You know how people say, “Well, I really feel old because…” and then it’s usually because they walked to school two miles in the snow with no legs and a harried Vietnamese sniper nudging them along with the tip of his bayonet the whole way?
Well, I feel old because I just realized that Beauty and the Beast, one of my FAVORITE Disney movies of all time, will be turning 20 years old in 2011. That’s unbelievable, because I just watched it for the first time at age 6. We’d just come to America and I was in first grade, and we were dirt poor. We had this program in our school that gave gift certificates to movie rentals. And the movie rental store was a couple minutes’ walk from our apartment, which was in the Philly suburbs ghetto. Come on, the street was called Axe Factory Road. And, it was 1992, so obviously, there were rows and rows of tapes crammed together, some missing cover artwork, some hastily scrawled on.
I believe we got these gift certificates once a semester or something like that, and it was the Hightlight of My Life. When we went to redeem them (usually taking a walk with my mom,) the first time, for whatever reason, I got Beauty and the Beast. And I was ELECTRIFIED. I loved everything in that movie. My parents did too, even though none of our English was stellar at that point. We watched it on our ghetto VCR and ghetto TV that, if I recall correctly, my dad picked up from the curb way before it was cool to do so on Craigslist. I watched that tape at least five or six times before we had to take it back to the rental, and ever since then, when I got the gift certificate, I always got Beauty and the Beast, except for one time when I also rented Santa and Rudolph, a big plate of tsuris for my mom. I distinctly remember, from that time, my favorite part was at the very end, when they showed the stained glass where everything was ‘happily ever after.’
Since then, we rented it many times, at many different places. When it finally came out on tape, we didn’t buy it, mostly because we didn’t have the money. Other times, when it was re-released, we still hesitated, because, hey $20 is a lot for a tape, even though it was one of our favorites. Recently, though, my parents caved and bought the tape. And recently, about a month ago when I was home for the weekend without Dan, we watched it again. And it was as amazing as always, and has become a family tradition. This is very interesting for me, because we don’t have a lot of traditions that revolve around American anything. 98% of our DVD collection is culled from the greatest Russian movies of the 1960s and 1970s that my dad skipped class to go watch.
Recently, I brought up the movie to Dan, and he said he’d never seen it. WHAT. Unacceptable. I thought all children over the age of 10 were supposed to have seen the great Disney movies of the early 90s by law. So, we got together, and I watched it with him. I don’t think he was as thrilled as me, but that’s not because it’s not a good movie, but because also I think I have nostalgic associations with it, which heightens it in my view.
The other reason that I LOVE it, is because I’ve always identified with Belle more than any other Disney heroine. She loves to read, is independent, and is always yearning for more than what life in her small town can give her, which is how I felt growing up in Mechanicsburg, where the main Friday night attraction is calling up all your friends and finding out which one of the two area malls they will be hanging out in that night. Which is why this part was always one of my favorite parts of the movie:
And this would probably be the second:
I know. This is the part where everyone makes fun of me for being a colossal N-E-R-D. But really, what better way to show a person you understand them than to give them something that fits it perfectly? Just the music and the thrill of seeing those books is enough to make me cry. This is how I felt when Dan, whose being Jewish pretty much consists of agreeing with Noam Chomsky and telling me I don’t have any sehel and avoiding eating pork on Saturdays, proposed to me in a synagogue. That’s when you know someone gets you. And that is what this movie is all about for me.