I went and saw the recent Beauty and the Beast remake this last weekend. I came out feeling like a sexist, racist, bigot.
I’ve written up some thoughts on the movie, and it’s comparison to the original, but I’m not quite sure I’ll get around to finishing them or posting them. Because rereading them I feel like a sexist, racist, bigot. (I tend toward John C. Wright’s opinions – Ugly and the Beast).
I’m pretty open about being rather retrograde in my Catholicism – I sympathize with the Latin Mass, I attend a parish which uses Elizabethan English (US Ordinariate), I’m a defender of the Crusades and Inquisition, I’m a monarchist and imperialist. These opinions are so safely dead in much of our culture that I’m more of a curio than anything else. Or maybe that’s just because I only see these opinions expressed in dark corners of the internet and I feel safe in thinking the response to me will be a laugh and not a ceasing of friendship.
Other opinions, well, I’m not so open about. I’m sure most of my friends know I have them, but they just aren’t spoken of. I have very traditional views about gender, gender-roles, and relations between men and women. I have very traditional views about culture, immigration, and how we portray history. I have very traditional views about art, cultural artifacts, and the way thought, reality, and the censorial arm of society should interact.
And to put it bluntly, all that was triggered by Beauty and the Beast. Emma Watson’s Belle was an avatar of break-the-corset feminism; masculine virtue was relegated to buffoonery in Gaston and forced-indoctrination in the Beast. Fairy-tale France was diversity-washed to an extent little different from putting some Scotsmen among the royal court in a tale of the Ethiopian Empire. And the needs of culture meant that in a world where “sacrebleu” is an exclamation, the will of the individual and his self-identity must be treated sovereignly.
And to even express those opinions makes my whole skin crawl with worry. “Am I sexist?” “Am I a racist?” I live in a kind of bifurcated bubble where I have all these beliefs about culture and society, but I have to actively eschew discussing them for fear of being the spark that enkindles someone’s hate.
Of course, some will tell me to just let my opinions loose, don’t worry about others. But down that path is hypocrisy, since I’m perfectly fine with censorship in theory. I’m not a free-speech advocate. I don’t believe in “Letting your freak flag fly.”
And here’s where what probably amounts to brainwashing rears its ugly head. Upon hearing such ideas, how many (myself included) raise the spectre of Nazi Germany, of Fascist Italy, of Communist Russia? I do it, if anything to warn me how close my opinions (seemingly) come to the great bugbear of the 20th century.
So I live in a bifurcated mental bubble. I wonder how many of us do, whether consciously or unconsciously. I wonder if that isn’t some of the cultural tension we see boiling up. Arguably it is present in the popular hypocrisy around sexual expression (women should be free to flaunt their assets as self-expression; flaunting women’s assets in media is objectification). It’s also present in our drive for diversity (all cultures and people are the same; european cultures should appreciate non-european cultures as higher than their own).
Modernity is oddly maladjusted, confused, hypocritical. And I, for all my railing against it, am a modern.
So part of the work of this blog, and this is perhaps a beginning to some growing manifesto, is to figure out how to end this bifurcation. More proximately, it’s about how to express my desire for traditional culture and the means to attain it. More remotely, it’s about getting the guts just to call immorality, heresy, and nonsensical crap what it is without that worrying monkey on my back. In general, it’s about sooner or later pulling off this, while being less of a self-absorbed jerk (substitute “Beast” for modernity).
Sure, I’m doing it through comic-books, science-fiction, and movies, but one needs to keep these higher goals in mind. And let’s be honest, I tend to think Beauty Will Save the World. Beauty just involves more barbarians, space princesses, flintlock airship combat, and intergalactic rocket swordfights than most people think.
And for the record, Beauty is not Emma Watson. Beauty is this: