Beauty and the Beast starring Hogwarts alumni Emma Watson proves an allegorical commentary on race. The age old story of an arrogant prince humbled by an unassuming sorceress seemingly illustrates the power of true love, but covertly depicts blackness as birthed from unfortunate circumstances and cured by the “beauty” of white femininity.
At best, the film is a feminist work that depicts white femininity as the sole cure to bestiality. At worse, the film is a white supremacist piece that demonizes the black male white omitting his actual presence from the film.
The film attempts to deflect from black male omission, by intertwining a few black female bodies in the background. To the conscious gaze, this depiction only functions to make black male absence more noticeable. This omission most likely occurs to avoid a cinematic juxtaposition of a black male body and the film’s beast, a juxtaposition that would unveil the racist undertones of this “classic” film.
The film centers on a young prince who incurs a curse from an elderly and homely woman. This curse proves eerily reminiscent of the “curse of ham” which functions to mythologically conceptualize blackness as produced by sin. This sin functions to explain the negative attributes that compose a caricatured blackness. Namely, following his transition, the former prince is angry, cold and withdrawn. He is also depicted as vastly uncivilized, messily drinking his soup instead of employing the silver spoons that lavishly adorn his elaborate residence. It is also interesting that his unappealing aesthetics yield a brown beastly image. His curse could have easily transformed him into a white wolf that shared his light eyes, but his “ugliness” appears contingent to a darkening of his skin and widening of his features—traits commonly aligned with blackness.
It is also worth mentioning that in “beastly form” the former prince has facial hair, an overt contrast to his clean-shaven natural state. While the black body is often instantly criminalized on the basis of color , the black body often becomes even more demonized when possessing facial hair. To substantiate this claim, consider the white collar black employee commonly faced with the not- so- silent demand to keep his facial hair “trimmed” and hair “low” to “lessen the blow” of his blackness.
The film accurately depicts the intimidation and isolation acquired in attempting to evade the fear blackness provokes. This American “classic” portrays the blackened prince as restricted to his tower because his brown and bestial state labels him a fearful presence. When villagers finally cast their eyes on the beast, they shriek in horror–reflecting the reaction many black men encounter when out in public, whether in a suit or in a hoodie. As a result of viewing this “frightening” image, the villagers endure a plight to torture and kill the beast, behavior in direct correspondence with the murder and torture of black bodies in both traditional and contemporary American culture.
The film accurately depicts the outcasted white woman as freeing the blackened prince from his burdened appearance. Belle (Emma Watson) falls in love with the “beast” when she nurses him back to health, following a violent spat to save her life. This union between the beauty and beast, like unions between blacks and white or non-black mates, is commonly illustrated as oppositional. This is a false portrayal, perpetuated to substantiate black inferiority by overlooking white attributes and traits deemed inferior by a system designed to enforce white superiority. Namely, while possessing conventional beauty, Belle’s behavior casts her as peculiar to those of her town. So while aesthetically privileged, Belle, like the beast, is an outcast. Thus, while the Belle’s of traditional and contemporary societies often incur praise for their ability to love the “unlovable,” these unions commonly join two outcasts “othered” by the various modes of western society.
In loving the conventionally unlovable, Belle becomes acquainted with the kind, gentle, nature of the former prince. Belle’s acquired affection for the beast occurs because Belle acquires a colorless gaze. In short, Belle, as many in the contemporary world claim, “does not see color.” It is this same gaze that permits Belle to overlook her own mothering, allowing not only the beast to acquire beauty, but herself as well. Similarly, the outcasted white or non-black who opts to “love” a black body, often implements this “colorless” gaze to not only see the beauty of their partner, but to see past their own conventional flaws.
Thus, while the magic of Disney depicts the Beauty and the Beast’s love as strong enough to break the spell and return the prince back to his normal state, it is arguably Belle’s ability to not see color that transforms the bestial black body into a white man. Thus, the transformation at the end of the film illustrates the objective of all interracial unions—to consummate whiteness.
Furthermore, the “beauty” of the beast dwells in the white man that lies beneath. So whether a descendant of Ham, or serving a temperate curse, salvation solely lies in whiteness.
Thus, the magic of Disney, isn’t the fantastical, but the fantasy and mythic presence of white supremacy.