If you haven’t figured it out yet, the Post Calvin has a theme this month: beasts. When I hear “beast,” There’s not much I can think of besides Beauty and the Beast—and I’m not the only one. Amy kicked us off with her thought-provoking post on retelling (wrestling with, even?) the same tale.
When I think Beauty and the Beast, though, my first thought does not fall to Robin McKinley (though I’m a big fan), or most of the myriad other adaptations of La Belle et la Bête. I think Disney. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came out when I was three. I grew up with it.
So, then, I thought about how I could work that into my blog post. How can I write something about Beauty and the Beast that hasn’t already been written over and over? I thought about reviewing Beauty and the Beast, writing some sort of social commentary (portrayal of gender, anyone? or,*cough* can you say Stockholm Syndrome *cough*?), or maybe drawing some interesting connections to the story of Cupid and Psyche (Till We Have Faces being my favorite C.S. Lewis book and all)…but I learned in Prof. Rienstra’s creative nonfiction class that I’m not very good at taking a critical lens to things I love.
And you know, I think that’s okay. Developing a critical lens, honing one’s ability to provide thoughtful and constructive criticism, is an important skill—and one I’m still working on. But I’m not so sure these critical thinking skills need to apply to all aspects of life. For example, I’m not so sure they need to apply to Beauty and the Beast.
See, I love Beauty and the Beast. I love it earnestly, sincerely, unironically. I love it even though it is in theory a movie for children and I turned 26 years old yesterday. Now, I recognize “love” is a strong term here, but you know what I mean. I love the beautiful hand-illustrated picture, I love Belle’s strong and oh-so-bookish character, I love the catchy tunes, I love the way the story unfolds. I even love the Beast (and find him attractive) after he turns human again, whether my esteemed former Chimes colleagues would agree or not.
Sometimes I feel like it’s hard to have pure, unadulterated affection for something, especially when it’s something “silly” like a children’s movie or a middle grade or young adult novel (which is easily two-thirds of what I read right now). I have two English degrees. I wrote a thesis. You guys, everything is problematic. The fact that I just called you “you guys” is problematic. And it’s really easy to get caught up in the knowledge that everything you once loved or might love has issues. (But as good former Calvin students, this should be familiar, right? Read: The Fall.)
The thing is, though, this mode of taking in the world is really tiring. It’s healthy, and it’s stretching, and it brings perspective, but it’s tiring. And, sometimes, I think it steals some joy. It dampens some enjoyment that maybe, just maybe, didn’t need dampening. Maybe, sometimes, it’s okay to love the broken, problematic things we love. To enjoy them without needing to point out what is broken and problematic about them, but to take them for what they are, and to proclaim that what they are is good.
Alissa Goudswaard Anderson (’10) lives with her husband Josh in New York City, where she is earning her Master of Divinity at General Theological Seminary. Alissa enjoys private kitchen dance parties, big Midwestern thunderstorms, and perusing other peoples’ bookshelves. For more, find her online at www.episcotheque.wordpress.com or tweet her @episcotheque.