Beauty and the Beast

Is there really any archetype more damaging to women than that of Beauty and the Beast? Oh, sure, it’s not that great for you to sit around and wait for your prince to come, but you can do things while you wait, even if it’s just nap, and, if he doesn’t show up, you can get on to other things.

But to believe that the behavior of a man can be changed if you just love him enough?

I don’t know. There’s something heartbreaking about the end to this Daily Beast story:

But she made it clear what she had liked about him; he wasn’t a wasp, or some facsimile of a Kennedy. “Everyone assumed that I was supposed to marry someone like a John Kerry, some preppy that had gone to Harvard or Yale. I didn’t want to marry those boys. I did not like them. I had been around them my whole life. I interrupted the story line. I wanted out of that suffocation.”

But he was who he was, you know? It’s not like Schwarzenegger has ever not been a gropey, womaninzing mess of a man in his personal life, which is not to let him off the hook. He is an asshole. But he was an asshole before they married. And, yes, love is blind.

But I worry we teach girls we can change the people we love, transform them from monster into price, instead of facing squarely that the person in front of you, for all his or her faults and good points, is always going to be that person.

13 thoughts on “Beauty and the Beast

  1. I think it was Robin McKinley who wrote the best retelling of Beauty and the Beast. At the end the Beast stayed the same because Beauty said that she fell in love with him, not some prince. So there is at one antidote to the “you/love can change anything”.

    (And I’m thinking McKinley did two retellings,one standard that she wasn’t satisfied with and the improved one.)

  2. The thing that strikes me about all of this is, in every single photo (at least that I’ve seen) of the couple, Maria is looking at him almost in awe. Her body language and expression indicates that she is absolutely all about this man. And she’s no dummy.
    As has been said, love can make you blind.

    The other thing — I flashed back to the Hillary Clinton/Today Show moment where she did the whole “vast right wing conspiracy” schtick to defend Bill prior to his dalliances coming out. Let it be a warning to the next woman who “stands by her man” — remember the two that came before. Because if I ever were to find myself in this position to defend my husband on the national stage, I would make clear to him in legal papers, if I got up before cameras and defended him only to find out later that he’d made a fool of me, that there would be serious legal and monetary consequences for the rest of his life.

  3. And we build up this narrative of the long-suffering woman to be sympathized with and congratulated for her struggles, the woman who just has to put up with doing more of this work and listening to more of that crap, because there’s some kind of supposed virtue in tolerating these assholes when love doesn’t actually change everything.

  4. It’s sad (not surprising, but sad) that she confused a few superficial differences (not WASP or Irish, not from a fancy college) from the men of the world she was raised in with being fundamentally different. When in fact he’s practically identical: goodlooking (in a certain way), a glib talker, driven by ambition, full of a sense of entitlement leavened with a teensy bit of humor at his own expense. It’s almost as if that’s so exclusively what she was surrounded with as she grew up that she thinks it’s just the way men are, rather than realizing that there are many, many other sorts of men in the world.

  5. I always thought B&theB was more progressive than Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty; at least the girl had some agency in choosing to go back, and didn’t just lie around sleeping or scrub floors all day. The fact that it was written by a woman makes you wonder if it was a way of comforting women (who were going to be forced into marrying anyway) that men might look scary and brutish but still be nice. It’s a tricky thing.

    But most fairy tales suck rocks where women were concerned.

  6. I have to wonder whether this is changing these days, though. As younger women watch women from the previous generation walk away from marriages that aren’t working, to what extent is it sinking in that “stand by your man” isn’t the only or best option?

    We’re seeing different behavior modeled for us today that their mothers didn’t. Women in the greatest generation rarely left their assholish husbands and maybe boomer women were thinking, “You know, I don’t really want that for myself.”

    It’s always worth repeating that you can’t control (or change) other people, but you can control your reaction to them.

    Slight tangent and devil’s advocate stuff. Sorry.

  7. I don’t know what went on in Shriver’s head, but I’m willing to ascribe a little more awareness and agency to her, as opposed to the ‘blindness’ of ‘love.’ I’m not saying that poorly invested noble emotions weren’t a factor, but I think it’s reasonable to surmise that she was smart and experienced enough (being a Kennedy!) to make a causal link between the hulk’s assholery and his success, and that she saw that as being attractive in an ambitious sense. So I’m thinking a little less misguided loyalty and little more craven opportunism (even if the opportunism was a partly vicarious). A little less ‘long-suffering’ (i.e. noble) and a little more co-dependent asshole.

  8. Sam & nm said what i would say.

    She is an opportunist raised by opportunists and had ambitious fuckyouover men held up as the male paradigm.

    That combined to make a marriage of convenience, oligarchy-style.

    What I find stomach-churning is that now he’s topped out she’s running around talking about how bad it all was. Her words would carry more weight had she not already put in the years as First Lady of California.

    It may have been awful, but not awful enough to walk away from State Dinners and high profile activities.

  9. I’ve just been through a fairly ugly divorce, and I know, from the outside, there were some easy, over-simplified explanations for what happened to my ex and I. But life is complicated. And the life of a married couple is complicated, whether you’re a Kennedy or not. And when I see people’s lives falling apart, it makes me uncomfortable to hear judgments placed on their behavior. Especially when we’re only looking from the outside. I’m not defending Schwarzenegger’s or Shriver’s behavior, but do we need to reduce Shriver to a “co-dependent asshole” in a “marriage of convenience, oligarchy style,” or an “opportunist raised by opportunists?” Maybe I’m just a bit too sensitive to this right now, given my personal situation, but this just feels uncharacteristically mean for this group.

  10. If tese were people who lived next door to us, I would be inclined to agree.

    But when people try the sides of their marrisge in the media, use their marriage for political and public and financial advantage those peoole have made different rules.

    I dont think either you or your husband gave cover-story interviews about your marriage to at least a dozen magazines.

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