This past weekend my sister, dad, and I went to New York comic con which I believe marks our 7th year going together. The first time we went I was in High School, and I hated crowds and the fact that my dad was being mysterious about where we were going. However once we reached the Jacob Javits Center all that went away and I had a blast. The two things that stuck out to me the most were the costumes and just how unapologetically nerdy/geeky everything and everyone was. Despite the fact that things have gotten far more commercial now, and for some people the magic has been lost it’s still something I enjoy doing and have dressed up for the event ever since. I mentioned previously that Party City’s Wonder Woman costume was my first foray into the world of cosplay.
Most of the time I buy costumes since I’m not a talented seamstress, but I’ve thrown together some DIY outfits (such as when I went as Rogue and Zatanna). Last year I went as Harley Quinn in part because I’d wanted to for a long time and in part because she’s one of my favorite Batman villains/anti-heroes (depending on the writer). This year I went as Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
I’ve talked a lot about why I disliked Disney’s newer incarnation of the story and have made several snide comments about it, but I realized I’ve never talked much about why I love the story/ the 1991 version so much. This is what I’m going to do today:
Like all fairy tales Beauty and the Beast started as a story told by word of mouth mainly by women (look it up) and just like many it is very female focused as a result. The original Belle (simply called Beauty) wasn’t necessarily a reader like most modern versions depict her as, but she was a young woman who was brave enough to face a beast, stay true to herself, and regardless of some disagreement among feminists, in my opinion, someone with agency. It was her choice to take her fathers place, her choice to leave and to return to the castle, and she fell in love at her own pace.
The original Disney version was my first introduction to this story and Belle was probably the first Disney princess I fully related to. While I loved the Little Mermaid in addition growing up, I’d always figured being a mermaid would’ve been more fun, and when I learned more about history, Pocahontas lost it’s magic for me. With Belle (save for skin tone) I didn’t feel the need to pick and choose. Her love of books was totally me. Her feeling other-ed and odd was definitely me as well, and her desire for adventure/to be understood is something I still feel very deeply.
Of course the titular character is only one half of the duo that makes this story what it is and in some ways I find the Beast a bit relatable too, as well as think his journey is a great commentary on toxic masculinity in our society*. Like Belle and me the Beast is pretty introverted and as a result his social skills started off a bit lacking. However despite getting off to a rough beginning ultimately both characters find love and acceptance which to me is all you could really want. The beautiful castle, the library, and dresses are of course gravy, but basically the heart of this tale is in the Beasts growth and the couples ability to move beyond first appearances.
So while many people will always have varying opinions on what the story is really about, or whether or not it’s harmful I personally don’t think I could ever be persuaded to hate it. This is essentially why I’m a bit particular about the versions of the fairy tale that I enjoy. Recently Megan Kearny’s webcomic is a version I really like, as well as Marguerite Bennet and Trungles’, Beauties. I also just finished Leigh Bardugo’s anthology The Language of Thorns and the first story in that at it’s bare bones is another version (with a black protagonist!!!!!) that I believe captures the magic of the tale.
Fairy tales are some of the oldest stories we have and are the back bone of a lot of our books, movies, and tv shows today. It’s important that we acknowledge that they can be told and interpreted by anyone and that they should be representative of as many people as possible. I myself am working on a version of Beauty and the Beast for myself in order to combine the elements I love with some of my own ideas and experiences. I’m still improving my art and coloring techniques so it’s not going to be a speedy process, but I shall get there. In the meantime I will leave you with this: As usual stay informed and be good to yourself!
**Featured Image: Itsa ME, again…