Beauty and The Beast: Retro Romance or Morality Tale?

The 1980s urban fantasy romance “Beauty and the Beast” show is far better than its modern remake, yet has some issues.
Tamra Wilson | May 24, 2016 | 6 comments |

“Beauty and the Beast” is one of my favorite fairy tales. I love the story’s main point of seeing past the exterior and seeing what the person really is, and thus I was inspired to write an adaptation of my own.

My brother and I went searching all over the internet to find the perfect look for my Beast, when we remembered the clips we had seen of the 1980s TV show “Beauty and the Beast.”

Beauty and the Beast is what is now called “urban fantasy,” in which fantasy creatures and events appear in a modern city setting. It centers around Catherine Chandler (Linda Hamilton) an up-and-coming young lawyer, who is kidnapped off the streets, beaten, and left for dead, She is rescued by a kindly humanoid-animal hybrid, um … thingy, named Vincent (Ron Perlman) who nurses her back to health. They fall in love and as a result, Vincent can sense when Catherine is in danger. Catherine takes a job with the district attorney, taking on the most dangerous and difficult cases, which result in her needing Vincent’s rescuing in… just about every episode early on.

Once the writers get their feet under them, things go much more smoothly. Catherine ends up saving Vincent at least as much as he saves her!

Vincent is a gentle man who cares for Catherine a great deal, and Catherine in turn, cares for him, both willing to sacrifice for the sake of the other. Both Vincent and Catherine care about the poor and underprivileged that Catherine aids as an attorney and Vincent and his “Father” take into their underground home of “The Tunnels.” Father cares for Vincent as his own son and shows great concern for his well-being, though he sometimes comes across as rude to Catherine.

If you want to talk about content concerns, there’s not even any kissing! Nope, not one single time do Catherine and Vincent kiss.

Now, the idea of a guy — who loves poetry, chivalry, and Renaissance clothes — charging in to save you is undeniably romantic. However, on occasion, these types of characters extract a subconscious desire in girls of a certain temperament to want a guy just like that.1
But guys like Vincent aren’t real. Can you imagine if they were? I think that some guy charging in every time someone surprises you would get old real fast!

justiceleague_martianmanhunterNow, there is no real “magic” in this version of Beauty and the Beast, but Vincent’s telepathic abilities could be considered such. Because of Vincent’s appearance, raw power, and telepathy, I would consider him more of a superhero, sort of like Martian Manhunter, than a magical creature.

Speaking of raw power, it is implied that when Vincent arrives to save Catherine, he kills the people who threaten her or himself. Only three times does Vincent strike out and the person is killed for sure. Vincent, when angered, doesn’t realize his own strength, so most of these, if they are fatalities at all could be considered accidents, a la the Incredible Hulk.

This implied body count is the only thing that really bothered me about this show. Yeah, these are bad dudes, most of whom have killed, but it just bugs me that the hero is laying waste to these guys. The only other issue is mild swearing (maybe an “OMG” or a d–n once or twice an episode).

Despite the occasionally cheesy dialogue and Linda Hamilton’s hammy acting, “Beauty and the Beast” was a pioneering show. I’m willing to bet that modern fantasy shows wouldn’t exist without its presence on the airwaves in the 80’s. Romance, adventure, fantasy, it had it all … now if only there wasn’t that moral ambiguity about Vincent’s kill rate.

  1. Read Books Are Dangerous, a great article on the subject.
Tamra Wilson is a student just awarded her Bachelor's in English. Raised in a Christian home, she came to faith at a young age and loves all things fantasy. She spends her days in northern New York, dreaming of becoming a spec-fic author herself.

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Parker J. Cole

I LOVE THIS VERSION OF BEAUTY AND THE BEAST! I grew up watching it as a kid. Me and my sisters both loved this show. We often joke that Ron Perlman looked better as the Beast than with his own face in Conan and the Alien: Resurrection. We loved this show so this brought back a TON of memories.

I remember thinking that the reason why they couldn’t kiss was because of the whole animal hybrid thing but I LOVED the show.

R. J. Anderson

The violence in the show was definitely the most disturbing thing about it. At sixteen I loved all the poetry and the longing glances and the swoony atmosphere of romance, and I even thought Vincent’s lion makeup rather handsome. But Vincent clawing his way through gangs of street toughs (or, in one harrowing episode, being caught and tortured on-screen by thugs who think he’s a monster) haunted me. In the end I decided to put up with the one for the sake of the other, but I always wished I hadn’t needed to choose.

[SPOILERS AHOY, AND FORGIVE ME FOR RUINING YOUR CHILDHOODS] They did eventually kiss, though. It was a pretty weird and one-sided kiss (not only because Vincent was unconscious at the time but the lion makeup made it impossible for Ron Perlman to move his upper lip), and then there were… a lot of flashing images of flowers and fireworks that were not terribly subtle and made me think Oh No, and then a few episodes later Catherine died giving birth to Vincent’s son and I was FURIOUS, so I will never forget it. (Apparently Linda Hamilton got pregnant in real life and wanted to leave, so they wrote her pregnancy into the script before killing off her character and replacing her. Ratings plummeted instantly, of course, and it was promptly cancelled, so they really would have been better just to have Catherine and Vincent walk off into the sunset and wrap up the show.)

Kevin C. Neece

Ah, but there WAS a kiss! Well, maybe a “soul kiss,” I don’t know. In the episode “A Happy Life,” Vincent and Catherine run to each other after a long separation, in an epic moment that culminates in a passionate embrace. But, just as they are about to come together, everything slows down and there can be seen between them a ghostly double exposure of a real, on the lips kiss! Then, time speeds back up and they collapse into their usual Catherine’s-head-on-Vincent’s-chest-Super-Hug(TM).

And this series is huge in my world. It’s pretty much why I became friends with this wonderful girl I’ve now been friends with for nearly 25 years and happen to be married to. 🙂 Thanks for writing about it, Tamra!

Lauren B
Lauren B

Haven’t seen this, but I really liked the remake!