This post is not for the faint of heart, and it may be triggering to some. So this is your warning.
If you are a long time reader of this blog, then you know that I am passionate about everything I write about. Whether it’s a movie, a slice of pizza or just owning your shit (pardon my French); my overall goal has alway been to encourage healthy conversations, no matter the subject.
This is why I wanted to take the time to discuss the subject of victim shaming and bullying. Today I read the following analysis concerning an alternative view on “Beauty and the Beast” that someone re-posted on Facebook from Tumblr:
Yeah, the truly scary thing about Beauty and the Beast isn’t that Gaston exists, but that society fucking loves him. People who deride the movie by saying it’s about Stockholm Syndrome are ignoring that it’s actually about the various ways that truly decent people get othered by society. People don’t trust the Beast because of the way he looks, which only feeds his anger issues and pushes him further away. Gaston isn’t the only one who criticizes Belle for being bookish, either; the whole town says there must be something wrong with her. And her father gets carted off to a mental asylum for being just a little eccentric.
Howard Ashman, who collaborated on the film’s score and had a huge influence on the movie’s story and themes, was a gay man who died of AIDS shortly after work on the film was completed. If you watch the film with that in mind, the message of it becomes clear. Gaston demonstrates that bullies are rewarded and beloved by society as long as they possess a certain set of characteristics, while nice people who don’t are ostracized. The love story between Belle and the Beast is about them finding solace in each other after society rejects them both.
Notice how the Beast reacts when the whole town comes for him. He’s not angry, he’s sad. He’s tired. And he almost gives up because he has nothing to live for. But then he sees that Belle has come back for him, and suddenly he does. In the original fairy tale, the Beast asks Belle to marry him every night, and the spell is broken when she accepts. In the Disney movie, he waits for her to love him, because he cannot love himself. That’s how badly being ostracized from society and told that you’re a monster all your life can fuck with your head and make you stop seeing yourself as human.
Society rewards the bullies because we’ve been brought up to believe that their victims don’t belong. That if someone doesn’t fit in, then they have to be put in their place, or destroyed.
The only issue I have with this is that there is not a single lie told. So often victims of bullying are made to feel as if they have done something wrong or that they may have done something to bring on bullying. There are even instances where people (and you can find those types almost anywhere) feel as if the victim somehow deserved to be bullied.
The responsibility of the bullying, rest squarely on the shoulders of the bully-NOT the victim.
There is nothing that an individual could do to bring on such torment from another person. We see it all the time. People are bullied because of their race, social status, intellect, athletic ability, sexual orientation and so forth. This just means that no one is exempt from being the target of someone with such low self-esteem and self-worth, who literally has nothing else better to do with their life than to make someone else’s, a living hell.
Even if you have been fortunate enough not to meet a Gaston in your life, more than likely someone you know has. (This is really me hoping that YOU were not that bully; and if you were, hopefully, you have changed your ways).
I have had my fair share of them: they made my middle and high school life a living hell. For no apparent reason at all, other than they were well…here are a list of reasons, so that I don’t assume as to why they were jerks. So much to the point that it sparked an eating disorder that continued through college and severe depression. It has even lead to the decision of me homeschooling my own children just to spare them the pain of dealing with other people’s hateful spawns.
Bullies often have poor coping skills and tackle their insecurities by manipulating others to raise their own perceived self-importance.
So often you read stories of parents who have tried and tried to deal with bullying directly with the school or district, yet nothing comes of it. While there are massive anti-bullying “zero-tolerance” efforts across the country; it does not negate the fact that often times bully’s are still not appropriately dealt with by schools, leaving their victims (and their families) to fend for themselves.
When bullying carries over to adulthood
Schools are not the only place where bullying occurs. Workplace bullying is also very commonplace. According to Forbes, nearly 75% or an estimated 54 million Americans, are or have been, victims of workplace bullying.
People become targets because something about them is threatening to the bully. Often they are more skilled, more technically proficient, have a higher EQ or people just like them better.
Unfortunately, bullying in the workplace can cost companies severely if not dealt with correctly. The sad part is often times, the bullying is done by those in positions of power, unlike during adolescence where there is no true authority or *important* influence held (sorry captain of the football or cheerleading squad is not an important role), even though the effects are equally as devastating. The most common theme, however, whether it be a bratty kid or unstable adult, all bullies thrive on power.
Whether it’s giving a pass on terrible behavior to the running back of the local high school football team or promoting the most problematic person the world could imagine, to a seat of power; we can’t deny that as a society we have shifted our efforts to shaming the victims instead of helping.
Most of us will not experience a Cinderella style abusive upbringing. We will not be a pawn for a scheming villain like Jafar, Ursula or Scar. But we will all meet a Gaston. Every one of us will, at some point, meet a person whose nasty, bullying behavior is excused by the people around them because they’re rich, handsome, good at sports, or their parents are important. And that is why Gaston is a terrifying Disney villain. Because there’s at least one version of him in everyone’s life. -Unknown
How do you feel we as a society treat the bully vs. the victim? Could we do better? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section!
Love of impromptu dance parties, 80’s cartoons, and horizontal life pauses (aka naps); Natasha Brown is a stay at home mom of 4 kids, and wife to one lucky guy! In her spare time, she is co-editor of Grits & Grace, as well as editor for The Mother Hustler Blog and Creative Director for the Mother Hustler podcast.