These days everyone seems to hate Valentine's Day.
But if there's one thing that everyone seems to love, it's "top ten" lists.
So, in honor of Valentine's Day--and because, for a wet-behind-the-ears blogger like myself, it's an easy and familiar template--I decided to compile a list of the Top Ten Depictions of Love in Popular Culture.
"Depictions?" you ask. "Why 'depictions'?"
Well, rather than limit myself to just one medium--movies, songs, TV shows, comic books, etc.--I decided to leave it open, if only because I stated in my last entry that this was not going to be a film blog, and posting a list of the ten best movies about love immediately after stating that this is not going to be a film blog, well, that would be sending mixed messages, wouldn't it?
And if there's one day on which you're not supposed to send mixed messages, it's Valentine's Day.
So, without further ado, I present to you the first entry in my list of the Ten Best Depictions of Love in Popular Culture:
10) The relationship between Belle and the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, as written by Linda Woolverton, directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise and acted by Paige O'Hara and Robby Benson
I put this at the bottom of the list because, as has been pointed out many times before, Belle and the Beast's relationship is a little, well, fucked up.
The way they meet is as follows: He kidnaps her father, she shows up at his castle in search of him, and he (the Beast) releases him (Belle's father) on the condition that she remain in his place, in the hope that, after enough time spent in his company, voluntarily or otherwise, she may fall in love with him.
Not exactly a story you can tell at dinner parties. In fact, except for the part about kidnapping her father, it's pretty much exactly the plot of The Collector by John Fowles, one of the creepiest novels ever. The difference is that, whereas in The Collector the girl winds up (SPOILER ALERT!) dead, in Beauty and the Beast it actually works, and one escape attempt/wolf attack/thrilling rescue later we are treated to one of the sweetest, most believably intimate scenes in any romantic movie ever:
You see, fucked up as the origin of their relationship may be, Beauty and the Beast is the only Disney Princess movie in which the heroine and her respective love interest actually have a relationship, fucked up or nay, which would have been enough to earn it a spot on this list alone. But what's more, when it would have been all too easy to fall into the trap of having her fall in love with him at least a little bit because he is a beast, as with certain other pieces of popular fiction marketed towards young girls, Belle's affection for the Beast is always markedly in spite of his beastly qualities, as over the course of the film she responds to those qualities first with genuine and wholly unerotic terror, and then, after she has learned that, despite his appearance, his outbursts are not the displays of aggression of a dangerous predator but the temper tantrums thrown by a petulant child, annoyance. The arc of their relationship is that she must learn to see through his temper tantrums and defense mechanisms to the lonely, insecure little boy underneath, while he must learn to control his temper and lower his defense mechanisms, thereby making himself vulnerable, probably for the first time in his life, to another person.
In order for the Beast to earn the love of the Beauty, he must first learn to stop acting like a beast, something that, in the end, he is only able to do because of the love of the Beauty, in the form of her forgiveness.
If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is.