I fell in love with the story when I first watched the Disney animation in the 90s. It brought tears to a thirty year-old man then and now the musical brings the same sentiment to an old geek pushing 60. To me, Beauty and the Beast is much more than another romantic Prince Charming fairy tale that sweeps off the feet of little girls who dream of being the princess meeting her true love. Rather, the story is told as a fable that depicts some depths on what it means to love sacrificially in a, yes, fairy tale genre. When that substance is conveyed through the color, the songs, and the storytelling – the entirety of an artistic portrayal, there is a heart-aching beauty that comes through. That beauty – not of the character Belle – but of what that life-changing sacrificial love might look like is truly a “tale as old as time.”
Yes, I’ll admit that I am romanticizing a bit here. But here’s where fairy tale meets reality. At the end of the musical when the Beast died in the arms of Belle, who finally proclaimed her love for him, which broke the spell and turned the Beast back to a handsome prince, my thoughts suddenly turned to the ugly divisiveness of our nation. The political tension has turned all of us into the Beast. We’re vicious. We’re mean to each other. We seek no reconciliation but simply wish to raise our claws and tear the other person apart. With very true effort trying to revive a spirit of civility, I sometimes find that it’s not easy to keep that hope alive in all these darkness. But this musical gave me a sense of hope! I witnessed the change of the Beast with this young girl who willingly remained in the castle in exchange for the freedom of her father. Towards the end when the vicious monster informed his servants that he let her go and he “had to” because he loved her, the Beast has melted away. To me, that was the most touching moment of the story. That gave me hope that the ‘beast’ within us – all of us – will one day melt away and we shall reveal our true image of what God has intended for us to be.
I think God has given us our ‘Belle’. To some, she’s only knocking at the castle door. To others, they might have actually driven her out of the castle because they sensed their deepest vulnerability was exposed. Still, don’t we all dream of Belle dancing with the Beast all around in the ballroom? If you think my assessment is too naive for the political complexity our nation currently faces, I will not deny my almost childlike sentiment. However, allow me to quote from the wisest for reference. “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3-4).” That also rings to me as old as time.