jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
So I just read an article from #MetroNewsCanada. Here's a quote:
Since it’s release in the U.S. and Australia last week, hundreds of Calgarians have found a work-around (that we can’t legally explain here) to download the mobile app and begin hunting in popular areas like Kensington or the Bow River.
Wait... what? They can't legally explain it? What exactly is the relevant law here? Was it the Nintendo Media Non-Disclosure Act of 2015 (aka the Gotta-hide-'em-all act)?

I get that they might not want to publish a technical how-to for assorted reasons (it's likely long, dry, and not pertinent to most of their readers), but why are they blaming the legal system?

IANAL, but I'm pretty sure I can describe illegal things in public. That includes such facts as "breaking someone's windshield with a sledgehammer is vandalism", without people misinterpreting my level of detail as instructions. There might be a few exceptions - court-ordered publication bans for example, but I'm pretty sure Nintendo's terms of service don't qualify.

Maybe - maybe - you could argue that Metro News was under some kind of contract not to release the information (in which case, they need better lawyers), but then they say this in the last paragraph:
"The game isn’t officially out in Canada yet, but there are plans to roll it out eventually. Until then, players are going online to find a work-around at get the game."
Ok, got it - if you want to play the game, go online and ask how. Thanks for the explanation that you're not legally allowed to give.

Murder is illegal. Somebody violating the terms of service of a video game by using a proxy server to download it (I imagine - haven't checked) is also illegal, technically. I wish we had a term to differentiate between those extremes. I guess we have summary conviction offenses (roughly what an American would call a misdemeanor) here, but even that seems harsh compared to this level of "crime". Is there a term even more damp and milquetoast? Maybe the Latin phrase for "you've got to be kidding me".

I'm really curious what prompted them to write that disclaimer.

As to Pokémon GO, not me thing. But hey, if it sounds like fun, have at 'er. Just watch you don't get hit by a car, and be mindful that there are people around you not playing the game.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Hackers exposed the user information from 37 million Ashely Madison/Established Men users. The former is the well-known cheat-on-your-spouse site, the latter, a site for rich men looking for young women. Both are pretty creepy.

I was briefly tempted to download the leaked data and see what I could find (searching for friends/relatives/coworkers basically) but changed my mind temporarily when I discovered the compressed data was almost 10GB in size. If I'm going to clobber my bandwidth, it's going to be for something worthwhile, like season 3 of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (I didn't download it - it fell off the back of a truck - honest).

My resolve became permanent when it occurred to me that this was like those leaked celebrity photos of Jennifer Lawrence et al. It was none of my business. If they want me, personally, to see their nude body, then they can let me know, or take a role involving nudity. And private pictures meant for someone else, just don't cut it.

Similarly, I have zero business looking at the Ashley Madison data. Why? Because it's a cheating website and I do not have a partner. If I were in a relationship where there was an expectation of monogamy, and I suspected my partner of cheating, then I have cause to look at that data - and even then, I should only look for them.

As Amanda Marcotte points out, cheating on your spouse does not violate the social contract, only a personal one.

There was a point where I found the whole Josh Duggar thing funny. It stopped being funny when I read this. A lot of people in less savory areas of the world (and let's be honest, here in the civilized west too) are now at severe risk, because of the hackers who stole this information. That risk goes beyond destroyed relationships and could include lost jobs, social ostracism, and death. You're a gay man in Saudi Arabia and you've been outed? Get the hell out of there if you can, is my advice. I can't imagine the religious police taking "it's none of your business" to heart. Religious Police is basically claiming the role of busybody and combining it with coercive violence. If you know anyone who makes the claim that that's a good thing, it's time to stop having anything to do with them.

One thing I've learned over the years is that lots of people cheat. While this may be a bad act, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are bad people - a distinction that took a long time to grok. Doesn't mean the victim needs to be sympathetic to them (I certainly wouldn't be, if I were the victim), but sometimes us innocent bystanders should be. Or if not forgiving, at least not willing to join in on the dog-pile. A simple "Yeah, maybe you should have split up before that, if things were so bad. Anyway, it's not my problem, so let's move on" should do, if it needs comment at all. In the end, what does going after a third-party cheater gain you? Nothing.

This whole situation is one in which there are no good guys, but we can unambiguously define a bad guy. Not Ashley Madison; though conceiving of, building, and maintaining such a project points to systemic sociopathy. Not the cheaters; while a lot of them are assholes, there's enough (like those gay, traveling, Saudis) that aren't that you should not indulge the dog-piling urge. It's the hackers. They tried to destroy a legal (if congenitally icky) company, thus imposing their questionable morals on others. In this I think they have little difference from the religious police. They're just gutless enough not to swing the truncheons themselves. Remember, they opted to release confidential information about random strangers to punish a company. And then they had the gall to claim it was Ashley Madison's fault that they had to release the data, as if they weren't independent moral actors. That like a bad trope that always makes me rage when I see it in fiction. "You forced me to shoot your wife when you didn't hand over your wallet. Her death is on you." No asshole, I think I can firmly put the blame on a murderous mugger. And bad a company as Ashely Madison is, and as bad as their policy to "delete" information was (not) implemented, I can definitely blame you guys for leaking it. Heads will literally roll over this. I hope someday you'll realize that you're to blame.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Phillipe leads Belle to Castle Beast. Again, not so hidden to outsiders. Meanwhile, two servants have a short, but meaningful conversation:

"Couldn't keep quiet, could we? Had to invite him to stay, didn't we? Serve him tea, sit in the master's chair, pet the pooch."
"I was trying to be hospitable."
Let's not forget what happened the last time they were inhospitable. They both have constant reminders.

Anyway, Belle is searching the castle, and I noticed something new this time - Lumiere and Cogsworth surreptitiously lead Belle to the tower. They lure her through doorways without revealing themselves.

Meanwhile, the castle grapevine erupts with news that a girl is in the castle. Every Object there knows what that means. A girl is a potential romantic object for the Beast and a lifting of the curse.

A shame the Beast goes and fucks it up.

Belle has found her father, who warns her to get out of the castle right away and to leave him behind. Naturally she doesn't. Before Maurice can describe the nature of the threat, the Beast arrives and spins Belle around. She drops the torch into a puddle, rendering the area dark, except for a single moonlit beam from a skylight (it's movie darkness, so we can still see everything).

This leads to Belle and the Beast's first real interaction. I've removed Maurice's dialog, because both sides basically ignore him. And I've added the subtext as I see it.

"Who's there? Who are you?"
"The master of this castle." I certainly don't want to tell you who, or worse, what, I am.
"I've come for my father. Please let him out! Can't you see he's sick?" Belle is still concerned only with her father's safety.
"Then he shouldn't have trespassed here." and discovered my shame.
"But he could die. Please, I'll do anything!"
"There's nothing you can do. He's my prisoner." If I'm cursed to be a monster, then I might as well embrace it and do monstrous things.
"Oh, there must be some way I can...wait! Take me, instead!"
"You! You would take his place?" This snaps the Beast out of his current mindset, which is good. This is probably the first time anyone has ever done something self-sacrificing in his life.
"If I did, would you let him go?"
"Yes, but you must promise to stay here forever."
"Come into the light.
Of note, she wants to know who she's dealing with before committing. She knows plenty of untrustworthy *cough* Gaston *cough*

The Beast steps into the light, at first hesitatingly (exposing his form to others is something he's avoided for close to ten years), then fully as if to say this is what I am, take it or leave it. Belle focuses on his eyes at first - enough to see he's will keep his word - but then is overwhelmed by his terrifying form (and try to picture what he would look like outside of a cartoon).

The deal is done and Maurice is sent back to town. Belle is heartbroken that she didn't get a chance to say goodbye. Lumiere, ever the suave one, gives the Beast some advice that he, of course, fucks up. Partially, this is because the Beast is bitter, angry, resentful, and in the grips of chronic depression. Also, it's because he's a teenage boy when it comes to dealing with girls. Seriously, cursed at 20, parents are likely dead, most likely going to have an arranged marriage before magic happened. If there was ever anyone who led an existence sheltered from the fairer sex, it's Prince Adam. In this, his curse probably worked in his favour, since he had to actually get to know Belle as a person, rather than as a trophy wife good for producing an heir and nothing else. Still, anger and bitterness on top of total inexperience is not a good combination. He makes a few cursory attempts at being charming, completely forgetting that Belle is in the midst of a traumatic experience. And then he gets resentful when he doesn't get the reaction he hoped for. Finally, he orders her to attend dinner and slams the door. Charming. He's a stereotypical Nice Guy™

And yet, there are glimmers of empathy. We can see it when Belle is crying. He wants to do the right thing, but has no clue how to do it, or what it would be. The Beast is, at heart, still a man, even if he doesn't know how to be. Still a prick though, hopefully he'll get better.
jamesq: (Beast)
Gaston shows up at Belle's house and proposes marriage, in a scene rife with the threat of sexual violence. This is a Disney Movie? Maybe I've been watching too much Game of Thrones, but it was a little shocking just how scary this scene plays to me now.

