As a little girl who grew up anticipating the yearly release of Disney's newest, 90s blockbuster, animated feature, every part of my princess-loving heart has resonated most with Belle: the brown-haired, bookish, kind, and fearless princess who falls in love with a beast and gets rewarded with a prince. I've always wanted to live her story.
But what became apparent as I sat and watched Emma Watson bring Belle to life, is that the tale is truly older than time, you see, and I am, indeed, in it.
Only, I'm not Belle in the story. I'm the Beast. Or Gaston. But not Belle.
Turns out there's only one selfless, perfectly loving protagonist.
Isn't it always the Beauty who is misunderstood and persecuted for having compassion on the least of these?
But me? The rest of us? We're left to fill the roles of either Beast or Gaston. And don't they look a lot like Older Brother and Younger Brother of that other tale, The Prodigal Son?
Beast, publicly and profusely self-centered, is cursed to live with the outward appearance that suits his inwardly nasty soul. He runs so far from love that he's now destined to a life worse than that of a comparatively gorgeous pig.
Gaston, proud public "servant," knows how much he's entitled to for the sake of his dashing good looks and heroic feats. He's always known and done all the right things, and yet so clearly knows nothing of love or kindness.
And love the only remedy.
Sacrifice the only hope.
Death the only way to life.
Belle, the only one beautiful both in soul and in flesh, deserves a handsome prince to come and rescue her. She ought to have the doting affection of someone wealthy and wise and kind. And yet she lays down her life to save her father, and ultimately risks her life to love Beast even to the death.
And friend, these themes come only from the Christian narrative of the utter depravity of man, the image of God inside of us that makes our souls awakened by love, and the life-giving sacrifice of Jesus to rescue both the Older Son and the Younger Son, the Gastons and the Beasts of the world.
This is the reality that has haunted me since I left the theater. Beauty and the Beast resonates, not because I've been so much like Belle, but because I've been so much like Gaston and the Beast. Seeing the beauty on the big screen, it thrills my soul because I know I was made to live in just such a rescue, such a romance.
In the meantime, internet Christians have hemmed and hawed over the secular agenda of a secular company peddling a secular film. But friend, that should not surprise. That should not even worry. That should be expected.
What ought to downright shock us with joy?
Disney spent $160 million producing one of the most beautiful, gospel-laden films I've ever seen.
What we should not expect and yet celebrate all the more, is when any worldly agenda produces a work that so clearly images the truth about the Creator. Every person in this film is an artist precisely because they were made in the image of the Artist of all, and there is not a work of true art that does not bear at least the faint swirl of His innate fingerprints. And if I may be so bold? Beauty and the Beast has given us a breathtaking view of just such a stark swirl.
Whether we decide this film is a children's film or not, our grown-up eyes ought always to be on the Artist behind the art, because His life-giving agenda will never ultimately be thwarted by any agenda of man. Our fear and love of Him must always be ready to tell an even better story than the ones we pay to see.
Beauty and the Beast is a story of love
and redemption,a miraculous parable of the love of Jesus Christ
for the most hideous of sinners,
of which I am surely the ugliest.
If you choose to see this movie, or if you already have, it is my prayer that we will both make full use of the opportunity to hold real-life conversations with our families and friends and neighbors about the reason why we resonate so deeply with such a work of art. We have been given a doorway to sharing the Good News, the Better News, that there is a Beauty who has given everything to love our own beastly souls.
And Disney picked up the tab.