Beauty and The Beast-A collaboration with Catholic Girl Bloggin

beauty and the beast

Author’s note: This is a collaboration with Catholic Girl Bloggin. Spoilers for the movie ensue. CBG’s stuff will be in blue, my stuff in purple.

Cue the music, Jay!  (Our friend Jay plays the Belle/Little Town theme)

CGB: (Walks out of little cottage) Huh, I didn’t know I lived in a cottage.  (Shrugs, smiles at quaint little cottage) I’m not complainin’.  Oohh, there’s tulips on the side of the cottage!  Well, anyway….(Begins singing) Little film, it’s a brand new remake.  All-star cast and some brand new songs.  Little film, starring Emma Watson.  Everybody says…

Critic 1: IT SUCKS!

Critic 2: IT SUCKS!

Critic 3: IT SUCKS!

Rad-Trads: IT SUCKS!

All together: IT SUCKS!

CGB: There go the critics with their gripes like always.

MsOWrites: Seems like they’re never satisfied.

Both of Us: Because way back when we were kids, Disney made a princess flick.  And it was one that we both loved.

Nostalgia Critic: Good morning, girls!

MsOWrites: Good morning, NC!

Nostalgia Critic: Where are you off to?

CGB: We’re doing a review.  It’s the remake of the classic Disney movie.

Nostalgia Critic: That’s nice.  But honestly?  It was meh.

CGB: Well, we haven’t even seen it yet.

MsOWrites: We might be in for a pleasant surprise.

Nostalgia Critic: It still sucks, though.

Critics: Look there they go, they’re just so optimistic.   Can’t they see that the original’s the best?

Critic 1: Emma Watson’s auto-tuned.

Critic 2: The supporting cast was underused.

Rad-Trads: And let’s not forget the token gay LeFou!

(Two hours later)

MsOWrites (crying): Oh, wasn’t it amazing?

CGB: Are you crying?  Because so am I!

MsOWrites: I never do…but yeah, I’ll make this exception.  There’s just so much of this film that’s good and true…

CGB: It would certainly please JP2!  Let us do a review, just me and you!

MsOWrites: We could show both the Catholic and secular world why it’s good!

CGB: Let us begin!

The Hits

CGB: So how did Hermione Granger do playing everyone’s favorite “most peculiar mademoiselle”?  My answer: Emma Watson is a wonderful Belle! This Belle is a lovely reinterpretation of the original character, mixing her trademark book-loving nature with an inventor’s vibe. I really appreciate that Emma Watson’s Belle actually feels different from Paige O’Hara’s Belle from the 1991 classic.  O’Hara’s Belle is dreamy, optimistic and overall innocent. Watson’s Belle is grounded, pragmatic and even bohemian in more ways than one.   

One of my biggest concerns was that Emma Watson would come off as an overly confident character, but luckily there’s a sweetness and humility to this new Belle.  Also Watson’s Belle has more agency in this film than she did in the original; locking herself in the dungeon while pushing her father away, telling the Beast that he has to stand so that she can take back to the castle and so on. Finally, I’m going to add brownie points for that one scene where she teaches a young girl how to read. Brilliant!  

The Beast’s character is pretty much the same as he was in the original; starts off as mean, coarse and unrefined, but ends up becoming so sweet and almost kind. Here, though, his temper is not as jarring as it was in the original. The sympathy factor of his character is shown in the prologue and continues throughout the movie so that we, the audience, are easily able to refrain from judgment before we get to know him. His pain and torment are palpable as his growing feelings for Belle begin to break down the inner walls he has placed around his broken, guarded heart.

Kevin Kline is a wonderful Maurice! I really appreciate that they dialed down his quirkiness big time and made him into a more complex character. He’s warm, gentle, thoughtful, though he’s a bit overprotective of Belle. I can just see him hoisting little Belle onto his lap and reading to her by the fireplace.

Luke Evans is aving the time of his life playing Gaston, and I had a great time watching his Gaston. The usual arrogance of the original character is still there, but we see his progression towards evil. Also I do like that he’s not impractically buff like in the cartoon, but that his toxic masculinity is displayed by his ignorance and overcompensation.