The beginning plays as broad humour, with comic-relief villain Gaston bragging to assorted townsfolk (who go along with this) how he's getting married, but first he has to ask the bride! As I pointed out earlier, the animators' continuity was really good - all of the townsfolk are from earlier scenes.

Belle is quietly reading her book when there is a knock on the door. She uses one of Maurice's inventions to see who is at the door and it's Gaston, who despite being in 17th century France, knows to look into the camera! Viewing the scene for this commentary, I noticed something new: Belle does not open the door for Gaston, he barges in without being asked. I imagine that Belle would have quietly pretended to not be home otherwise.

And what does Gaston do in the house? He moves into her personal space, invades her privacy, and gets mud on her new book! Belle, in turn, repeatedly evades him, both physically and verbally, going so far as to put pieces of the furniture between the two of them (which Gaston lightly tosses aside). He never actually asks her to marry him. He does, however, insinuate that she will marry him, repeatedly.

"This is the day your dreams come true."
"What do you know about my dreams, Gaston?"
Finally, he figuratively pins her to the door.

"Say you'll marry me", insists Gaston.
"I'm very sorry, Gaston, but... but... I just don't deserve you."
Belle really does have a masterful way of speaking the truth. I'm going to pay attention now because I suspect that she never once lies in this movie.

Again, this is a Disney movie, so the gravity of the threat isn't going to impact children (though they'll certainly get that this is threatening). As grown-ups, we can recognize the true nature of the threat. Maurice isn't home (interesting coincidence that - I wonder of Gaston knew Maurice would be out of town for several days), Belle is alone, unarmed, and unable to defend against Maurice in any realistic way. He barges into the house, repeatedly tried to corner her, and he certainly wasn't taking no for an answer. In a more realistic setting, she'd have been in real danger of being raped, and I think the presence of half the village was about the only thing staying Gaston from some cartoon-equivalent action.

Anyway, Belle evades Gaston's kiss with some door-judo, and gravity launches Gaston into the pig sty, where the use of an actual pig to underline his pig-nature is made clear. At this point, Gaston is no longer a comic-relief villain, and has graduated to full-on evil bastard. An evil bastard that vows to do whatever it takes to "have Belle". Is there any question that Belle's life in the village (sans a supernatural encounter with a cursed prince) isn't going to rapidly become a nightmare?

Belle comes outside once everyone is gone and reiterates in song that she wants "much more than this provincial life". I suspect that I'm not the only person who cannot separate this sequence from the signature prancing-in-the-meadows scene front The Sound of Music. Apparently it was a deliberate homage.

Finally, Phillipe returns home, indicating to Belle that something has happened to Maurice and simultaneously giving her a way to get to him.

I really am going to try to do these more often than once a year. This one is small, because, aside from the implied threats, it really just underlines the characters some more, and sets up Gaston's later actions.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Two ideas. One is likely already a thing. The second... well, we'll leave it for last.

While attending the Gaming Controversies panel, people touched on the idea of customizable characters. Now this has been a thing for awhile now, but the point the audience member wanted to make was "if you customize your character into a sexual stereotype - is that on you or the developer?". Are developers obligated to be inclusive, or should they respond to market forces? I'm of the opinion that that's not necessarily an either/or scenario. We can be biased while simultaneously ignoring "the market" - i.e. making toys needlessly gender specific when the kids don't care; then using that data to "prove" that girls like pink dolls and boys like blue trucks. Besides, "the market" isn't the be-all-and-end-all of metrics.

The commenter pointed out that one game had a "sexiness" trait that one could use to customize your character. It sounds like it basically increased boob size on the women. Not sure what it would do to the men. Given the number of women I know who appreciate any Marvel actor named "Chris", while simultaneously liking bishōnen, I'm not sure what it would modify. Penis size? Hard to show in a PG game, I imagine.

Why not have your modifiable skills and attributes, in turn, modify your characters appearance, rather than changing their looks directly. You want a stronger character, they look more buff. Smarter? Better choices of dialog. Have the sprites reflect actual morphology. Fast characters look like sprinters; agile ones look like gymnasts, strong ones look like weightlifters or bodybuilders.

