Judging by the sales numbers, I think it’s safe to assume that a good number of you watched Disney’s new version of Beauty & the Beast. I personally was not a fan, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about something that has bothered me for a while and I’ve been seeing more and more recently.
People seem to be really gung-ho about finding and rationalizing “plot holes” in movies nowadays. I’m sure that’s always been the case, but now with the Internet, it’s become much easier to find theories and make them go viral. I actually like overanalysis and crazy fan theories, whether it’s about movies, video games, or any kind of media. I think it’s a fun way to engage with a work that leaves you noticing things you otherwise might not have. At best, it can give you a new insight and deepen your appreciation for your favorite story, even if you don’t think the theory is true. At worst, it’s a fun diversion and ultimately harmless.
So, it’s important to preface that I don’t mind looking for and trying to explain plot holes in a movie. The problem is this discussion has seemed to overtake all discussion over a film’s writing, especially in regards to Beauty & the Beast.
For clarity’s sake, a plot hole is an inconsistency in the story’s logic, where something happens that doesn’t quite make sense. In the original Beauty & the Beast, the main plot hole concerns the Beast’s transformation: namely how old he was at the time of the curse and how long he’s been cursed. Given the information from the film’s prologue and Lumiere’s lines in “Be Our Guest,” we would assume that the Beast was cursed at 11 years old.
This revelation does call into question some of the logistics of the world and the motives of the Enchantress, which could hurt some viewers’ immersion right at the start of the film. And, to be fair, the new film does address this and fix them in fairly unobtrusive ways. However, this fact seems to be the focus of discussion of the film’s writing. A quick Google search for articles about the movie turns up no shortage of clickbait articles about how the remake “fixes” all the plot holes of the original. Meanwhile, actual reviews of the film that don’t mention these “fixes” give a passing mention to the script, mostly in how it added a few scenes and backstory. Rarely do they actually dig into the writing, which, as a writer myself, particularly irks me.
There are some big issues I have with the film’s writing that I haven’t seen addressed, and they don’t involve a leap in logic. The characterization of a lot of the characters is completely off. The Beast feels stiff and standoffish, unlike in the original where he falls head-over-heels in love with Belle in an adorable way. Gaston becomes a boorish idiot, losing some of the menace and charm that made him a memorable villain. For all the hype around making LeFou gay, the script gives him the lowest possible arc for a gay character, complete with a five-second pay off at the end. And the unnecessary backstory adds length to the movie, not really any depth to the characters.
These are problems with the script that directly affect one’s enjoyment of the movie much more than its internal logic. And yet I haven’t seen these discussed at all. I think this speaks to how we talk about movies, focusing on visual elements over the narrative itself, which is a shame, to say the least. If film is one of the great forms of storytelling, we should start really looking at the stories they tell, not just how they tell it.