We've been doing some discussion of Cinderella as an abuse victim, especially with the latest blockbuster Cinderella movie. Jenny from Halfway to Fairyland has a very interesting discussion on "Beauty and the Beast" and what it says about our culture that we have moved the Beast from innocent victim, to his beastliness as a deserved punishment.
Disney Beast Concept Art
But this is a new way of thinking about the fairy tale-that males CAN be victims just as much as women, and that in either case it's never okay to blame the victim.
In Jenny's words:
"Now, let’s talk about what we’ve done to this story over the years, and what it says about us as a society.
This awful thing that happened to the Beast was his own fault, naturally. A very young man is sexually abused, essentially, by an older woman who is supposed to be taking care of him, and we change this into the story of an unpleasant young man being justly punished by a good woman. And then—then we do the exact same thing Beauty spent the entire story learning not to do. We immediately assume that ugliness of body must signify ugliness of spirit, and we adjust the story accordingly.
This is meant to be a story about a girl learning to see past appearances—about Beauty becoming a better person. Instead it’s become the exact opposite—Beauty helping the Beast to become better. It’s a redemption story now. The Beast never needed to be redeemed. He needed to be rescued."
The change from Beast as a victim of sexual harassment in Villeneuve's to a spoiled child in Disney became the new norm for many BATB interpretations, but not all. For example, Robin McKinley's Beasts are always perfect gentlemen. But if you asked the average person on the street why the Beast was cursed, chances are the vast majority will tell you it's because he was a jerk and deserved it. Now, I do think this is a very interesting interpretation of the tale-a good way to explore beastliness as being an outward expression of what is on the inside-but the fact that this has become the new cultural BATB plot means that how we interpret the tale changes, and quite significantly.
Basically, Halfway to Fairyland has a lot of really thoughtful posts on the evolution of fairy tales and you should read them if you haven't already
*Also-most of the images in this post can be found on Once Upon a Blog's/Gypsy's BATB Pinterest-a must-visit for BATB fans!