frances, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love…”
Instead of boycotting the new movie, why don’t we as people of faith go and watch the film with our children, using it as a springboard for conversation about our own story of salvation? And if there is a part with which we disagree, let’s talk about it with our kids. Instead of reacting, let’s seize the opportunity to deepen our children’s social and spiritual formation, remembering that “Jesus stretched out His arms…that everyone might come within the reach of His saving embrace.”
This is one of my favorite stories of transformation, illustrating how people can be changed by love and how they can make a difference by choosing to love. This is what Love In A Big World is all about. So…who do you choose to be today…Beauty or the Beast?