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The Beauty and the Beast
fandom for newbies

"She Gets It"
by a
A Fellow BATB Lover!


It happened that I heard someone introduced in fandom to someone else by their name and as ‘she gets it.’ And I will admit I was introduced to someone else in the same way. I was flattered to know that I got ‘it,’ that probably for the first time in my life, I was among an elite group: those who got ‘it’ about Beauty and the Beast. 

Not being used to such rare associations leads one to begin to question. What if my ‘it’ is not the true ‘it?’ What if the others in this group discover that I am somehow fraudulent in what I get? Having just become a part of fandom, I’d hate to find I am a fish out of water after all. 

So I started thinking that perhaps I ought to clarify for myself just what ‘it’ means to me. Why rock the boat, you ask? Part of the reason is because this whole experience is so foreign to me and totally unexpected. If you had asked me just three years ago, “Would you ever be involved in fandom for a TV show?” I’d have looked at you like you were the one who was in need of professional help. But here I am. Happily ensconced in the experience of being a fan of a show like no other I have watched. Why this show? 

Another reason to clarify my ‘it’ is for all those who ask that very question: why this show? To arrive at my elevator speech, I need to map out what it was about this show that so totally captivated me, so that I can then distill it down to meaningful brevity. And you know that you need an elevator speech because you will be asked by those you choose to share this interest with and they likely will not appreciate a long dissertation about your fascination with a TV show that is approaching its 30th anniversary. 

The last reason is simply because a piece of the puzzle only recently fell into place. An “ah ha!” moment, if you will. So now is the time. 

I watched the show when it originally aired, and loved it. It was a ‘must see’ TV show, and since it moved around a lot trying to find a larger audience, that wasn’t always easy. I most remember from that time the lovely romance of the show between two characters that made it seem so real and natural. The show ended all too soon (and not happily to my satisfaction). Then life got into high gear, and I thought no more about it. 

Fast forward to the next millennium. I encountered a DVD set in a store. “I remember loving that show,” I thought to myself. Took the set home, but once again, life got busy and I didn’t get to watching them right away. Enter the piece of the puzzle I figured out only recently: I finally watched the DVD set at the height of the recent recession. I think this was the trigger for me to get bowled over by what I was seeing. And I was seeing far more than a lovely romance.

I admit that sometimes I despair about the human race. This was a time that sorely tested my faith in humanity. As I was watching this show (multiple times, almost as if I couldn’t believe what all I was seeing), I found hope. Hope for the human condition. But I have watched other shows that offered hope. I found Star Trek to be such a show. To see a vision where humans might evolve, the goals of those explorers, the way technology could be so helpful and enriching.  Yet I was never tempted to join the Star Trek fandom. So why Beauty and the Beast?

I think the main reason is that Star Trek offered me hope for the future; Beauty and the Beast showed me hope for the here and now: a timeless solution for living a better, richer life. Not a perfect solution, I am not delusional (I think!). But there was much there to think about at a time in my life when I was ready for some introspection. And yes, there was romance to this show while Star Trek, not so much. So love and hope relevant to my now beats hope in the future.

The best metaphor for what I see in this show is an onion; a simple, round vegetable used to mostly flavor other recipes, yet it can be enjoyed as itself.  The romance in the show is the onion itself. But slice that onion open, and you find layer after layer. That is the richness of the show for me. And you must look for the layers yourself. The show won’t necessarily hit you over the head with them. But if you take the time, watch the episodes more than occasionally, look at materials others have made available on the internet within fandom, you can uncover all manner of things within this show. So many perspectives; so much to think about to help you better understand the show, of course, but also to help you better understand yourself. And let’s not discount the fun you can have doing it!

So what are the layers? Mine are likely different than someone else’s, although there will likely be some overlap.

• While I see romance as the outer surface, love itself has its own layer.

There is much to learn from Vincent and Catherine as they progress from meeting, to feeling, to loving, to trying to chart a path for two through very disparate worlds: this is The Dream. It is this layer that introduces us to two core ideals: that with love, anything is possible and that love is everything.

 • There is the mythology behind the core story.

Mythology exists to teach and guide us in the ways of our culture and society. Often timeless morals are the basis of these teachings. The story of Beauty and the Beast has one obvious moral: look beyond the surface to find the true person beneath. Looking at the underlying mythology of the original story (and stories, as there are multiple versions) and comparing how the mythology may have influenced the show can open doors to plot development and script writing as an aid to telling a rich story. It can enhance understanding of how the characters are drawn and portrayed.

 • There is the variety of ethical principles displayed by the tunnel community living below New York City.

How we choose to live our lives, especially when faced with challenges, is not easy. Every action is not a simple choice when the situation is not black and white. The tunnel community offers an interesting lens to examine the society in which we live. How are they different? What guides how they live? How do we choose to live? In the tunnels, there is sharing and caring for others, acceptance and tolerance of those who are different, and compassion. Principles so sorely needed in our present day society and in our own lives.

 • There is the psychology of human behavior in the interactions of the characters.

Real people are complex and multi-faceted. The richer the characters on a show, the more we can learn about motivations and choices. This show is rich in multi-faceted characters and the interactions are interesting and sometimes problematic. Can we recognize our own behavior when it is also unsuccessful or problematic?

 • There are examples of communication principles, both good and not so good.

It is not just a lesson in good script writing, although that is an interesting study in itself. But how characters choose the words they say, and how they say them often speaks more than just the surface meaning. In real life, communication is often difficult. We can learn how to communicate better by watching these examples. Think you can’t say much without words? Watch Ron Perlman as Vincent communicate eloquently without saying a word, a master of nonverbal communication.

 • There are religious, metaphysical and spiritual overtones.

What are the beliefs in such a community that gives them such faith in their way of life? That gives them acceptance of such an unknown entity as the Beast? When society Above has cast them aside, how do these people recreate a life for themselves in such a positive way and not give in to hate, prejudice, and fear?

 • There is a potpourri of other layers:

- ingenuity in problem solving;
- good stewardship of resources;
- environmental conservation; and
- a richness of literature and music.

Even when there are plot holes, or weak scripts, there are still opportunities for thinking about what might have been, what impact a different way might have taken, or what meaning might have really been intended. So even with all of the richness this show provides, it also can enhance your mind as you think, analyze, compare and contrast, keeping your brain as young as your heart!

So that is my ‘it.’ Is it your ‘it’? Is this the ‘it’ that was spoken of earlier? I don’t know. It doesn’t need to be. With acceptance and compassion common in the tunnels, I know there is a place in fandom for my onion and me.

And as for my elevator speech, perhaps all I need say is “I like Beauty and the Beast for love and hope, and because it reminds me of an onion.”

 A Fellow BATB Lover!

December 20, 2013




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