Friday, November 18, 2016

The Gospel and Beauty and the Beast

This week, the Beauty and the Beast full-length trailer hit the internet. The live-action version of the original Disney film, staring Daniel Stevens (Downton Abbey) and Emma Watson (Harry Potter Films and a dozen amazing films and deeds since then) is on my “most anticipated” movies for 2017. The reality that Emma Watson plays Belle, only makes me that much more giddy. She’s one of my favorite people in the world. If she were an American citizen, I would have written her in for President this past election.

I saw the trailer within the first hour it was posted and have since watched it 12 times. Last night, our internet was broken so I took the opportunity to watch the animated version of the film. I cried at all my favorite parts and sang along with every, single song. My roommate will testify that I said, “This is the Gospel” in awed tones about half a dozen times (maybe more).

Those of you who read my 2013 series on Les MiserablĂ©s, and subsequent pieces since then, know of my fandom love of finding the Gospel in stories. Ever since the Gospel was first described to me as the greatest story ever told and ever since I was made aware that every good and amazing story is good and amazing because of the Gospel thread weaving through it, I’ve been on this quest to find out if it’s true.

Take Beauty and the Beast, as an example. A man, originally designed to be a prince  who ruled over a kingdom and defended the poor and helpless, shows real ugliness by rejecting his true identity and turning away a beggar woman who is asking for shelter from the cold.

The prince is then cursed, twisted into a hideous beast to reflect the ugliness of his heart. How will he be redeemed? He must earn the love of woman.

Then there’s Belle. The Belle of Disney longs for adventure, but she sacrifices her dream, agreeing to take her father’s place as the prisoner of the Beast.

Emma Watson beautifully describes the relationship of the Beast and Belle. They are at odds with one another, going toe-to-to at the beginning. Gradually they become friends and this friendship turns into love. And, while the Beast is busy trying to earn Belle’s love, he is slowly becoming someone who is capable of love. Truly, he was capable of love from the beginning; he simply needed to have his true identity as a good and kind prince drawn out by the love he develops for Belle.

I believe the greatest evidence of his transformation is not only the fact that the Beast sacrifices his dream of restoration in order to set Belle free. The evidence of this change occurs near the end when Gaston—the most perfectly chiseled villain of all time—is seeking to murder the Beast out of jealousy. The Beast has an opportunity to kill Gaston, but he shows mercy instead.

Gaston, Gaston, every guy here wants to be you Gaston. What a perfect paradox is formed with the Beast and Gaston. Gaston is handsome and has women swooning over him, yet his love for Belle is selfish, driving him to form a despicable plot involving Belle’s father in order to force Belle into marrying him. (Somebody needs to tell this guy that kidnapping your lady’s father does not lay a foundation for a happy marriage).

The Beast, on the other hand, longs for Belle to stay with him, but he releases her to rescue her father. He does so with no hope that she will return.

In the end, the enemy is defeated, the prince and all those under his care are restored to their intended glory, and Belle is caught up in the greatest adventure her heart could imagine.

The Gospel. It is a tale of self-sacrificing love where ugly hearts are made beautiful and ugly, selfish people become princesses and princes.  It is a tale where the heroes must surrender the things they hold most dear to participate in an adventure greater than they could ever dream.

The Gospel is truly a tale as old as time.

I cannot wait to see a live-action performance of Be Our Guest. 

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