#foreignplanetfilm is a feature in which we get people to tell us which film they’d take with them if they had to leave earth today and go to a brand new planet empty of all our cinema. Would they choose something to comfort themselves or would they choose something to help whatever may live or come to live in this foreign planet?
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Writers: Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (novel), Roger Allers et al. (film)
Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Angela Lansbury
I have a confession to make.
To anyone that knows me, this confession will not come as a surprise – I fear it may even provoke an eye roll or two (of affection…maybe?). Nevertheless, I feel the need to put it out there. I’ve taken a deep breath and I’m finally ready to open myself up to the possible censure and scorn of highbrow film fans everywhere. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
I’m a die-hard Disney fan.
It’s a tale as old as time – a young Scottish girl is plonked down in front of her first Disney movie, unaware of the epic adventure to come. She sits completely still for the entire duration, eyes wide and jaw dropped open in awe. As a result of this transformative visual experience the girl becomes obsessed with Disney films, and forces her sister (and later her baby brother – sorry, Cammie) to act out every scene of every film with her. She even attempts to watch at least one Disney film a day.
It’s a story familiar the world over, and yet it still feels deeply personal. Yes, I have the emotional age of a child, and yes, I may have once or twice pictured myself in a dreamlike Disney fairy-tale world of my own (seriously though, who hasn’t?). Despite this, I feel very little shame in admitting that Disney is my weakness. It’s my Achilles heel, my comfort blanket in times of anguish, my favourite companion on a dark, cold night. Put simply, it’s an animated form of heroin that always keeps me crawling back for more.
Disney diehards everywhere will therefore understand the tough dilemma I had to endure when writing this feature – I mean, how can you possibly pick only one Disney film to take away to a distant land?! Sacrilege! Alas, it had to be done. Deciding that ‘The Lion King’ was too traumatic to be the only film on my foreign planet film collection (why, Mufasa? WHY??), I instead opted for the all-round happier and more fantastical ‘Beauty and the Beast’. For anyone that has not had the honour and privilege to witness this cinematic tour de force, the film follows the story of Belle, an inventor’s daughter living in a small, provincial town in France. When Belle discovers that her father has been captured by a ferocious and enigmatic beast, she sacrifices herself to free her father, in turn sacrificing all her hopes and dreams of a life of freedom and adventure. But do not despair! Although the situation seems hopeless, Belle and the Beast learn to accept, appreciate, and eventually love one another for who they truly are. SOB.
Although it’s hard to believe, this isn’t a completely selfish choice. While watching this film would give me endless bliss on an alien planet, and would make me sigh many happy sighs, I firmly believe that it could also teach aliens everywhere a thing or two. If you can rely on Disney for anything, it’s a bumper package of morals and life lessons all wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing bow. Quite honestly, from this one Disney film alone there is a veritable list. Allow me to expand:
– We are taught that being angry and mean to others really isn’t a wise move. For all you know, the person you upset might just turn out to be a super-hot enchantress with anger issues. If you want the resident aliens to learn to play nice, show them how the consequences of their actions will come back to bite them. Sweet, righteous karma.
– We are shown that reading and appreciating books is a truly wonderful thing. Being clever is not a flaw, it is something to covet and treasure. As an English Literature student with a lust for books, you can probably guess who my favourite Disney princess is…Belle, honey, you’re still the queen of my bibliophilic heart. Also, if everyone followed the Beast’s example and gave their respective partners their own personal library, the world would be a much happier place.
– This film arguably helped to kick start feminism for 90s kids everywhere. When creepy Gaston belittles Belle and tries to force her into becoming his ‘little wife’ (ugh), she rejects him, quite literally kicking his misogynistic ass into the dirt. FEMINIST WIN. (NB: If you didn’t already love Belle, you really should by now). Hopefully aliens everywhere will be more understanding of gender equality.
– This film also shows that you don’t have to follow the status quo. So what if all the peasants in your little French village gossip about you behind your back and call you odd? You don’t need them. Stay strong and firm in your beliefs and you’ll get your happy ending. Boo to you, silly peasants.
– The most significant theme, of course, is inner beauty. Although some sick minded viewers may view this film as a bizarre promotion for the benefits of bestiality (clue: IT’S NOT), the true message of this tale is that appearances do not matter – it’s what’s inside that truly counts. Beauty lies within, and true love can overcome any barrier. In short, beauty ain’t skin deep, kids.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made a pretty strong case. This film is happy, colourful, fantastically musical (bow down to Alan Menken, the OSCARs say it all) and emotional to boot. It can teach us about ourselves, and can show aliens all the best of human nature. You can keep your action films – I’d rather twirl about in a ballroom with enchanted teacups. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a very important date with Spotify and the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack.
Melanie Christie is a second year student at the University of Edinburgh. She studies English Literature and History. She likes to think that her cultural interests make her slightly more interesting. She also spends a great deal of her time basking in her fox onesie, has a profound weakness for chocolate, and is a proud Hufflepuff – that’s loyalty for you, folks!
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(Image sourced from: www.IMDb.com)
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