by Polly K. Carl
Director of The Center for the Theater Commons
His eyes are everything I’ve been trying to express. Ahhhh! I really want to paint him. Sure, he’s hideous, but lovely. —Belle in La Belle et la Bête
Recently, I watched the pilot episode for the CW channel’s new “Beauty and the Beast” series. I can honestly say I don’t watch network television as a general rule but in this case a playwright friend of mine is writing for the new series so I watched. And about five minutes into the show I found myself trying to desperately figure out what was beastly about this modern-day Beast. He was hot. The review of the pilot in the Boston Globe expressed my sentiments exactly, [The Beast] has a scar on his face. Otherwise, of course, he’s a perfect specimen of CW gorgeosity, a tall piece of beefcake with gym triceps, a broody brow, and sculpted stubble. But a scar? His life is so totally over.
And I began to think about the impossibility of ugliness on film and television and maybe even the impossibility of ugliness in the twenty-first century where we can Photoshop any image and render it perfect. Can the story of Beauty and the Beast be relevant in a high tech, two-dimensional world where the virtual screen in front of us becomes more real than live bodies in three dimensions? Can we still find beauty below the surface, or has the surface become our reality?