Now, given that I’ve brought up Gaston, you’re probably waiting to see LeFou mentioned here. Before MsOWrites and I get into the whole “gay LeFou” thing, let me talk about the character of LeFou in general.  Josh Gad’s LeFou  is definitely an improvement from the cartoon character.  His “hero-admiration” toward Gaston explains his loyalty to him and he is actually the smarter of the duo. In a way, he serves as a manifestation of Gaston’s effect on people; how Gaston is able to grab and hold the attention of women and men alike, which was always the point of Gaston’s character to begin with.

My favorite song from the movie? EVERMORE!  Oh my goodness, what a beautiful song!  It’s like someone took Augustine’s Confessions, some passages from the Book of Psalms and a hint of the Song of Solomon, then threw them into a blender and then somehow they just mixed into the most melodic purée.  Also the song really sums up a wonderful theme in this film: That people come into our lives who touch our hearts so much that when they leave us, just their presence will remain in our memory forever.  They illustrate this when Maurice is singing about Belle’s mother, but the theme comes full circle with “Evermore.”

MsOWrites: First of all, the opening scenes were stunning in their visuals.  We actually get to see the prince and the residents in the castle and watch the Enchantress cast her spell.  As much as we all love the stained glass narration from the original, the prince’s character arc is to learn what true beauty is, which is kind of the whole point of the entire story in the first place.

The scene with Pere Robert wasn’t as elaborate as the bookshop scene in the original, but there’s a good explanation. It wouldn’t make sense for there to be a bookstore in a town that doesn’t have that many people who can or even want to read.  However Pere Robert is a priest with a personal library. He doesn’t have as many books, but he generously loans the books he does have to Belle.

I appreciate the nuances that have been added to the story. For one, when Belle asks Monsieur Jean if he has lost something again, he responds, “I believe I have.  Problem is I can’t remember what!”  This is actually a small hint at how the spell on the castle also extended to the entire town. Yeah, her spell not only turned the now-adult Prince into a hideous CGI goat-man, but also did what the neuralyzer from Men in Black does to people.   It does feel like a convenient cop-out, but it works within the context of the story.

In defense of the songs, I thought these new versions of songs we all know sounded just fine.  They had a more Broadway stage vibe to them, which makes sense given that this is an event musical film.  The auto-tuning was necessary for the actors who weren’t professional singers and the background music of the songs are faithful to the original music.

The Misses

MsOWrites: So about that magic book thing…yeah, it kind of creates a plot hole.  If it can just transport the Beast anywhere he wants, then why wasn’t he using it all the time prior to Belle’s arrival? Also, why didn’t Belle use it to get back to the village and return to her father? The book is used once and then we never see it again.  What?

CGB: Remember how filled with wonder Belle was when she sang about the beauty of books to those sheep? What?  You don’t sing to sheep?  I do it all the time!  Alas, that’s not the point.  

The point is that Hermione–er, I mean–Emma Watson could’ve sung that part about, “Oh, isn’t this amazing?” with a little more enthusiasm.

Speaking of which, Obi-Wan Kenobi (from the Star Wars prequels) plays Lumiere, but there is a bit of a catch: Ewan McGregor himself has stated that he has never seen the original film.  GASP!  Anyway, once I learned that, his performance in this film kind of made more sense.  I’ve seen this movie twice and I didn’t really care for this Lumiere during either time I saw it.  In fact, I think because there was so much focus on getting Belle, the Beast and Gaston right, the supporting cast feels less colorful.

An Unexpected Theological Truth

Both of Us: We consider ourselves students of Mother Teresa.  Throughout her ministry to the poor in Calcutta, she deemed every person she helped as, “Jesus in His most distressing disguise.”  That credo is on display in this film and in the original, as well.  We are going to focus on this film for the sake of argument.  While the Beast most certainly doesn’t act Christ-like in the beginning, Belle does when she chooses to bring him back to the castle after he rescues her from the wolves.  As their relationship develops, he begins displaying Christ-like characteristics such as mercy, understanding and kinship.  One of the many, many beautiful realities of Jesus is that when we follow Him, He brings out the best in us even during difficult times.  With this in mind we see how once she begins ministering to him, Belle becomes the best version of herself and the same happens to the Beast in return.  There is a saying that difficult people show their need for love in unlovable ways and the Beast is a manifestation of that adage.

