Beast [The villainess series]

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“But, then again, what if they were role models?”
–Sarah Gailey, In Defense of Villainesses

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window

Beast

I am the hero of your story. Not you.
Not ever you.

The headlines shoulda read Haggard crone strikes a blow for justice
(for truth in advertising, at the very least) —
yet still you carry on like the brute you always were.
Raging about the woman who dragged you down,
moping about the woman who’s ‘sposed to lift you up.

You brought this on yourself, remember?

At issue: could you redeem yourself.
Not: could you convince some daft slip of a girl
to enact redemption on your behalf (Stockholm syndrome
ain’t a recommended wooing technique,
case you ever wondered).

Next time I’ll skip the test.
Drown your furred, irredeemable ass in your sleep.
Burn your ballroom into ash.

Dance on your bones
the way heroes do.

~a.i.

EXTENDED END-NOTE: Fantastic yellow Disney dress aside, most modern treatments of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ —likely highly influenced by the 1991 animated film—that interpret the story as a romance bug me to my core. In the original French tale, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (and plenty problematic in its own right), the Beast treats Beauty with utmost respect and generosity from the outset. He will be her servant, the Beast tells her, when she arrives; she is now mistress of his house.

In 1740 the story worked to acclimate young girls to the idea of arranged marriages. Today’s Disney-inflected versions serve a related function: normalizing violence against girls and women, and romanticizing intimate partner abuse. “Sure, he screamed at you, scared you, took you away from your family and forced you to work for him, and locked you IN A LITERAL DUNGEON. But only cuz he was afraid you might not like him back! And isn’t that the sweetest, most adorbs thing ever??”

At the risk of revealing my inner Valley-girl-from-the-1980s:

Gag me with a roto-rooter.

[For more roto-worthy gag-ables, see also: Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, Pretty Woman, Rumpelstiltskin from tv’s Once Upon a Time, etc.]

[See also also: every little girl who’s ever been told the reason a bully was mean to her was to show how much he likes her.]

So yeah. Dunno if I’ve convinced you yet—but I, for one, am fully committing to this idea of the Beast’s unnamed cursing fairy as a masked vigilante of the fairy tale set. All-knowing, all-seeing, all-patiently lying in wait for the right moment to pull a stiletto-sized wand from her purse and send the next insufferable Nice Guy™ down to the pit…

I’m curious: what unsung (or over-sung) “heroes” capture your imagination?


THE VILLAINESS SERIES is part of an ongoing collaborative project between a playwright friend and me, in which we explore how to use myths & fairy tales as tools to interrogate gender norms and to critique, resist, and heal from the impact of gender & sexual violence.

[For more from my half of the project.]

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Are you following Feminist with a Blank Page on Facebook yet? Why the heck not??!

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[Image: Rose window. Public domain.]

20 thoughts on “Beast [The villainess series]

  1. This: “the reason a bully was mean to her was to show how much he likes her” made me think of this:
    “He may be gruff on the outside, but inside he’s just a sweet ol’ teddy bear.” Or, “Oh, you know him, he speaks his mind, and has a few rough edges, but he means well. ”

    I call bull shit on all of the above. Lazy ass excuses that let the abuser off the hook.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For the past year or so I have found myself in a constant fairy tale realm with the almost 5 year old granddaughter. Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Aurora… I am always designated as the prince, the hero, the savior- for the longest time I was highly sought after as Flynn Rider just so that I could be swatted over the head with a frying pan. She (Gisella) has now clearly decided that, once saved, the only option is immediate marriage and children. I have a long and arduous task ahead to turn this one to the dark side…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. She does delight in banging me over the head with it. Now to begin turning that into an insidious plot to strip gender roles, empower fierceness and control and plant the seed that one does not need a man to be happy, content or have children…

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Ah, yes. It is SUCH a thing. Pull yer ponytails and all that. Gah.
    I prefer the ones who look like trouble and are actually nice guys. Prolly cause I’m a bitch who looks nice.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. As a gift I got a huge book with a collection of the Grimm Brothers works. I was an avid reader as a child. That stuff makes nightmares. I got rid of the book and went directly to James Michener’s Hawaii. Sex and adventure trumps putting kids in ovens.

        Liked by 1 person

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