Outrage, Beauty, and the Beast

Kill the Beast!” cried the villagers. The mob brandished their torches into the hollow darkness, Gaston at the lead. In this scene, the Beauty and the Beast live-action remake captures a deeper darkness than its animated predecessor. Because this time, the provincial people are real people — an unsettling reminder that outrage is an everyday reality.

Beauty and the Beast follows a girl named Belle living in a French village. Everyone thinks Belle is strange: she loves books (go Belle!) but refuses to fall in love for Gaston. Instead, Belle falls into trouble after rescuing her father from a vicious Beast. The hairy, horned monster imprisons Belle in his castle, making Gaston look like a nice guy in comparison.

The Beast

Belle’s patience and kindness reveal a startling truth — the Beast is a man, cursed along with his servants and bound forever inside the decaying walls. If he doesn’t learn to love before the last rose petal falls, he will remain a monster forever. Of course, the Disney movie it is, Beauty and the Beast fall in love. When Gaston hears of the monstrosity, he whips the villagers into a fearful frenzy.

We’re not safe until he’s dead
He’ll come stalking us at night
Set to sacrifice our children
To his monstrous appetite
He’ll wreak havoc on our village
If we let him wander free

So it’s time to take some action, boys
It’s time to follow me!

How did Gaston create outrage? Welcome to Beauty and the Beast: Outrage 101.

  1. Direct people’s attention to something they don’t understand.
  2. Scare people about a created or over-exaggerated danger.
  3. Create an “us versus them” perspective.

Watch as Gaston use these steps to hyperbolize an imaginary threat:

He’s got fangs, razor-sharp ones!
Massive paws, killer claws for the feast
Hear him roar! See him foam!
But we’re not coming home
‘Til he’s dead!
Good and dead!

Once Gaston captures their imagination, creates fear, and draws the battle lines, the outrage machine hums forward unstoppable.

Kill the Beast!

Light your torch, mount your horse

Screw your courage to the sticking place

We’re counting on Gaston to lead the way

The Beast Released

I must give veteran Gaston credit — he’s masterful at tapping into fear and channeling it into action. Ask Gaston himself:

Call it war, call it threat
You can bet they all will follow
For in times like this, they’ll do just as I say

There’s a beast running wild, there’s no question
But I fear the wrong monster’s released

When I first heard LeFou’s line, “I fear the wrong monster’s released”, I assumed he was referring to the monstrous Gaston. But LeFou is not naming Gaston a monster; the herd of people rushing forth into the cavernous night are the monsters.

No one stops to ask if the Beast is dangerous. Instead, everyone marches forward toward a communal goal — kill the beast. Even the villagers say:

We don’t like what we don’t understand
In fact, it scares us
And this monster is mysterious at least
Bring your guns, bring your knives
Save your children and your wives
We’ll save our village and our lives
We’ll kill the Beast!

Gaston is ingenious. He not only taps into the fear, anger, and ignorance of the people but also their moral superiority. Save the children and wives! As vicious as the Beast seemed earlier, he is nothing compared to the unsettling image of torches flickering into the night.

The Beast Online

As the flames faded into black — held by real, not animated, people — I realized how reflective this scene is of the culture online. Regardless of its righteousness, outrage fuels the internet.

A term coined by a cartoonist in 2009, outrage porn is an apt description of the current internet landscape. Outrage porn is:

…selected specifically to pander to our impulses to judge and punish and get us all riled up with righteous indignation. 1

In simple language, it makes us angry. Anger leads to attention, more attention leads to traffic, and more traffic leads to revenue. And the world has caught on: the media manipulate it for income, politicians wield it for power, and the rest of us use it for “likes”.

Anger sells. It’s a viral sea of torches spreading across a countryside, marching to destroy a beast who may — or may not — be bad. But who’s asking?

Hearts ablaze, banners high
We go marching into battle
Unafraid although the danger’s just increased
Raise the flag, sing the song
Here we come, we’re fifty strong
And fifty Frenchmen can’t be wrong
Let’s kill the Beast!

Kill the Beast!
Kill the Beast!

1. Kreider, Tim. "Isn't It Outrageous?" The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 July 2009. Web. 03 July 2017.

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