We challenge you to think of the “Beast” in your life and ask yourself if he/she is in need of mercy and forgiveness.  Sometimes Christ comes to us in the form of an unpleasant person who we can either wash our hands off and avoid at all cost, or show them compassion and forgive their faults just as Belle does with the Beast.

The Elephants in the Room

 

#1. This film has a gay agenda!

MsOWrites: Let’s address the biggest elephant in the room first. There was a lot of hype and backlash about a “gay scene” in this movie involving the character of LeFou. While it’s true that LeFou is shown to have feelings for Gaston, the actual gay scene is just two seconds long.

Neither of us are promoting gay marriage. However, we do agree with the idea of representation. We need to acknowledge that there are people out there who are attracted to the same sex and treat them as people instead of a stereotype.  This advocating of representation also applies to those who identify as asexual as well.  (I’m looking at you, Riverdale!)

Trust me when I say that Disney isn’t the only name in “children’s programming” to include a gay character.

CGB: While I already talked about this on my own blog and my Facebook page, but I’ll just rehash some of my thoughts here.

The original film makes it very clear that Lefou, as well as every woman and man in the entire village, is hopelessly enamored with Gaston. In addition, Gaston presents himself (quite loudly and boldly) to be THE ideal man, THE symbol of masculine perfection. Lefou, being Gaston’s right-hand man, would most likely be the one who gets the most sucked into the–I guess we can call it–the cult of Gaston.  It’s not just LeFou, it’s him and all of the village who are swept up in it, which explains why everyone immediately goes along with Gaston’s “let’s-kill-the-Beast” tirade with no questions asked.

Also, let’s look at Lefou himself. What does he personally gain from being around Gaston all the time? They’re not brothers or related in any fashion, and there’s no indication that Lefou owes him money or anything; in retrospect, Lefou has no real reason to associate himself with Gaston at all. One could make the argument that there is a social benefit to being around Gaston, but Lefou is never established to be a self-serving character who is trying to get ahead in society by being around the “right people,” so that wouldn’t hold up.

Simply having a character who happens to be gay in a film is not in and of itself promoting same-sex marriage.  How it is presented is what matters.  LeFou never actively hits on Gaston and there’s no gay wedding at the end.  There will be those who say, “You give [gay people] an inch and they’ll take a mile!”  However, that inch has to make sense.

You can be a faithful Catholic who staunchly defends the sanctity of marriage and acknowledge that there are LGBT people who are created in His likeness and image.  In fact, that’s basically what we’re supposed to be doing.  We are supposed to bring all people, gay or straight, to the Gospel, not chase them away from it by foaming at the mouth over a fictitious character who happens to be gay.  As Christians, we are called to rise above our outrage culture and be a people of the better way.  Love without truth is permissiveness and truth without love is brutality.  Only the truth spoken with love brings hope and enlightenment.

#2. This film is uber-feminist!

CGB: I’m pretty sure I’ve made it clear by now that I identify as a pro-life feminist (I would emphasize, but the label itself is pretty self-explanatory).  With this lens, I observed that the feminist undertones of this film were centered around the theme of the anti-intellectual village.  For one, notice how only the boys go to school and the girls are the ones learning to keep house. This establishes how Belle is the outsider woman who chooses the solace of books over the conventions of the little town. It is not wrong to use film to point to the very bleak reality that there are still countries in our world where girls are not allowed to read or even go to school.  I would argue that it would probably behoove American feminists to focus less on promoting abortion and more on calling attention to the injustice of depriving girls an education.

MsOWrites: The main issue that Belle has with the villagers is that they choose to stay in their simple, provincial ways. Belle is shown doing laundry by having a horse pull a barrel full of soap and clothes. When I heard about Belle being an inventor who created a washing machine, I actually expected to see her make some kind of steampunk contraption. The invention that Belle created was actually something all the villagers could use. But instead of being open-minded about a better way to do their laundry, they destroy her invention. They also berate her about teaching a young girl to read.