As I mention above, I'd be surprised if someone hasn't attempted this already, though maybe not to the extreme I'm describing.

Second idea: Let's say you're playing a Halo-like game where the character is always wearing full body armor. You finish the game and it's time for the big reveal as you stand atop a mountain of vanquished foes as a the sun breaks over the horizon. You pull off your helmet to reveal... A manly white man with blue eyes and a strong jaw!

Assume the game doesn't suck; it gets rave reviews and becomes a best seller.

After the first month, things change. Now there's a random chance they'll get manly white man, or a black woman, or an effeminate Asian man, etc. In fact, all of the visible character traits of the character's face can change. Maybe they're ugly, maybe they're plain or have one eye, or they're tatted up, or have piercings. Their skin and eyes come in any naturally occurring human variation; their hair could be anything under the rainbow. Maybe have ten or so diverse characters with unique looks and back story that players could access online.

Why not do this from the start? Because it needs to get past that initial promotional/review stage with none the wiser. The reveal should be a surprise to the people who could use a little surprise in their lives.

The players have a feedback option that includes "I'd like to complain about how the main character looks in the finale". They click the button, which opens a MessageBox:

For the last 60+ hours, you've played a genetically enhanced super soldier wearing powered battle armor in the far future. Does it really matter what they look like underneath?
No game designer would ever do it of course, because profits. Still, I can dream.

And if they wanted to play it again, they could do so, choosing a character they haven't played yet.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
When you haven't been writing, there's always memes. In this case, [livejournal.com profile] catcetera tagged me on Facebook to describe ten books that had a big influence on my life. I'm supposed to tag three other people to keep the meme going, but I'm not a big fan of obligating people to do things for my amusement. I think it's a fun exercise, so I'll just tag "people on my livejournal feed who think it would be fun".

Onto the books, in no particular order:

1) The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. Simply the best book on skeptical thinking I've ever read. The Baloney-detection kit alone is reason to have this book included in high-school curriculums everywhere. I've owned five copies of this book. They keep getting "loaned" out.

2) The Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner. This book is responsible for my love of Alice in Wonderland. It gave me a deeper understanding of the source material and triggered a love for nonsense verse and logical puzzles.

3) A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. Ballard's discovery of Titanic's wreck in 1985 may have triggered my love of Titanic, but it was Walter Lord's book that sealed it. Many books have been written about the details. This is still the best overview of what happened for the beginner. Titanic would be a historical footnote if it weren't for Walter Lord.

4) The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. What would you do if the end of the world happened? This book gave me my first taste of an everyman dealing with a cozy calamity. I've had a fondness for those stories ever since. This is also a zombie apocalypse novel if you squint hard enough.

5) The Chrysalids also by John Wyndham. This is the better of the two, and just the thing for my teenage self to dig his teeth into, especially when my teenage self was so horribly misunderstood by the hidebound grownups around me.

6) The C Programming Language by Kernighan & Ritchie. There are richer languages out there (C's descendants C++ and C# for example), but I still have a soft spot for C, warts and all, since it was the first programming language I truly grokked. Plus, any book that has sat on my desk, constantly used, for my entire professional life, must be influential.

7) The Stand by Stephen King. The first time I truly identified with one of the bad guys was this novel. I still feel angry that HEL didn't make the right decision.

8) Captain Canuck #4 by Richard Comely. This was the comic that got me into collecting - 'nuff said.

9) The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. Modern characters transported to a fantasy realm? Yes please. The best example of that trope that I've ever read. Approaching the end, I dreaded that the ending could not live up to the wonder of the previous pages. My fears were unfounded - the last page was as good as it could be and let me put the book down with a feeling of satisfaction that few books have equaled.

10) ElfQuest by Wendy and Richard Pini. The original twenty issues were awesome. A pity they never wrote anything else. These books introduced me to Fandom and for that alone, they deserve a place on this list.
jamesq: (Beast Portrait)
The next section begins with Belle and Gaston talking. We reinforce a lot of what we saw in Little Town - Belle tries to avoid Gaston with her book, like she does everyone else. In fact, they don't have a real conversation until Gaston takes her book away.

A brief part of the conversation reinforces how much of a chauvinist Gaston is, and how Belle gets her digs in, in a way that won't cause retaliation.
Gaston: It's not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas, and thinking...
Belle: Gaston, you are positively primeval.
Gaston: Why thank you, Belle.
Belle understands that she can't be direct with Gaston - To do so is to court violence. In fact the only time she really shows any sort of emotion aside from a mild sort of annoyance is when Le Fou and Gaston bad mouth her father Maurice (unnamed until much later in the movie). Then she gets defensive.

