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Fairy tale interrupted

Feminism, Masculinity, Wonder Cinema

Allison Craven

Feminism, masculinity and fairy tale figure within an extended analysis of Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991), in light of the live-action remake, Beauty and the Beast (2017). The history of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast is compared with Disney's adaptation which centralises the figure of the Beast rather than the heroine, Belle. A flagship during a key period of Disney’s corporate expansion in the early 1990s, in the first section of the book, the production is situated with respect to gender histories in the corresponding period: the rise of post-feminism, and its implicit disavowal of feminism, the mythopoetic men’s movement and the crisis of masculinity. The following section canvasses views of masculinity in second wave feminism and the role of myth and fairy in key works of feminism. A critical discussion ensues of twenty-first century wonder cinema in which the influence of feminist ideas is seen to circulate within the pastiche treatments of fairy tales and enchantment.

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3. For the Boys: Remembering Cupid, the Prince, and the Crisis of Masculinity


‘neck white as milk […] body […] smooth and shining’

(Gullette and McKeon 1996, 69–70)

In the previous chapters, the Disney Beast is shown to exhibit so many of the tropes of Beasts of historical fairy tale, played largely for comedy and pathos, and in contrast to the modest spectacle of Belle’s feminism. The secret of the curse on the Beast is revealed in the opening to the cinema audience, as the result of his mistaken ways at the mercy of a vengeful enchantress, an echo of Villeneuve’s Beast. But his transformation to a prince is, relatively, a momentary spectacle that does not displace desire for the Beast. In Chapter 2, Beast’s monstrous spectacle is deflated by the pathos and gender-crossing symbolism of the shedding rose that connotes the corporate desires of Disney. In the present chapter, Beast is regarded as some avatar of the gender politics of masculinity in the early 1990s, and the mythopoetic reaches of the men’s movement, and its relationship to feminism.

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