Why am I even thinking about this?
— Fifty Shades of Grey, p165
This is a mini-ish post in my series looking at the redemption arcs in Beauty and the Beast compared with Fifty Shades.
Reason being, I need a little more time to work on the next proper one in the series which will look in a lot more detail at Ana’s choice to try to redeem Christian. In this one though, I’ll just make a couple of observations about Ana’s motivation and Belle’s motivation.
The meaning of sacrifice
When Christian asks Ana to read the BDSM contract he wants to have with her, she’s appalled at its contents.
I stare at myself in the bathroom mirror. You can’t seriously be considering this . . . My subconscious sounds sane and rational, not her usual snarky self. My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five-year-old. Please, let’s do this . . . otherwise we’ll end up alone with lots of cats and your classic novels to keep you company.
— Fifty Shades of Grey, p176
If you’re wondering about the “subconscious” and “inner goddess”, you’re not the only one.
Ana’s subconscious (which obviously isn’t her actual subconscious) is her internal voice of sex negativity. Ana’s inner goddess is her internal voice of sexual naiveté. The subconscious is cranky like an old woman who’s never been happy and described as peering over half-moon glasses at Ana. The inner goddess is, to be frank, childish.
They are both horrible.
The first observation I want to note is that Ana’s reason for accepting the BDSM contract is to escape the future she fears.
Contrast with Belle, for whom living with Beast means sacrificing her dreams.
The second observation, is that it’s Ana’s subconscious that says she shouldn’t accept the contract. Even Ana’s own words, her subconscious is described as “snide”. This is the voice which says:
You’ve slept in his bed all night, and he’s not touched you, Ana. You do the math.
— Fifty Shades of Grey, p69
In other words, this is the voice that says Ana as unattractive and unworthy. This is the voice that calls itself wisdom, when actually it’s obsessed pouring cold water on any and every positive thought Ana has about sex. Of course, this voice tells Ana to stay away from Christian. Not because that would be good for Ana, but rather because it would keep Ana away from sex.
Contrast with Belle’s father, who urges Belle not to stay with Beast. Whereas Maurice does venture into the territory of “You don’t know what you’re doing” and “I won’t let you do this” it’s not because he thinks Belle incapable, nor because he wants to control her. After all, earlier we see how he deplores the suggestion that Belle was “odd” and is happy to leave her to manage the home while he went away. No, Maurice is speaking with heightened language because he deeply cares for her wellbeing. He would rather die in Beast’s castle than have his daughter remain a prisoner there. Later we even see that he is willing to risk his life to go back and try to rescue her.
MAURICE: If no one will help me, then I’ll go back alone. I don’t care what it takes. I’ll find that castle and somehow I’ll get her out of there.
Maurice knows goodness and what it is to love, even self-sacrificially. But he is not someone who can fulfil Beast’s enchantment; after all, Beast must earn “her” love in return. Why is this?
The lesson here is not that sacrificial and saving love can only truly be found in a beautiful woman. I’ve already made the point that Belle’s beauty and Beast’s monstrous form are illustrative of their plight and character more than anything else.
The lesson is that if you want to teach a wretched person how to love, you need wisdom.
Maurice is a commendable character in many ways – and far more commendable than either Ana’s subconscious or her inner goddess.
He recognises his age but does not scorn it; he still holds dreams of his own (to become a world famous inventor). Although he is not childish in his manner, he is also quite childlike. He hopes for and often expects the best from everyone. But his naiveté limits him. He is too trusting of the townsfolk and the manner in which he sets out to rescue Belle nearly costs him his life. The reason why Maurice cannot break Beast’s curse is not that he lacks love.
It’s because he lacks wisdom.
MAURICE: My daughter? Odd? Where would you get an idea like that?
BELLE: Oh, I don’t know. It’s just I’m not sure I fit in here. There’s no one I can really talk to.
MAURICE: What about that Gaston? He’s a handsome fellow!
— Beauty and the Beast (1991)
This is the sixth post in a series on redemption, comparing Beauty and the Beast with Fifty Shades. You can find an index of all the posts here.