There’s a similar argument going around that Belle, her father, and even the local priest are members of a “literate caste.” Keep in mind that Belle and her father fled Paris in the midst of the plague and that priests are more often than not assigned to minister to small towns. And at the time, priests were well-educated. It’s not that these three deliberately kept their books away from everyone else. They have a school for young boys, but LeFou admits to being illiterate and they would rather side with the amoral war hero (Gaston) over the kind music box maker (Maurice). The townspeople chose to be ignorant throughout the film. You can basically argue that they’re Luddites.

#3. STOCKHOLM SYNDROME!  ARGH!

CGB: Do keep in mind that Belle voluntarily takes her father’s place with no pressure from the Beast to do so. Also, a person with Stockholm syndrome would NEVER argue with their captor

MsOWrites: Belle is a willing participant in her own captivity.  The Beast never truly has power over her, even when he tries to flaunt his authority. Besides, they fall in love after they spend time together and learn more about each other. Here’s a video that goes into more detail. Short version: No, Belle doesn’t have Stockholm Syndrome.

In short, my best friend and I love this movie. Families, go out and see it for yourselves. If you feel more loyal to the original, it is available to buy now. And for anyone who wants to compare this live-action movie to the live-action version of Cinderella, I want to end this blog post with a song, featuring my favorite actress, Sarah Michelle Gellar!

What Defines Gender?

Bathroom-gender-sign

I have a legitimate question for anyone and everyone who is arguing about bathroom policies and similar issues relating to the transgender movement:

How do you define gender?

All the other questions in relation to this topic are founded on this. How exactly is gender defined? Is it by how we feel we are or how we should be? How we perceive ourselves to be? What do we compare ourselves to when it comes to who we think we are and what we’re not?

Can gender be defined by science? What does science have to say about gender? Do you figure out the gender you perceive yourself as by the gender roles society dictates? Is it psychological? Is is sociological?

The point of this blog post is this: I want to know how you define whatever gender you perceive yourself to be. If we’re gonna argue about what bathrooms we think we should use, we have to have a better foundation for our arguments than whatever we feel like we are. Feelings are very fickle. Whatever arguments you have about gender need to be grounded in reason and logic.

While I have my own way of defining what gender is, I don’t want to say that right now. All I can say is there are some ways in which I do not define myself. I do not define myself by what my current society dictates a woman should be like because society has a lot of contradictory gender roles when it comes to women. I also don’t define myself just on my biological sex alone because it’s only part of who I am. I also don’t let other people who don’t really know me try to define who or what I am either because only those who are closest to me can help me with whatever I need.

So feel free to comment and answer me this: What is “gender” according to your standards?

An Open Letter To Rowan Blanchard

Rowan_Blanchard

Dear Rowan Blanchard,

You don’t know me. I’m a huge fan of Girl Meets World and I love your character. I also love that you’re using your status as a celebrity to promote gender equality with He For She.

However, there are some things I want to talk to you about. I am really, really glad that you came out as questioning your sexuality and that you were honest about how you see yourself now. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for you. I know right now there are a lot of parents who are probably concerned about you questioning your sexuality. What concerns me more, however, are the people who want you to just pick a label.

You said “In my life – only ever liked boys. However I personally don’t wanna label myself as straight, gay or whateva so I am not gonna give myself labels to stick with just existing.”

The problem is that we live in a world of labels. There is nothing wrong with being a woman or being of a certain race or ethnicity or even being attracted to the same gender. The problem is when we choose to define ourselves by just these things. The things that are in our lives are just parts of who we are and not the sum or the whole of who we are. So while you are in the process of defining yourself, you need to find something that’s constant. I’m not talking about the culture that you’re in now, though. I’m not even talking about believing in yourself.

I know that the people you hang around with aren’t exactly keen on the idea of God, let alone religion. But God is the one constant in life that you’ll find that you can always count on. He never changes. He is a merciful God and he loves you as you are right now, questioning sexuality and all. So if you’re trying to figure out who you are, look to God. See how He sees you. You might be surprised at how your life will change when He is at the center of your life.

Sincerely,

Monique

I Pledge Allegiance To…

Let’s talk about flags for a minute.

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Trigger warning: You’re probably not gonna like this post. If you aren’t going to comment with civility, please go to Tumblr and complain there like everyone else.

Flags are symbols. They are both historical and current. They represent a country’s legacy or an idea.

