Parallels and Contrasts in "Beauty and the Beast"

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Title: Parallels and Contrasts in "Beauty and the Beast"
Creator: Elaine Landman
Date(s): March 1995
Medium: print
Fandom: Beauty and the Beast
Topic:
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Parallels and Contrasts in "Beauty and the Beast" is a 1995 Beauty and the Beast essay by Elaine Landman.

It was printed in Soulmates - A Neverending Dream #5.

Series

It is part of a series, a regular column, by Landman called "One Fan's View."

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

In most fandoms, there have been long standing debates concerning how we fans interpret the television shows we love. In other words, do we "read" more into individual episodes and specific scenes than were ever intended by the writers? George R. R. Martin is a science fiction novelist, as well as a television writer, which I thought would give him an interesting perspective on this particular discussion. So at a convention several years ago, I asked him if he thought the only valid interpretation of a story was that of the writer, or if the reader's/viewer's interpretation could also have validity. The gist of his answer was that he wouldn't say, "You stupid person, that isn't what I meant at all." He went on to say that the writer might have more insight, but that the reader/viewer could well pick up on something that might be In the writer's subconscious. I thought that was a surprisingly generous and perceptive answer. Needless to say, I agree with it.

In this column, some of the parallels I'll discuss such as in "Brothers" and "Orphans" were obviously intended by the writers. The titles alone clearly illustrate that. However, there are so many parallels and contrasts in Beauty and the Beast that it's impossible to know just how many were planned, subconscious, or merely in our own minds. To be perfectly honest, at this point it's no longer important to me what the writers' original vision was. That's very liberating, and as a result, I find that analyzing the various aspects of Beauty and the Beast continues to be an intriguing intellectual exercise, not to mention just plain fun.

Obviously, the person with the greatest parallel to Vincent was Elliot Burch. Both men had "shades of grey" and mere larger than life. Vincent once referred to Elliot as "a king in his world." Well, Vincent is at least a prince in his. In "Shades of Grey," Elliot unwittingly saved Vincent's life, and in "Kingdom By the Sea." Vincent returned the favor by helping Elliot uiith his father and efficiently dispatching several assassins, thereby saving Elliot's life.

Like Vincent, Elliot was in love with Catherine, even obsessed with her, and wanted to make her his wife. Unlike Vincent, Elliot was more concerned with his own need and desires than Catherine's happiness. In "Ozvroandias." he chose his tower over Catherine. In "Kingdom By the Sea," we learn that Elliot had anything but a privileged upbringing and had been burdened with an unforgiving, alcoholic father.

By the time of "Kingdom By the Sea," Elliot had become a much more sympathetic character than the relatively two-dimensional, win-at-any-cost person that was first introduced in "Siege." Now he was a character with "his own kind of nobility and his own kind of tragedies," a man Vincent could understand "all too well." Indeed! Even so, it was enormously satisfying to see Elliot's awareness at last that Catherine was never really his to love. Vincent often spoke of all that Elliot could give Catherine, and that he could walk beside her in the sunshine. But Catherine already had an abundance of wealth in her own right, and Elliot could never equal the emotional depth and spirituality of Vincent's nurturing love. Besides, Catherine could walk beside Vincent in the moonlight, which is much more romantic anyway.

Catherine and Margaret are certainly analogous. Many of us have speculated that Father's initial coolness toward Catherine had its roots in his shattered relationship uith Margaret. Both woman mere wealthy socialites whose fathers ware the major influence in their lives. Although Charles Chandler was not as controlling and dominating as Margaret's father, Catherine's desire to please him and make him proud of her was obvious. I think Father had difficulty believing that Catherine could actually be willing to give up everything to be with Vincent. Fearing that Vincent would be destroyed if he lost Catherine, a reasonable assumption, it is understandable that Father agonized over the similarities betuieen Catherine and Margaret. After all, by all accounts, the love between Jacob and Margaret was strong, and still he couldn't keep her by his side. And since Father thought of Vincent as only partly a man, he no doubt would have felt that the obstacles would be even more insurmountable than those he faced with Margaret. But Catherine was always stronger and more determined than Margaret.

Finally, throughout the series, constant references were made to the contrasts between Above and Below. For instance, in "Fever," Cullen was a gentle, generous man content with friendships and simple pleasures offered by the tunnels, until he was contaminated by the disease of greed that came from the world Above. In "Terrible Savior," Father explained to Vincent that in the world Above fear and mistrust were necessary in order to maintain one's sanity. In No Way Down and "Nor, Iron Bars a Cage," Vincent's treatment at the hands of several denizens from Above seemed to support and confirm every fear of the outside world that Father had ever voiced. Father's own experience with "justice" in the McCarthy era was sufficient to make him turn his back on a society that had betrayed him. Father and the others established a place of paace and harmony. When the horrors and grief of her life becametoo much for Catherine, she fled to the tunnels for the healing comfort she needed.

The tunnel community had its own form of government and justice system. The values of giving and accepting help when needed, compassion and concerns for people in trouble, and genuine social democracy are all too rare in Catharine's world.

At a Beauty and the Beast panel I attended several years ago, there was a fascinating discussion of Above and Below. One of the panelists (whose name I unfortunately don't recall), made an extremely insightful comment. Sha believed that Above might represent the conscious mind, and Below would represent the subconscious. Her theory was that since we can never fully know or understand the subconscious, we could therefore never totally know what Vincent is.

It strikes me that the world Below represents tha subconscious in another way as well. On many levels, the tunnel community is an idyllic, Utopian society. Tha idea of being able to escape for a time into the warm, loving embrace of that world is immensely appealing. It's the stuff that dreams are made of, hence, the subconscious connection.

References