Belle: I have to get home to help my father. Goodbye.
Le Fou: Ha ha ha. That crazy old loon - he needs all the help he can get!
Gaston and Le Fou laugh.
Belle (Angrily): Don't talk about my father that way.
Gaston (turning on Le Fou): Yeah, don't talk about her father that way.
Belle: My father is not crazy - he's a genius!
Belle's statement is punctuated by an explosion coming from their cottage just outside town, belying her conviction about her father's sanity. Thankfully it gives her an excuse to extricate herself from Gaston.

Belle rushes in to find her father caught in the aftermath of a comical cartoon explosion that leaves nothing but soot and inconsequential debris.

Maurice is struggling with his prototype wood-chopping device (which looks like the sort of thing cooked up by someone who simply wanted to duplicate the motions of a man chopping wood, rather than the effects of a man chopping wood). It gives us an excuse to see Belle and Maurice interact.

And what does this reveal? That they've been on their own for awhile; That Maurice grouses a lot, but manages to get things to work eventually; that Belle is fiercely proud of Maurice.

A few other things: Belle knows her way around a toolbox, and Maurice is completely unaware of what the townsfolk think of him - he sees the surface of the little town, but not what's underneath. That he thinks of Gaston as "a handsome fellow". Maurice is probably someone who relates to machines better than people - Belle no doubt comes by her introversion honestly. One wonders what kind of woman Maurice's wife was. Also, Maurice probably doesn't plan on being in the little town much longer - he clearly sees them moving on to bigger and better things. Maurice the Parisian Edison? His device does work after all!

This is all important because we are about to shift focus entirely to Maurice. We have to make the audience care for Maurice, it will make his upcoming perils more perilous.

Maurice and Philipe (the horse) go into a dark wood and take the wrong turn towards Castle Beast. Note that Maurice has a map. If it was manufactured outside the enchantment zone, it's probably correct and does show a shorter route - one past the castle. Maurice may well have been perfectly correct to go the way he did - if only some Enchantress hadn't screwed things up! Philipe want's nothing to do with this path, both because of it's obviously scarier, but also because part of the enchantment probably wards it away.

Things rapidly degenerate and Maurice loses his way, his horse and his hat. Soon he will lose his freedom.

Maurice finds his way to the castle, there we meet the first of the two Objects - Lumiere and Cogsworth. Notably, Cogsworth wants to minimize damage, not upset the Master. Lumiere OTOH wants to help. Maurice reacts to them initially like they're automations, wanting to examine them, but he quickly copes with the idea of enchanted objects. The presence of a visitor to the Castle cannot be lost on either of them. Word rapidly spreads and soon Mrs. Potts and Chip also find their way to helping Maurice.

They all know not to turn away cold hungry visitors now. Sadly, their Master has not learned this lesson.

The Beast appears. We don't get a good look at him now. But we do see that he is large and powerfully built and fast despite his bulk. He travels largely on all fours, like an animal, even though he can move on two legs if he chooses. Notably at this point he does not choose to.

The Beast reacts to Maurice's presence with anger. He is all id. While he demands answers from Maurice, the answers do not matter. Nothing Maurice says will stop the Beast from doing what he intended all along - to stick Maurice in a dark hole.

And I think the reason for this is fear and shame. Until this point, only the other people in the castle know Adam's shame and horror. But what if this stranger left and told others? What if people came and discovered him? What if people treated him like the freak he knows in his heart that he is?

Beast: Who are you? What are you doing here?
Maurice: I-I-I was lost in the woods, and-and...
Beast: You're not welcome here!
Maurice: I-I-I'm sorry.
Beast: What are you staring at?
Maurice: N-nothing.
Beast: So, you've come to stare at the BEAST, haven't you?
Maurice: Please, I meant no harm. I-I just need a place to stay.
Beast: I'll give you a place to stay.
Maurice: No, no! Please! No, no!
Notably, the Beast does not simply kill Maurice. Deep down, he's not a killer and still has some piece of his humanity left. No what the Beast does is he hides the evidence of his shame. He reacts as a child would when they've done something horrible. They have to make it not so. The last thing Adam wants is to be seen, to be gawked at, and so he does the only thing that he can think of - he imprisons Maurice. It appears that he does this out of rage, but I think the rage is just masking his real emotion - fear and shame.
jamesq: (Beast)
Musicals have songs, and the point of those songs is to give a very quick information dump to the audience. If all of the information conveyed in a song was given as a narration it would seem hollow and boring; you'd likely skip past it in another form, but a good musical number will make you want to listen to it again and again.

