BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: A DANCE OF THE ARCHETYPES

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It’s the fairy tale everyone hears in childhood – the most romanticized case of Stockholm syndrome in this world.

 

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Once upon a time, a dashing Prince (Dan Stevens) partied nonstop in his castle until a beggar tried to seek refuge there. He drives her away, unaware she’s an enchantress (Hattie Morahan) testing him.

 

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She transforms him into a Beast. His household became inanimate items – a candelabra, mantel clock, coat hanger, wardrobe, harpsichord, feather duster, teapot and cup.

 

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To reverse the spell, he must love a woman and vice versa before the last petal of an enchanted rose falls. Otherwise, he retains his hideous form forever.

 

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In nearby Villeneuve, doll-like Belle (Emma Watson) dreams of adventure and romance beyond the French village where she lives with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), a reclusive artist, and traipses into the hills ala Sound of Music.

 

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When Maurice sets off to market, wolves attacked him. He flees to the woods, gets lost, stumbles upon the Beast’s castle and takes a rose. Enraged at the theft, the Beast takes him prisoner.

 

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Belle searches for Maurice and confronts the Beast. She trades places with her father and eventually redeems her captor’s suffering. Love won. Good triumphed over evil. All’s well that ends well.

 

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But does it?

 

Well, it’s a fairy tale – and the film rendition of the story was great entertainment, indeed. Yet the characters are archetypes. Beauty and the Beast are a couple among the countless who live inside each of us.

 

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A Beast exists in every Beauty, alongside the Kind Daughter, the Fussy Mom, the Bewildered Orphan, the Willful Maid, the Outcast Country Girl, the Book-Loving Student, the Passionate Dreamer and well, the Hapless Prey and the Willing Victim.

 

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Just as well, a Beauty inhabits every Beast, co-existing with the Noble Protector, the Sorrowing Son, the Spoiled Prince, the Desperate Accursed, the Grouchy Master, the Angry Prison Warden and the Voracious Predator.

 

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It’s ok for as long as the archetypes “behave”.

 

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Beauty’s Compassionate Redeemer interacts with the Beast’s Lonely Hero who’s in need of salvation. Or her Eager Student appeals to her Inspired Mentor – who bequeathed her the Prince’s entire library. Or the Sorrowing Son finds common ground with her Lost Orphan in Paris as they discover that Belle’s mom died in the plague.

 

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But what if Beauty’s own, personal Beast locks fangs with the Beast’s Sadistic Predator? What happens then?

 

What disturbs me is that too many believe in the fairy tale and pay for it dearly.

 

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Each time a woman falls for a Bad Guy, it’s Beauty and the Beast all over again.

 

Nothing like Bad Guys to feed female redeemer instincts – which explains why the most notorious criminals on Death Row get love letters and marriage proposals from women who should know better.

 

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The Belle in her hopes that his ugliness hides an inner Beauty that her love can magically transform to a Prince – handsome, tender, devoted and rich beyond measure.

 

I guess it’s also one reason why it’s so difficult to get out of abusive relationships. The Belle in every besotted woman never loses hope that her Beast may yet turn into a Benevolent Prince – until he cuts her throat or blasts her with a shotgun.

 

Sad that in reality, most Beasts don’t transform into royal consorts and waltz away with their mates happily ever after.

 

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