In class, we brainstormed a list of keywords to capture our reading on Beauty and the Beast and our viewing of the 1991 film. I’ve synthesized the results in four keywords below:
This keyword captures the theme of exterior vs. interior that we see throughout. The townsfolk are impressed with Gaston, and Belle is forced to revise her first impressions of the Beast. The film version seems to be asking us to challenge how much weight we give to our impressions of someone based on our assumptions, or on how they look. Similar keywords include appearance, representation, facade, misunderstood, ignorance, and superficiality.
This keyword refers to the ways in which characters are treated like objects, and objects take on human characteristics. For instance, the rose token’s change and decay is juxtaposed to the Beast’s growing empathy and maturity. Belle is treated as a token by Gaston, and as a means to an end by the Beast initially as well. Similar keywords include prize and object.
This keyword refers to the ways in which the film asks us to think of what constitutes captivity and freedom. There is the literal captivity of Belle and Maurice, both at the Beast’s hands and at Gaston’s hands. There is also the captivity of the Beast to the spell, and Belle’s feeling of emotional constraint and captivity from living in her small town.
This keyword refers both to the physical transformation endured by everyone at the Beast’s castle, and to the transformation of the Beast from childhood and selfishness to adulthood and empathy through his love for Belle. Characters who do not transform, like Gaston, remain stuck in their immaturity (and fall off castles), while characters who experience transformation (Belle and the Beast) have a happy ending. Similar words include change, dynamic, maturity, adaptation, and modification.