You can go the narrative route in a play, but you really need to work at doing it well. It works best if you have an "outside" character speaking directly to the audience (such as the collector in The Drowsy Chaperone), or one character plays where the character is describing their inner thoughts.

In standard musical theatre, the opening number needs to quickly establish the setting, the main character and the conflict. Conveying the same amount of information in other genres requires showing, rather than telling. A good novel for example would spend the first chapter establishing all of the same information that we get in a five minute song.

Belle (Bonjour), the opening number, establishes the setting and Belle's character first:

Little town
It's a quiet villlage
Every day
Like the one before
Little town
Full of little people
Waking up to say...
Bonjour, bonjour
Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour!

Belle lives in a "poor, provincial town" which lacks the stimulation that she desires. The things that interest her (stories mostly, but also the sorts of things that happen in stories) don't interest the people in the village. They ignore her when she tries to engage them in the things she likes and has gotten a reputation for being "strange, no question". In fact the only townsperson she seems to be friendly with is the bookseller.

Bookkeeper: Ah, Belle!
Belle: Hello! I've come to return the book I borrowed!
Bookkeeper: Finished already?
Belle: Oh, I couldn't put it down! Have you got anything new?
Bookkeeper: Not since yesterday!
Belle: That's alright...I'll borrow this one!
Bookkeeper: That one! But you've read it twice!
Belle: Well, it's my favorite!

We see that they have an easy familiarity with each other, the sort that comes from time spent together and similar personalities. He is much like her, albeit older. It must be tough being a bookseller in this poor, provincial town. I suspect the odd looks Belle gets are also directed towards him.

I like to think that she trades basic housekeeping duties to him in exchange for borrowing books. They both seem to take for granted that this isn't questionable behaviour. She probably can't afford many books.
Far off places, daring swordfights
Magic spells, a prince in diguise!
Bookeeper: If you like it all that much, it's yours!
Belle: But sir...
Bookkeeper: I insist!
Belle: Well, thank you! Thank you very much!

Aside: What book do you suppose she's reading? From the description and the brief picture we see:

...my bet would be "La Belle et la Bête", the traditional fairy tale her own story is based on. Just a little wink from the creators.

So, with a few exceptions, Belle doesn't really fit in with anyone in town. Why is that?

Townspeople: Look there she goes
That girl is so peculiar
I wonder if she's feeling well
With a dreamy far-off look
And her nose stuck in a book
What a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle

Belle is an introvert. She's shy, prefers reading to interacting with people, and she has a rich internal fantasy life. Is it any wonder that I like her so much? She's a classic nerd!

The song continues, but it's also interesting to watch what's going on. Belle is using her book to not have to talk to people. She walks out of the bookshop right by three would-be suitors and completely ignores them as if she didn't notice them at all. Later, she shows that she's sufficiently aware of her surroundings to keep from being drenched by night soil. She's clearing using the book as a social shield! I know people like that. Hell, I am someone who does that, especially on transit.

Which is not to say that she's mean. She pats children on the head, she's unfailingly polite to the people she interacts with, she still tries to connect with them even though she knows it won't do any good.

Look there she goes
A girl who's strange but special
A most peculiar mad'moiselle
It's a pity and a sin
She doesn't quite fit in
'Cause she really is a funny girl
A beauty but a funny girl
She really is a funny girl
That Belle

Of course, we don't just establish Belle's character in this number, we also establish Gaston's.

Lafue: Wow! You didn't miss a shot Gaston! You're the greatest hunter in the whole world.
Gaston: I know.
Lafue: No beast alive stands a chance against you. And no girl for that matter.
Gaston: It's true Lafue. And I've got my sights set on that one.
Lafue: The inventors daughter?!
Gaston: She's the one! The lucky girl I'm going to marry!
Lafue: But she's...
Gaston: The most beautiful girl in town. That makes her the best! And don't I deserve the best!?

So what can we say about Gaston? He's conceited, arrogant and presumptuous! Clearly the villain, but not yet so bad as to be villainous. Right now, he's just a jerk. Also a little foreshadowing, since both the beast and the girl will have to face him. Also, the "silly girls" (seriously, that's how they're referred to in the musical numbers) would probably happily spend some time in a haystack with him. Probably they already have.

