A few years ago, I worked for the Disney Store at the Fashion Place mall in Las Vegas. My interviewer asked which character I was most like. At the time, I think I either mentioned Flick - because he was willing to help others, even if they weren't sure they needed the help, and he was a quick thinker - or Stitch (Lilo and Stitch had just been released) because he knew how to have fun. However, I wasn't entirely truthful, because my favorite character wouldn't fit into a retail position, as he was a little too beastly . . .
Beauty and the Beast was released November 21, 1991. I was a junior in high school who, honestly, felt very out of place and insecure, especially when it came to girls. Upon my first viewing, I felt a connection with the Beast. He was unsure of who he was. He had accepted what he had become and convinced himself that no one could love him. Like the Beast, I was wrong about myself.
An interesting aspect I've only just come to realize, is that this is the first Disney film in which the lead male character was saved by the lead female. It was the Beast who was in need of rescuing, not Belle (okay, yeah, she wanted to escape her provincial life, but she didn't need a prince to do so, and there was that whole wolf attack thing).
As time went on, I found myself feeling more like the Beast. The broadway musical added a song to those from the film, "If I Can't Love Her," in which the Beast loses hope of Belle ever loving him. The song is very melancholy, and echoed how I felt entering the fall of 2002. One late October night, I got a call from a friend who wanted to set me up on a blind date. Before I could decline, I then got a call from the blind date, who was expecting me to pick her up the following morning. I couldn't say no, and found myself looking forward to meeting this impetuous girl. Six months later we were married. Finding my wife evoked a transformation within myself, like the Beast, only unlocked once I truly loved another, and knew they loved me in return.
Nearly eight years later, as I watch Beauty and the Beast from the perspective of a husband and parent, the film takes on a different meaning. But the Beast remains my favorite character. He reminds me of where I've been, and of the joy I've found in love.
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