One thought on “Beastly

  1. Melissa Wilson says:

    Like The Hunger Games, Beastly is an internationally best-selling YA novel that is soon to be released as a Hollywood movie and a favorite here in Barbados with the 12-15 year-old set. This is where the similarities between the texts end. While the former is complex and fraught with ambiguities, the later is the same old story.
    To be fair, Beastly truly is an old story, as it is a modern adaptation of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. This is not a new genre in YA fiction. Gail Carson Levine did the same kind of thing with Fairest and Ella Enchanted. But while Ms. Levine used fairy tales as a spring board for multi-layered, smart stories of her own, Ms. Flinn uses the Disney version and makes it relatable for older children.
    She does this by referencing more recent YA hits such as the Gossip Girl series and The Twilight series. The formula seems to work and it is all there, the posh, snobby, shallow teenagers (who swear!), and veiled references to sexual intercourse, mixed in with the “normal” (see plain and poor) girl who learns to love a “freak.” Add the happy ending and you have the recipe for success.
    What is truly disturbing about this novel is not its banality, but its handling of the Beauty, Lindy, being sold into slavery to the Beast. In this case Beauty’s father is a heroin addict who agrees to give his daughter to a stranger in exchange for not being turned in to the police for drug dealing. The other main characters, Magda, the maid, and Will, the tutor, willingly participate in the human trafficking. The reader is supposed to understand, I assume, this seemingly insignificant issue because the Beast, Kyle/Adrian, is so lonely and has grown to love roses. This reader is not buying it.
    The reality is the story, both the old and this version, gives the girl little agency and reinforces the socializing discipline that females must accept their fate and do so with a pretty smile. Both Belle (from the Disney movie) and Lindy are smart, hardworking girls who eventually succumb to the overpowering charms of “a man.” This is reminiscent of the old adage, “her lips say no but her eyes say yes.”
    It is a pity Beastly didn’t work with the script to explore themes of misogamy and patriarchy as Fairest and Ella Enchanted did. The end, albeit happy, is really a testament to the status quo with the idea that all a man needs is a good woman behind him and who really knows (or cares) what the good woman needs (other than a man).

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