These three films teach important and problematic messages about acceptable gender roles through the use of physical difference and disability. In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast’s outer deformity directly relates to the defect of his masculinity. The movie’s plot revolves around a spoiled, selfish and unkind prince, who is turned into a beast by a witch who gives him the wisdom that “Beauty is found within.” The Beast must reveal his inner beauty, and have a woman fall in love with him, in order to break the spell.
10Unlike past productions of the story, however, Disney’s portrayal of the Beast is much more moderate; while the Beast’s different body is acknowledged as other characters gasp and recoil and he asks them “You’ve come to stare at the Beast, have you,” the main focus of the Beast’s difference is in his personality. As Tammi and Viktor Berberi explain, “This Beast is not so much an animal as an extremely awkward, ill-mannered human being; its clumsy manner and slurping will be remediated by practice as part of an overall grooming process…in order to win the girl, the Beast must temper his anger, hide his fangs, stand up straight and learn to use a knife and fork.”19The other characters urge him to “try to act like a gentleman” so the spell can be broken. The Beast is “hideous” and “deformed” because he is not performing the ideal form of masculinity. The film can be seen through a Foucaldian lens, in which the way we eat our food, or the way we speak to others are very much controlled by powerful institutions that mold the body in a way that will benefit their power. Foucault uses the example of good handwriting, and how a “well-disciplined body form the operational context of the slightest gesture.”20The way Beast eats, dances, and speaks all must be disciplined in specific ways to signify his docility and conformity to societal ideals. When he performs the ideal masculinity, his deformed body is turned back into the handsome, human, normal prince, which reflects his “inner beauty.” The Beast’s body is disciplined by societal expectations of how one should be and act as a man in order win love and acceptance. The film focuses mostly on the Beast’s inner disability rather than his physical deformity, but still does not teach acceptance of difference. By focusing on small aspects of his personality to be changed, such as his posture and his manners, Disney does not allow for a real challenge to 19Tammy Berberi and Viktor Berberi, "A Place at the Table,” 203.20Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish,152.
11Berkthe stigma and discrimination against those who are physically different. As Tammy and Viktor Berberi explain:“Disney’s reticence to engage with ‘unpleasant things’ explains in part why its beast is only animal in the figurative sense, able to reflect the negative human qualities of anger and impatience. Indeed, the beast we encounter in Disney is resolutely human, depicted neither as sufficiently abject visually nor as truly conflicted as to his true, fundamentally human, nature.