We also learn a bit more about Belle: She's the inventor's daughter. At least she comes by her weirdness naturally!

And the number ends, returning from "musical reality" to "narrative reality". Belle looks behind her to see the townsfolk weren't actually doing an elaborate song-and-dance, but are just going about their early morning shop-day business.

For a movie that is 99% hand-animated, the complexity is pretty astonishing. There are large crowd scenes, the costumes are detailed. In long shots we can immediately pick out the main characters. Additionally, there's lots of little easter eggs in the crowd scenes, lending the town additional character. One of the silly girls is wearing bloomers; There's a cat chewing on one of the fishmonger's products; Townsfolk are looking around and interacting with each other, not just moving blankly ahead or just looking at the principles.

We also get the first look at reoccurring "extras". The baker always looks like the baker, the cheese-seller always looks like the cheese-seller. Not just in this scene, but in later scenes. In particular the same people show up later in the tavern sequences and the Mob Song. The people who handled continuity did a very good job.

One five minute song tells us most of what we need to know about the protagonist and antagonist. She's a shy intellectual who feels disconnected from the people around her. They think she's an oddball in a time and place where conformity is considered a virtue. A conceited bore plans on making her his conquest. The town idolizes said bore, so there will be no assistance from that quarter.
jamesq: (Beast Portrait)
Once upon a time in a far away land, a young prince lived in a shining castle...
And thus begins Disney's Beauty and the Beast (Hereafter BatB) and my pondering about the movie.

We begin by zooming in on the castle that was. It's a pretty good representation of Cinderella Castle - the one we see at the opening of every Disney movie. From there we have a montage of stained-glass frames representing the backstory. An enchantress in disguise tests Prince Adam (unnamed in the movie) and finds him wanting. She places Adam, the Castle and all of the inhabitants under a powerful spell. The spell will only be broken if he can learn to love someone and they love him in return. She leaves him with two magical objects. The first is the rose she offered as part of the test; it acts as a timer for Prince Adam - if he fails before the last petal falls, he's doomed to remain a beast forever (and the castle inhabitants are likewise doomed). The second item is a mirror that shows him anything his heart desires - it's used primarily to advance the plot. Notably, the mirror and its function are lifted straight from the original story.

Finally, we see the Prince's despair as he destroys the portrait of his human face and the newly uglified West Wing. The detail for the castle in both its pre and post-transformation forms is very good, especially for a movie that was 99% hand drawn.

Prince Adam

The Beast's name is never mentioned in the movie - he is referred to as "Prince", "Beast" or "Master" throughout. This represents one of the few missteps that the creators made. A scene could have been inserted where the Beast reveals his name to Belle, showing his returning civilized side. In the earlier parts of the movie, the Beast is referred to only descriptively, further dehumanizing him, but later he could have been referred to by name, humanizing him. I'll show the ideal place to do this later, when we get to it.

The name "Adam" is an unusual choice and probably reflects a marketing person's attempt at finding a suitable name. While there is no reason the Prince of a quasi-French realm couldn't be named Adam, I think a more French name would have been better. Possibly Adam was chosen specifically so it wouldn't be too French-y, and thus to American ears, girly.

As for his title, the King's son would certainly have been missed, so Prince is used here to mean the ruler of a Principality. In rank, Adam would be lower than a Duke, but higher than a Marquess. Liechtenstein is a Principality and is only 61 square mile in area, so we can see that the area of Adam's rule is not necessarily that large. This is important for the next section.

The Nature of the Enchantress and Her Spell

The spell the Enchantress places on Adam was very powerful, it had the following effects:
  • Adam was transformed into a beast.
  • The Castle and it's immediate surroundings are made to look scarier.
  • The inhabitants of the castle are transformed into animate Objects, representing their various jobs.
  • Normal objects also become animate, but not sentient.
  • The rules of time and space between the immediate area of the castle and the rest of the Principality become skewed.
  • The people of the Principality forget about their local nobility.
The last three of these are not immediately obvious. I can support all of these claims though.

First, there are many more animate objects in the castle than there would have been people. I doubt every fork and spoon represents someone. While Chip is later told by his mother Mrs. Potts to "get into the cupboard with your brothers and sisters", I doubt that every cup is one of Chip's siblings. If that's the case, Mrs. Potts was a very fertile woman in her prime. We can safely assume that any object that speaks or has eyes (eyes are the windows to the soul, and the ability to talk separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom) is probably a person, and any that lack those traits is not. The only exception is the ottoman, which was a dog (and notably doesn't have eyes). I'll use the convention of Maguire's re-imagined Oz novels (where the sentient animals are referred to as Animals, with a capital, to distinguish them from normal animals) and call the objects that were originally people as Objects.

