Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve probably heard some of the buzz surrounding the live-action Beauty and the Beast. With a star-studded cast–including Emma Watson as Belle, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, and Josh Gad as LeFou–this anticipation is completely understandable. After all, who wouldn’t want to see Hermione Granger’s turn as a Disney Princess?
But this movie offers much more than just its impressive cast. This remake also marks a progressive turn for Disney, shattering several of film’s perpetual glass ceilings, while addressing some of the plot holes that have irked Disney fanatics for decades.
Escaping the notice of many film watchers is the fact that in the original Beauty and the Beast, the Beast must have been a child when he was cursed. The curse is said to become permanent by his twenty-first birthday (according to the prologue), and the film notes that a decade has come and gone since a sorceress cursed the young prince. The idea that a sorceress would turn a mere child into a wild animal for the rest of his days because he was rude to her is both cruel and farfetched. Several reviewers have commented on how Disney remedies this plot hole, and several others its second time around.
Beyond addressing little gaffs in the original film, this one also addresses several modern issues. Emma Watson is an interesting choice to play Belle, as many consider Belle to the most modern of the original princesses, and Emma Watson is an outspoken feminist. She was initially offered the role of Cinderella in the 2015 live-action remake of Cinderella, but turned down the part, only to accept the role of Belle. While I love Cinderella for its happy ending and indisputable dose of nostalgia, it’s difficult to get past the inherently sexist “damsel-in-distress” premise. Belle, on the other hand, is shown to be smart, courageous, and free-willed, as well as kind and beautiful, proving to viewers everywhere that these qualities aren’t mutually exclusive in a woman.
While films like Tangled and Frozen have now taken up the quest to empower female audiences, Beauty and the Beast was the first to launch this movement. In the remake, even further steps are taken to accomplish this push toward feminism. Emma Watson declined to wear a corset as Belle, refusing to endorse unrealistic body standards. The film is also said to focus more on Belle’s intellectual abilities and her independent nature. In particular, when the Beast locks Belle in a tower, rather than cry (as she does in the original film), Emma Watson’s Belle attempts to escape.
While breaking down gender barriers, the Beauty and the Beast remake also worked to diversify its cast of characters, incorporating cast members of different ages and races. Most unique is the inclusion of a “gay scene” in the upcoming remake. Film creators have shared that LeFou, Gaston’s trusted sidekick, is openly gay, and harbors a crush on Gaston. While the inclusion of a gay character has come with its share of controversy, (a theatre in Alabama declined to show the movie and Malaysia has expressed a desire to censor the film), this marks an important step in the direction of gender and sexual equality.
Whether or not this remake is able to capture the exact magic of its predecessor, rest assured that young people being introduced to this tale as old as time will enjoy a new spin on things; one encouraging inclusion and empowerment.