Let’s start with the most controversial flag as of today:

Confederate_flag

 

I distinctly remember driving through Alabama and seeing this flag flying. I don’t have a picture of it, but I also don’t remember people being up in arms about it the way they were with South Carolina. To many people, this flag is a symbol of hate, dissent, and racism.

On the other hand, this flag has historical context, so it should be shown in museums and in historical-based games and on the Dukes of Hazzard merchandise because that flag is still a part of Southern culture.

Rebecca Frech says that the recent controversy over this flag is because the issue was brought up from people outside of South Carolina. “If they were left alone, they’d probably vote to move it elsewhere like we have. But once Yankees start pushing us ignorant southerners around, we dig in our heels and won’t budge an inch. I’m in favor of moving or removing the flag if the people of South Carolina want it moved. But I’m against Yankees coming in and telling them they should move it.”

I am a Yankee by birth. I was born north of the Mason-Dixon line and spent most of my childhood there. However, I’ve been living in Texas for almost ten years. I’ve seen the Southern pride as well as Southern hospitality. Heck, the Texas State Capitol currently flies another form of the Confederate flag to honor the Six Flags Over Texas. (Not the theme park.)

The Confederate Flag can be found right next to the Texas state flag.

The Confederate Flag can be found right next to the Texas state flag.

So while I understand the controversy, I feel like people have gone too far in the name of political correctness.

Speaking of politics, let’s move onto the next flag…

LGBT_flag_logo

This flag represents an idea. And it’s been all over my news feed because of the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision to make same-sex marriage legal nationwide. My college was ironically located in the gay district of Houston so if you drove up the block, you would see these flags all over. I’ve been seeing rainbows everywhere on my social media. It honestly feels like a Skittles factory exploded all over my laptop!

I have a good number of LGBT friends. I have friends who support gay marriage. This is for y’all:

I love you. We are still friends. I may not agree with you with where you stand on this issue. I’m still trying to understand what it means to be gay/lesbian/bi/etc and work it into my faith. I also believe that sexuality is part of who you are, but it is not the whole of who you are. We are so much more than our gender/sexuality/race/etc. This “something more” comes from our Divine creator and it reaches out beyond the tangible. I hope that y’all are open to dialogue about ways to be more compassionate towards those on the LGBT spectrum beyond government oversight.

Speaking of government…

american-flag-on-white-fence

There are days that I love my country. And there are days that I wanna get off this planet altogether. I don’t know if I can say that I am proud to be an American right now because of how people are going to extremes in the name of political correctness. Riots break out in cities over racial issues that never seem to go away. People are taking out historically significant pieces of literature in the name of “safe spaces” on college campuses. We distrust our cops when they shoot African-American young adults, but cheer when a “cop killer” gets caught in New York. In the words of one of my favorite musicals: “How do you document real life when real life’s getting more like fiction each day?” I’m distrustful of politicians in general, especially the blatant opportunists. I want to believe that there is still good in this nation. However, maybe these events and people’s reactions to them remind me that there is a line between patriotism and nationalism. I love the ideas that this nation stands for, but the message is being distorted in the name of entitlement.

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Today is the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul. This flag would not exist without them. This flag is also covering my face on both my Facebook and Instagram profile pictures. Why do I choose to “pledge allegiance” to this flag as opposed to the other flags I showed here?

Because before anything else, I am a Catholic. I’ve said before that I see being Catholic as something bigger than myself. It transcends beyond my gender, my race, the kinds of people I find attractive, and even the fandoms that I obsess over. The Catholic Church is the glue that binds the pieces of me together. Like Peter, I have a horrible tendency to let my passions overrule being sensible, which ends up with me coming off like a thick-headed idiot. I have the best of intentions, but end up falling short because of the actions I choose. And yet, Jesus chose Peter to be the head of his Church, the foundation that would give way to an entire legacy of popes and bishops and priests who worked hard to make the Church what it is today.

The Church is by no means perfect. Neither am I, for that matter. But through Christ, the Church and I continue to improve and grow. Like Paul, we are filled with a zeal that drives us to go around the world proclaiming the Gospel. We have a missionary spirit that can’t be stopped. We may not say what everyone likes to hear, but at the same time, these things need to be said. Jesus chose Paul, a man who spent time persecuting and killing Christians thinking he was doing the right thing. After his conversion, Paul preached compassion, but he also preached about having integrity.