Time is also out of whack and only peripherally connected to the outside world. The period of time that the castle is enchanted is ten years (from Be Our Guest: "Ten years we've been rusting..."). This leads to a possible contradiction where the enchantment is to last until the Prince's 21st year. Either the Prince was cursed as an eleven year old, or the nature of the spell means time is not a constant. My belief is that the Beast is just shy of 21 when he is cursed. We don't see much of the all important portrait before it is shredded, but it does look like a young man, and not an eleven year old boy. The Rose is then a more ambiguous timer, perhaps dropping a petal every year to mark the passage of time. Perhaps it sometimes goes multiple years without dropping a petal, or sometimes drops two at once. This would be additional psychological torture on the beast.

So the adult Prince has been cursed, and that curse is nearing the end of ten years. That's a nice round number.

Meanwhile, over the course of the story, three days occur in the village. First day: Belle in the village, Maurice leaves and is imprisoned. Second day: Gaston proposes, Belle switches places with Maurice, Maurice returns to the village. Third day:Belle sees Maurice in the mirror and returns him home, Gaston and the villagers attack the castle). Inside the castle it appears that several weeks or months go by - Beast and Belle have time to get to know each other, and Disney was able to insert two additional movies into the narrative.

Meanwhile, the Principality (as represented by the "poor provincial town") doesn't seem to have noticed that their Prince has gone missing for close to ten years. No deliveries go to the castle and no communication comes from it. Possibly it's been a lot less than ten years to them. I figure it's been, at most, a year or two.

But it's not just time that's screwed up, it's also perceptions - the villagers seem unaware that a huge castle, less than a day's ride away, even exists. The spell has affected them too - either they avoid the whole area because of taboo, or their mind is fogged to not even realize it's there. They simply have a blind spot when it comes to the castle. They don't notice the road leading up to it, and people off road (hunters for example) simply deflect around it. For ten years the villagers have been without nobility and have never questioned it. For example, Gaston poaches enough to do use antlers in all of his decorating, and wouldn't the local Prince object to that? Gaston, being the "strong man" of the village, is half way to becoming the local nobility. Certainly everyone defers to him. But I didn't want to get into Gaston this early. Suffice to say, the village behaves like it is also under an enchantment.

I imagine travellers deciding that the villagers are all crazy and vice-versa.
"Who lives in that castle a half-day's ride north of here?"
"What castle?"
"The giant castle with multiple towers that you can see from miles away. That castle."
"Don't know what you're talking about - there are no castles around here."
Notably, Belle and Maurice moved to the village from somewhere else. Both of them have no problem finding the castle because neither of them were part of the initial enchantment.

And what of the enchantress? Good? Evil? Capricious?

One could argue that's she's good if one takes a "tough love" approach. She curses the Prince, but it's to teach him a valuable lesson in not being a cruel ruler. She knows that Belle will appear and times events so that this will happen.

On the other hand, she did enchant everyone in the castle, for the Prince's transgression. Even if you assume that the servants were equally guilty (for not standing up to their Master when he was being a jerk), that doesn't explain Chip - trapped as a tea cup for ten years, and mentally stalled as a six-year old. Certainly he didn't deserve this fate. If we assume that the enchantress is evil, these objections go away - the test was akin to putting a rock under a hat in the street knowing that someone was going to kick it and break their toe. In this case, the extent of the spell, the magic items left behind and the nature of it are all there simply to be cruel. He's a beast, and his servants are Objects, the village has forgotten them, and the only two magical items left both serve to remind him of what he's lost - If you'd been cursed into an inhuman form, what would your "heart's desire" be? In this version, the mirror likely showed him his human form, or his death.

Finally, perhaps the enchantress is simply a capricious demigod, like Circe. Quick to anger and to punish, but her spells have loopholes - not so that the loopholes will inevitably be exploited, but because demigods are simply not that clever compared to humans who require wits rather than magic to survive. In this version, the enchantress intends for the curse to be permanent, the nature of the spell requires an "out" so she puts in an unlikely "true love" clause, not really expecting it to happen.

Next time, we're introduced to Belle, Gaston and the "poor provincial town". Lots of back story there to chew over.


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