Monday, October 29, 2012

Untrue As It Can Be

"Eye of the Beholder" is the first Halloween episode of Disney's Gargoyles. True to the spirit of the series, it has a deeper purpose than to be a holiday outing, as the story develops Xanatos' and Fox's characters and lays the foundation for further changes to come.

However, it's still wonderful as a Halloween episode. A particularly cool thing is Elisa dressing as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, choosing the golden ballroom gown and starting a tradition of having Elisa dress as a Disney Princess, since she was Jasmine in the comics. Goliath does not dress in any costume, choosing just to be concealed by the holiday. It's a very sweet moment, as Disney makes a nod to itself, and more importantly, a nod to one of my favourite Disney films, as Goliath serves as the "Beast" to Elisa's Belle.


Okay, okay, I have to do it. I have to state that this meta reference, much as I love it, is not a profound expression of the similarity between the two couples. Some fans make it out to be this, but the central relationship in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and the relationship between Goliath and Elisa, are different except on the most simple visual level.

The major difference is that in Gargoyles, both characters are already the species they want to be. It's common to say that the Beast shouldn't have transformed at the end of the Disney film, but that's ignoring that the Beast hated being what he was, and his entire character arc, the plot of the whole film, was about him learning to become a better person so the curse would be lifted. The Beast becoming human was the only ending that would have made sense, no matter how many fans love the Beast as himself.

In contrast, Goliath and Elisa are already their natural species, and so they don't  need to change their forms, and indeed never will. Because of this, the source of the conflict is different, and so is the story being told. Beauty and the Beast is about a character learning to change so he can be transformed back. Gargoyles is about two characters having to meet the problems that come with being of two different species. The former is a single goal that must be met within the confines of a film's running time, and then it ceases being inter-species. The latter is about a slow burn, as Goliath and Elisa come to terms with their attraction, and the limits they have, because there is no space for a transformation to remove those limits.

Another important difference between Goliath/Elisa and Belle/Beast is that Goliath is not a dick. The personalities of Goliath and Elisa are not the source of their struggle; the source is the taboo and the surprise of their very relationship, while in the Disney film, the Beast's personality is the major obstacle. (That, and the whole imprisonment thing, but the film tries to re-direct viewers away from that unpleasant truth.)

Some fans of Beauty and the Beast interpret the central dynamic as less creepy than others do, so that maybe Goliath not being a dick would be a major difference. Among the supporting evidence: Belle gave herself to the Beast freely, the servants are nice to Belle, Belle stands up to the Beast, the Beast lets Belle go—there are all these things that are supposed to prove the central romance isn't creepy, and it seems like the writers are trying to prove it too, but I can't buy it. No matter how much I love and respect this film, it's still about a creepy romance. And Goliath/Elisa is not creepy at all, because neither starts off in a violent, hateful role towards the other.

 It's not that either type of story is better, just that they are so very different that any similarity between them is on the superficial level, and nothing deeper. I love that the Halloween episode of Gargoyles references Beauty and the Beast, but this doesn't mean the film will turn the crank of Goliath/Elisa fans, because it is a very different story.

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