This has been me ever since Donald Trump won the election last Tuesday:
However, this morning I was pulled off that couch by my brother. Turns out, my 9-year-old nephew and 5-year-old niece each caught a nasty cold over the weekend, and I needed to pitch in with a couple of hours of emergency babysitting. “Ah, classic Braverman situation,” I thought before quickly reminding myself that the Bravermans aren’t real, and maye it’s a time to take a break from Parenthood for a day or so.
I drove over to my brother’s house to find my nephew coughing up a lung and niece dancing around the house in her Beauty and the Beast nightie, only occasionally stopping to cough. As she chased me around the living room in an impromptu game of tag, a miraculous thing happened: I smiled. I even laughed a little. For the briefest of moments, I wasn’t thinking about the election. I was purely happy, unburdened by lingering fears over what’s about to become of our country and self-hate for not having personally done enough (e.g., Why didn’t I volunteer for the Sanders or Clinton campaigns?).
That’s great and all, but, um, I thought this article was about the new Beauty & The Beast trailer!
Right you are, oddly insistent voice in my head. Cut to an hour later, and I’ve played board games with these kids, feigned interest in Minecraft and fired up A Barbie Christmas on YouTube. Suddenly, YouTube informs us via popup ad that the trailer for the new live-action Beauty & The Beast was online.
Screw Barbie, hello Belle because, well, did you miss the part where I said my niece was already wearing a Beauty & The Beast nightie? She’s at that age where she’s so into princesses she’d probably watch Purple Rain if I told her it starred someone named Princess instead of Prince….
Not that I would ever do that. Terrible, terrible idea, and mean, too. Seriously, if my brother happens to be reading this, don’t worry. I’m not going to show your daughter Purple Rain.
I will, however, let her watch the Beauty and the Beast trailer as much as she wants. Today that topped out at six times, six straight times of her watching the same trailer, making the same little gleeful noise in response to her favorite parts, such as when the Beast saves Belle from wild animals and the brief glimpse we see of their iconic dance scene and thus of Belle’s yellow gown. For the 12 or so minutes this trailer marathon went on, my niece’s face was the picture of pure joy.
However, the trailer means next to nothing to me. Aside from the occasional stretch of “Damn, I can’t get ‘Kiss the Girl’ out of my head,” I escaped my childhood largely untouched by the Disney renaissance of the late 80s/early 90s, limited to the occasional viewing of a Little Mermaid or Lion King at my grandma’s house with my female cousins all the while preferring my cartoons to look more like Batman: The Animated Series and The Simpsons. As such, Disney’s recent run of live-action remakes doesn’t resonate with me the way it does for others my age because while I appreciate the historical importance and objective beauty of the Disney princess movies I have no emotional engagement with any of them. In fact, I lean toward the side of viewing most of them as deeply problematic in terms of what they teach little girls.
And since this forthcoming Trump presidency has left me so, so cynical about, well, everything I feel a surprising level of discomfort when watching this Beauty and the Beast trailer. This film is but the latest signifier of the way nostaligia has overtaken popular culture. Another signifier is how quickly Nintendo’s mini-NES classic device sold out and continues to sell out whenever any store just so happens to get one or two more copies back in stock. Must we be so endlessly reaching back to our collectively romanticized childhoods? Are we so terrified of the increasingly uncertain future that we crave the familiar, our pop culture reaching back to the 80s/90s and our electorate apparently reaching back to the damn 50s (when America was supposedly great but as white as snow) by electing Trump?
Come on. Trump’s win is far too complicated to be reduced to “people are nostalgic for a past that never truly existed” Also, it’s a bit much coming from the guy who stayed home binging Parenthood all weekend instead of going out to see a boldly original movie like Arrival.
Hey…okay, fair point. In my defense, this is at least the first time I’ve ever seen Parenthood. So, it is new to me, not my TV show equivalent of a security blanket.
Also says the guy who raves about all those comic book movies and TV shows even though they are all essentially telling the same juvenile, American fascist story over and over again.
Wait. Didn’t I start this by saying how playing my niece made me happy? Isn’t this supposed to be me moving on, if just momentarily, from Trump angst, and engaging in the frivolous past time of debating a new movie trailer? Be happy, dangit, because as far as movies go this new Beauty and the Beast actually looks pretty good, regardless of whether you come to the material covered head to toe in nostalgia.
Kids are entitled to their fantasies. They’ll need them now more than ever. While I personally might be struggling to come to terms with the wide-reaching ramifications of a Donald Trump presidency and thus see shades of it in everything, my niece just watched a trailer for a new Disney princess movie 6 straight times and could not have been happier. Take the win, man. The entire country might be completely divided, but come March we’ll all be in the same theaters watching this movie together. That’s a positive, right? Right?
My preferred version of “Be Our Guest”:
I really like the vest.