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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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9. Transformational: Pastiche and the Princess


The twenty-first century has brought some changes to fairy tale and wonder cinema. Belle, away in the Arcade for a lengthy time, has some catching up to do. The main news is that her star vehicle, Beauty and the Beast, is in production as a live-action musical film (see Introduction).55 This represents the coalescence of a number of changes for Belle. Not only is she moving to live action from animation, her medium is now transformed by digital technology. Her employer, Disney, too, has dramatically diversified its capacity and interests in a greatly transformed landscape of the entertainment industries. This chapter and the next therefore contend with the implications for Belle, her story, and her gender masquerade. First, Belle’s return to the cinema-sphere after a lengthy time away with the books requires a little adjustment of perspective.

The feminism of the preceding chapters, including the uses of fairy tale and myth, is a largely literary-based activity. In the works of Lieberman (notwithstanding her passing allusion to Disney films), and Gilbert and Gubar, the presumptive approach to a heroine whose fate it is to be the prince’s choice is imagined as that of a character in a book or written story, rather than an acted image on a screen. For Brownmiller and Dworkin, the fairy tale heroine is widely-known myth. The gazes of their readers are not presumed to be circumscribed by the technological apparatus of the cinema nor particularly conditioned by the environment in which...

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