So when you see this flag over my face, know that I am not doing it to set up some kind of us against the world dichotomy. I’m doing it to show who my heart ultimately belongs to. I pledge allegiance to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

*Mic drop*

Women of Christ Wednesday: Mary Cieslak

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Mary Katharine Cieslak is 22 year-old college grad who aspires to be a filmmaker, whatever that may mean in this ever-changing media landscape.

1) Tell me your “coming out” story.

I mean, my “coming out” story is still happening: I only just came out to my little sister last week!! That’s two out of eight people in my immediate family. Personally, I find people’s stories of coming out to themselves infinitely more fascinating. I think in cultures where it is dangerous to come out—and it is undeniable that Catholic culture is generally negative towards accepting anyone other than cisgender and heterosexual persons—there tends to be this self-repression of people within that culture. It took me 12 years to realize I was gay. I just compartmentalized all the little hints, the nagging doubts, and forced myself to forget. That’s just not healthy, and I think there’s also a danger that people will ultimately leave the faith altogether. Heck, it’s already happening, it’s been happening!!

2) What are your perspectives on SSA and being Catholic?

I really dislike the term “SSA” (same sex attraction). To me, it’s another way of disassociating queer people from that identity: “You’re not gay, you’re just a person with same sex attraction!” But you can’t discuss accepting your identity when it’s considered a tacked-on attribute, akin to having brown eyes or blonde hair. I admire how words and meanings matter very much in the Catholic Church, but here? It’s a conversation-halter. That shouldn’t be our goal. Catholicism isn’t a one-liner, so please, stop quoting Galatians 3:28 like you’re dropping the mic. Our faith is a constant dialogue between Scripture and Tradition. And a 2000+ year old conversation will not be nullified by people identifying as queer any more than people identifying by race, ethnicity, or nationality did.

3) How has coming out affected your life?
Well for one thing, a lot of personal questions were answered! But of course, many more took their place. It reminded me of how I felt immediately after I was confirmed in the faith: “Okay but, now what do I do?!?” In an unexpected but pleasant surprise, I do feel more sure in my body now that I recognize its intricacies better, even as I slowly, anxiously come out to people one-by-one. It’s become a journey of self-discovery, and I find myself getting excited each time the Church talks about this subject. More than anything, it’s has made me realize that my faith is happening, it is ever-present, and I must engage in dialogue with it! How could I not?

4) Who are your go-to saints?

Saint Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes!! *laughs* But in all seriousness, my go-to is my namesake, the Virgin Mary; she is such a benevolent Queen, a comforting Mother in a time where I am afraid to come out to my own. And I’m intrigued by the various discussions of saints and Biblical figures who were queer. The tomboy in me has always loved St Joan of Arc, so even if the idea that she is transgender is unfounded, make her the patron saint of it. Right now there is no official patron saint of any queer or MOGII persons. Give us someone, please!!

5) What advice would you give to Catholics who identify as having SSA?

You are made in the Image and Likeness of God, and you are loved by the Creator who made you. Now that you have discovered this new part of yourself, you can embark on this spiritual journey! And you do not have to make that journey alone. There are more and more of us realizing and accepting God’s creation within us every day. Seek us out. You were made from Love; you were made to be loved. Just knock.

6) What would you say to adults who struggle to understand homosexuality?
I was once like you. I thought, love the sinner, hate the sin. But love is not manifested through disapproval and disregard. How uninspired, how lazy of the Church Militant to approach its vulnerable members in this way.
Listen to the people who come forward. Make a safe space for people who do not. You are eager to direct people to God and show his love, but you cannot welcome them with one arm wrapped around them, while the other pushes them away.
Do not assume that you are never in the company of queer persons. Many times my father has unwittingly belittled his lesbian daughter at the family dinner, while in fear I bit my tongue on the truth.
Be gracious to people who fall from grace. The amount of times I’ve come back to confession pleases my priest to no end. Because the Church was made not to condemn but to save. Continuously. Constantly. Limitlessly: “A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him?”