'Tale as old as time.' Literally. I think the story of needing redemption from a curse brought about by living for your self and your pleasure is a pretty well worn tale. But I'll get to that in a moment.
I saw the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast on the weekend! And I really enjoyed it.
The scenery and filming was beautiful, the costumes and fabric were breathtaking (and ethically made!), the singing was great, and there were some new songs that weren't in the original cartoon movie.
I really enjoyed Emma Watson as Belle. She plays her as a really strong woman who is looking for adventure and has a keen mind. She is the only woman in the village who reads, and she tries to teach a girl from the village to read too, before the school-master stops her. There is also more back story of how her mother died which was a great addition.
I was sceptical about how they would portray her falling in love with the beast. There have been many criticisms of the story that it is 1. Stockholm Syndrome, 2. The 'woman tries to save horrible man from himself' trope, or 3. Bestiality. But I actually felt that with the backstory that is given for why the beast is cursed to be a beast, that he was nasty because his kind mother died and his harsh father corrupted him, he is more human than I remember the beast in the cartoon being. I also thought that it wasn't really Stockholm Syndrome as she doesn't start to like him until after she escapes, gets attacked by wolves, and he gets hurt trying to save her. She takes him back to the castle to nurse him back to health and he becomes more vulnerable, human and kind. There is also more emphasis on him learning to love others, not only Belle but also the staff/household items which reminds you more that he is a human underneath it all.
Anyway, I thought they dealt with the love story really well. (Unlike most of the original versions of the story!)
There were also a few other notable characters. The minister of the village was a small character but portrayed really positively. He had the only books in the village that Belle could read, and he was also the voice of reason when the village didn't believe Belle's father about the beast and were going to send him to an asylum. It was a nice thing to see as often ministers in films are either bumbling idiots, or horrible bigots.
The other notable character was Le Fou, Gaston's side kick/life long friend. He was a great character, although apparently controversial. I don't know if anyone saw over the last few weeks a number of petitions making the rounds on social media calling for people to boycott the film, or for cinemas to not show the film, all because of Le Fou. Why? Because the director announced that he would be gay.
In the film, Le Fou obviously has feelings for Gaston and it is alluded to in their interactions, as is their life-long friendship. Le Fou is often the voice of reason when Gaston does awful things although he loses his nerve and backs up Gaston at his worst moment. Eventually he realises that Gaston is actually a horrible person and has one of the best lines in the movie at this point;
'There’s a beast running loose, there’s no question, but I fear the wrong beast is unleashed.'
Le Fou ends up fighting against the villagers when they go to kill the beast and he turns out to be one of the characters with the most moral fibre. It really makes me sad that there were petitions against this film, and against this character, because at the heart of it he was a great character who was struggling with feelings for a life-long friend who turned out to be a terrible person. And I think it was an uplifting thing for same-sex attracted people who saw the movie to see a representation of a struggle many might face.
It seems ridiculous to me for Christians to call for a boycott or removal of a character based on their sexual preference. This is not showing love and acceptance we find in the gospel. Even though same-sex sexual relationships are not part of God's design for sexuality, doing this alienates further anyone who experiences those feelings who wants to come to faith in Jesus, and find community in the church. It really communicates that anyone who is attracted to people of the same sex isn't welcome in the church, and even in the world Christians inhabit. And that makes me feel ill.
Ultimately, I think that boycotting this film means that Christians will be missing out on a beautiful movie which has a story of redemption from a curse that came from the prince being a terrible ruler who taxed the villagers to fuel his lifestyle and spurned an old lady sheltering from the storm (the enchantress). As I alluded to at the start of this post, this story very much feels like a 'tale as old as time'. The tale told from the start of humanity in the Bible. There is a strong sense of similarity in this story. The enchantress is the one who casts the curse as a consequence for the beast's actions, and she is the one who actively lifts the curse after the last petal falls. The beast not only had to learn how to love, but he had to be loved in return by Belle to be saved from the curse of being a beast forever.
The difference is that Beauty and the Beast is a story of redemption by works. How much better is the gospel!? We have the truth about redemption by grace through faith in Jesus. It is infinitely more satisfying and easy to attain because it's not us who need to earn the release from our curse, Jesus has already done it for us;
'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.' - Galatians 3:13-14
I don't want to pontificate, I think that is rarely appropriate, or well received in a blog. But I so don't want my bothers and sisters to miss out on opportunities for gospel conversations. And I really don't want for people who are same-sex attracted, especially my brothers and sisters in Christ, to feel like they are not welcome because of their feelings. What Jesus has done for us is bigger than that, so let's not make this the hill we live or die on.