Saturday, March 25, 2017

La belle et la bête

The live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast" is out in Korea, but I have no particular desire to see it. I've heard it's going to crush the American box office, yet somehow, I'm just not interested. I never saw the cartoon version, either, and I can't say that my life has felt incomplete as a result. If I recall correctly, there was once a TV-movie version of the story in which George C. Scott played the Beast, with fangs and a piggy nose. I did see that version, but I no longer remember much of it, except for a moment in which the lady rejects a blue rose offered by the Beast, justifying her objection with the bizarre (for me at the time, before I understood how women can use words to flay and wound) claim that "blue is an ugly color." (For those of us who have forgotten the 70s-era production: YouTube to the rescue.)

Sorry, Emma Watson, but you'll have to soldier on without my patronage. I don't hate you or the story; I'm simply not interested.


Charles said...

For what it's worth, the animated version is considered a classic among Disney animations. A lot of fans think it is the closest Disney has come to perfection.

As a folklorist, I am interested in the story, and fascinated by how it has changed over the years. Not sure if I will go see this, though. Kind of want to, but we'll see.

Kevin Kim said...

Did you see the cartoon version? If yes, did you think it was what everyone made it out to be?

As for how much the story has changed... how does a folklorist handle the systematic "Disneyfication" of classic tales (e.g., taking all the incest out of "Hercules," or replacing the tragic ending with a happier one in "The Fox and the Hound")? I have to wonder whether the public is being well served or ill served when old stories pass through Disney's filter. Perhaps this question straddles folklore studies and anthropology... both of which are interdisciplinary fields to begin with.

Charles said...

Am I out of place in seeing your insistence on referring to the animated version as the "cartoon version" as an indication of how you perceive it--i.e., as somehow inferior or childish? Or would that be reading too much into verbiage?

To answer your first question, though, I tend to agree with the general consensus on the animated version; yes, it was very good.

The answer to your second question is a lot more complicated. In brief, I can say that, as a folklorist, I see "Disneyfication" is part of the process of oral tradition. I don't think it is really a matter of being well or ill served--it just is. That being said, I recently heard a famous scholar of fairy tales talk about the addition of Gaston to the Disney version of B&tB (there is no Gaston in the original tale), and she thought it was quite a good move from a narrative standpoint. I should also say that Disney did not shy away from depicting the Beast as quite a violent figure at first.

Kevin Kim said...

I say "cartoon" simply because it's an animated cartoon, not for any other reason. While the single word "cartoon" can imply "animated cartoon" (e.g., Saturday-morning cartoons), I'm more hesitant to use the word when talking about, say, Pixar's computer-animated films.

" part of the process of oral tradition."

Am curious as to the sense in which an audiovisual medium counts as part of an oral tradition. I thought that "oral" meant "voice only." Once you add images to narrative, doesn't that change the nature of the beast? I suppose I don't know what's included in the technical definition of an "oral tradition." (Perhaps we can slip visuals into the definition if we think of, say, a village elder telling a story and using dramatic gestures and/or props while the villagers listen to and watch the tale unfold...? By that logic, are one-man shows part of a larger strain of oral tradition? Or do such shows, ephemeral by nature, not constitute tradition, per se?)

The fairy-tale scholar, in offering a clearly positive opinion of the move to add Gaston to the Disney version of the tale, seems not to take the same neutral, descriptivist ground you're occupying ("it just is"). Fascinating.

Charles said...

re: "cartoon"

Gotcha. I guess I just don't hear that word used much anymore, and it still makes me think of "Saturday morning cartoons."

re: oral tradition

Oy. Suffice it to say that this is way too big a subject for a comment thread. But I will say that the boundaries of "oral tradition" are fuzzy, and the boundaries of "folklore" are even fuzzier. In the strictest sense of the term, "oral tradition" refers to interactions that are 1) verbal in nature, 2) face-to-face, and 3) representative of the community as opposed to merely the individual. Since the advent of the digital age, though, scholars have been struggling to come to terms with what orality means now, and what it will mean in the future.

This is starting to sound like the introductory paragraph of a paper or even a book; there's a lot more to be said. But to step back from that for a moment, what I meant by my original comment was that different manifestations of a tale--even in different media--can be considered as part of the larger universe of that includes the tale. The original tale and the animated film are not separate entities that do not interact with each other. The original tale shaped the story that Disney told, and the story that Disney told shaped the understanding of the tale in the minds of many. Down the road, when the tale is told again in a different form, tellers will probably draw from different elements of this tradition to produce a new version.

I kind of feel like I'm rambling here. Does that make sense?

re: MT's positive opinion on Gaston

I think that MT (using initials for convenience) in general takes a descriptivist approach, but as a narratologist she recognizes that the addition of Gaston does indeed make the story more rich and complex. That being said, it doesn't necessarily make it better. It's just... different.