A Short History of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in Pop Culture

ABC recently announced an order for a new one-hour pilot based on Beauty and the Beast – about a week after The CW announced their own pilot for the same kind of show (though they claim theirs is a crime drama). Add to this the successful 3D re-release of the 1991 Disney animated film and it seems like it’s shaping up to be a great year for Belle and all her talking-furniture friends.

We’ve already revisited some other Beauty and the Beast-like girl-loves-ugly-boy couples – now let’s look at the many interpretations of the original French fairy tale that have surfaced throughout pop culture.

La Belle et la Bête

In the original story, Beauty is a 14-year-old girl and the youngest of three children. Her sisters are selfish and mean (fairy tale writers all must have had grudges against their older siblings), and her father is a merchant who steals a rose from the Beast’s garden. He is allowed to return to give Beauty the rose, but she decides to take his place as the Beast’s prisoner in his giant castle, and is waited on hand and foot by invisible servants. To be honest, we prefer the anthropomorphic household items found in the Disney version, but given France’s socioeconomic history, it makes sense that the wealthy would want their servants to be invisible.