I’m sure someone has written about this already, but my cursory internet search came up with nothing, so here’s my two cents: Beauty and the Beast screams Theology of the Body. I had this revelation while watching the new live action version.
What specifically came to my mind is the fact that St. John Paul II says women teach men how to be human. This is literally happening in Beauty and the Beast! Due to the fall, men tend towards beastliness (ok honestly we all do), at least figuratively. In this classic movie, Prince Charming is literally turned into a beast, so his outer form matches his cold, selfish heart. Remember, he was never really charming to begin with, so he couldn’t use turning into a beast as an excuse. However, he became more bitter and resentful.
Enter a beautiful, selfless, young woman. Here is a person whom the beast can love, can live for. With her he can, “discover himself through a sincere gift of self”. And she must let herself be loved as she is, just as she receives him as he is. She, through her love, helps to redeem and transform him into a man, more of a man than he ever was.
Incidentally, this is all reminding me of the ideas of a newly ordained priest, Fr. Patrick Shultz, of the Cleveland Diocese. In his Master’s Thesis on the genius of men (it’s about time!), he described the man’s heart as a castle. A man is pierced, wounded by a woman’s beauty and he let’s her into his heart, to be protected. The man’s instinct is to live with an outward focus, but when he lets a woman inside she draws him in as well, into the home she creates.
Do you see what I see?? This is also happening in Beauty and the Beast! The beast is trapped inside this castle, through his own fault. It became a prison, something to escape from. But then he lets Belle, aka Beauty, into his castle and eventually into his heart. His rough exterior is pierced and he is freed to love. At first he tries to possess Belle, to keep her as a prisoner in his castle, but it is only when he sees her as a gift and lets her go that she can truly be his.
Why do women have this unique role? The more human we become, the more God-like we become. Jesus became man so we could see what we’re supposed to look like, for we were made in his image. Furthermore, God chose to redeem the world through a woman – and continues to do so. It is women who are the preservers of culture, who embody compassion, kindness and mercy. It is women who make humanity more human. Every time a woman gives birth to an immortal soul, it is a redemptive act, and as she tries to bring that child up in a Godly way, then she is bringing that child closer to its destiny of becoming God-like. She is repairing the image and likeness of God in humanity.