Gender Bender: Beauty and the Beast

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Uncategorized
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This last week I had a myriad of post topics hit my brain almost simultaneously. All were variations on a theme and honestly, I had trouble deciding which one to take on first. All are things that create interior discussion in my brain. All were intertwined. A post concerning all three would just be too long so we’re breaking it up and I’ll start off with what I believe started the whole domino effect: Beauty and the Beast.

I know, not all that interesting in and of itself, but hang around a minute and it may start some sparks flying.

Last week I was in the car jamming to my tunes. My show tunes. As typically happens I burst out into song to accompany characters and pretend that I am performing my heart out. As often happens when I do this I imagine how fantastic an opportunity it would be to actually  have the chance to perform in that show as that character. This is fine when I’m envisioning Ms. Lovett from Sweeny Todd or Aida, but a wrench gets thrown into the works when the character I would so love to play is a guy as I definitely do not fit that bill.

Enter Beauty and the Beast. On comes Gaston’s first song and I can’t help but think how fun that character is. He’s so arrogant, cocky, and self-involved it’s fantastic! A little further on I think, “Well, maybe Gaston couldn’t be a girl, but what if his sidekick LeFou  was. That could work. He’d be really fun, too.” As long as my brain was reassigning genders I went the whole nine yards and envisioned everyone in that story as the opposite gender. Belle is a brainy young man living at home with his mom. Gaston is a chick who likes to party and have fun out in the wild. The Beast is a young woman trapped within a hideous transformation. All of the servants are likewise, opposites.

I had a tough time envisioning Mrs. Potts as a Mr. Potts because a tea kettle is a very feminine object. Likewise, the feather duster that Lumiere chases after is ultra feminine as well. Coggsworth and Lumiere, however, I had no problem envisioning as girls, but the way they fought would suddenly have a different tilt to it. I get the feeling that what seems to be playful competition between male characters would come off a bit more negative with female characters.

What stuck with me more than that, however, was the concept of a female Beast.

How often in literature or movies, or even TV do we see a female character that is beastly in an ugly way? What about a female monster who isn’t sexually charged like a vampire? Or a woman who is just downright rude, feral, and domineering in the same way the Beast is portrayed in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast? Can you imagine a female beast growling and behaving in such a way? Can you imagine a female beast who would be depicted as just that: A Beast? Every time I think of a girl monster I think of something that is often depicted as beautiful but dangerous. Vampires, Succubi, Medusa, witches. When was the last time you remember seeing a female monster that was truly ugly? One that was shown as a monster first and foremost and female second?

As a DnD player I’ve seen a lot of monster manuals where the only female monsters in sight are either the pretty fairies or those that come across as hideously beautiful . None of them ever look truly ugly, and often they’re monsters in disguise taking the appearance of a beautiful woman to lure adventurers in.

Where are the ugly women monsters?

Perhaps it’s linked to society and how we view women. Particularly in recent years it’s become more and more obvious that while they say it’s important for girls to be smart and have good paying jobs the media reinforces the idea that a woman’s worth is tied in with how pretty she looks. Is she thin? Does she have clear skin? Is she curvy in all the right places? Does she dress in such a way to show off what she has? And in classic stories women are temptresses. They certainly aren’t violent in an aggressive way like men so of course any female monsters must be likewise.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Another wonderful character I would give my right arm to play but I’ll tell you right now I’ve never seen that character gender swapped. I’m assuming it has something to do with the animalistic side that is Mr. Hyde.

Who else am I missing? What other fantastical beast-like characters do we see assigned a male gender? Can you think of any female monsters that have the same tone as the male ones we see again and again?

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