INVITATION TO A DREAM
It was not by chance that we used the phrase "Invitation to a Dream" as part of the name of the 2010 Beauty and the Beast convention. The word "dream" has special meaning in our fandom. Dreams are integral to the show; they are the basis of what became the most incredible romantic adventure on television. And dreams are what bind us together now, as we carry Vincent and Catherine in our hearts and into the future.
Where did this special dream begin? It was Ron Koslow’s dream to create a television show as a contemporary fable based on the various iterations of the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, heavily influenced by the fantastical French movie, Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bete. He realized his dream, one given color and power through lavish production details, consummate acting, the incredible design talent of Rick Baker, the phenomenal chemistry between Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman…and at its core was a fairy tale given an emotional attachment so rich and deep it transcended mere fable, extending into myth.
Ron Koslow’s dream affected us all, deeply and irrevocably. It brought us together, into a fandom of unusual energy and intensity. We heard the opening words and fell in love, not just with the characters and the story, but with the dreams they inspired. We heard and saw Catherine and Vincent as they struggled with the impossibilities, always listening carefully to their words…their dream of being together. Our hearts opened to them, we rooted for them, we believed in them, in their right to be together, in a destiny so profound it seemed…inevitable. For an odd thing started to overtake the show’s most avid fans. Those words in the opening began to sound…premature! Possibly at the beginning of the relationship, we could accept the premise that Vincent and Catherine could not be together. Vincent himself iterated Mr. Koslow’s premise in the very first episode when he told Catherine he must forget the dream of being a part of her. That was as bald a statement of "never" as the words in the introduction uttered by Catherine: "Although we cannot be together…."
We took in that premise, understood that the fairy tale was to be one of an impossible, problematic relationship. After all, we were presented with so many obstacles, so many issues, so many walls and fears, it did seem as if they existed to constantly remind us that this relationship was doomed to be unfulfilled. Father repeatedly told Vincent and Catherine that the relationship could only bring them pain. This was Mr. Koslow, whispering in the audience’s ears, reiterating the premise upon which he had created the relationship, one which he insisted would forever remain platonic.
However, Mr. Koslow made a big mistake. He and his writers constantly used a certain word, one designed to be bittersweet, but one which gave the audience hope: dream. Always, always…there were dreams. We saw Vincent and Catherine actually dreaming several times onscreen, to reinforce the practical with the fantastical elements that go into dreaming of another life. Their dream even began to be called The Dream, said as if capitalized, to emphasize its special nature, its power in their lives and minds. And those dreams…our dreams…built in intensity and belief. And very gradually, The Dream, the audience’s dream for Vincent and Catherine, began to differ from Mr. Koslow’s dream.
We, the audience, were not idle during this time. We did not just tune in once a week to a TV show and forget about it the rest of the week. We began to find like-minded others who shared our passion for the show, to meet with, telephone or write to in order to discuss it. We stepped out of our comfort zones and became more than we’d been, established friendships across boundaries we would have thought insurmountable. Even if we weren’t able to do that, we though about the show constantly, we imagined…we dreamed about it, about "what if," and in our minds we began to develop scenarios different from what was shown onscreen, and we expressed them through writing and drawing, through creation of sculpture and music videos and websites.
We were active in other ways, too. We were inspired by what we saw onscreen to pursue our own heretofore impossible dreams. We accepted the challenges we put to ourselves…and we found we could meet them and overcome them. We began to read more poetry and Shakespeare, to listen to different kinds of music, to achieve educational objectives, to expand our own possibilities in ways we never imagined we could. Because we loved this show about dreams, our own dreams took on more power for us. Gradually we became convinced that what the poet said was true: with love all things are possible. And if we could make our own dreams come true, how cruel was it to deny fulfillment of their Dream to Vincent and Catherine?
As we watched the show, while we continued to respect Mr. Koslow’s vision, his dream began to seem more like a nightmare. His vision of an intensely loving couple doomed forever to remain apart not only undercut the meaning of the original fairy tale, but was belied by what we all saw clearly happening onscreen. Perhaps it was the chemistry of the stars, perhaps the acting, perhaps the writing, perhaps another unidentifiable something, but we, the audience, were seeing something onscreen that Mr. Koslow didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t see. It soon became apparent that we believed in Catherine and Vincent’s Dream more than its creator.
Why the change? Why this dichotomy? Is it possible that Mr. Koslow didn’t truly understand his own creation? He dreamed it up, after all! Shouldn’t he understand it better than the audience? It doesn’t seem possible, but I believe it’s true. For despite their overt intentions, Mr. Koslow and the show’s writers subverted the premise by presenting ever more delicately nuanced shadings of The Dream, hints of possibilities no longer so greatly out of reach. A trip to Connecticut isn’t such an outlandish idea, no matter that the characters on the show seemed outraged and worried about what could happen. We, the audience, looked beyond the somewhat selfish attitudes of the Tunnel community members to analyze the issue and shrugged; Connecticut wasn’t truly impossible, so what about all those other obstacles? Vincent might hurt Catherine in his passion? If that were true, why did the writers show us instances where Catherine approached Vincent fearlessly when he was in drug-induced paranoia or severe mental stress, her touch all that was needed to diffuse his torment without hurting her? They built a solid road to the fulfillment of The Dream with words, actions, promises, understanding…and we watched Vincent and Catherine advance down that road for two years. We became convinced that it was no longer an impossible dream…and perhaps it never had been.
Yet what did Mr. Koslow think of that audience reaction? He once told a reporter he never imagined the audience would take to Vincent as a romantic figure. That statement just boggles the mind! A series written to show the audience such passion, desire and devotion within Vincent, and the equally fervent return of those emotions by Catherine, was not intended to create an acceptance of a deep and true romantic connection between its main characters? Were we supposed to be repulsed? Were we supposed to feel sorry for Catherine or Vincent? Were we to believe the longing and love was one-sided? Yet the fact that audiences accepted and believed in the romance actually took Mr. Koslow by surprise. Is it not probable, then, that his continued insistence upon his original premise of an impossible love betrays his lack of understanding of exactly what he created for his audience?
His own dream only took him so far. We, the audience, ultimately rejected the premise and enlarged his dream. Fandom understood that unrequited longing and eternal sublimation for two souls as devoted, as intelligent, and as passionately in love as Vincent and Catherine can destroy a dream. The Dream Catherine and Vincent shared had to expand to encompass all they hoped for, to result in true togetherness and fulfillment of their destiny. But that final step took yet another dream – a collective one, by fandom. That dream had to blossom in fan fiction, given how things turned out onscreen. But it’s a fruitful, powerful dream we share, and it comes true again each time a writer gives life to another aspect of The Dream and finds ways for Vincent and Catherine to have their happy life together.
So, here we are, two decades later, still sharing a collective dream, still making it come true for each other. We were invited by Mr. Koslow, all those years ago, to share his dream. And for a while we did, happily, until that dream became too small to encompass the characters he created. So we simply dreamed bigger and better. It changed our lives forever, yes…and we changed The Dream forever, as well.