The Metonymical Beast
Many theories relating to a visual rhetorical perspective refer to popular culture’s excessive use of scantily-clad women as objects to either associate the subject with a sexual image or simply to acquire the viewer’s attention. No matter the intention, the goal is usually to purposefully catalyze a subject through an association, founded or otherwise, with the objectified woman and her sexual appeal. Fairytales typically act as other archetypal demonstrations of idolization of the fair and beautiful maiden. However, in the case of Beauty and the Beast and other similar stories, including the Frog Prince and possibly even Shrek, there exists an alternate subject of rhetorical significance.
Under analysis, the character Belle follows the basic visual principles of what culture has determined a beautiful woman to be and, therefore, can be applied to a visual pleasure perspective. Although, her partner, the Beast, uses perhaps even more prominent cues from visual pleasure theory which make him the true subject of interest in this artefact. From the Semantic Triangle, the symbol of the beast is known to carry many associations. Pertaining to the story, it is mostly his denotation of brutish behaviour and ugly appearance which weighs most heavily on the viewer. What is not immediately distinguished as a referent, is his representation of fault or outward expression of self-image.
Due to a media-inspired sense of scopophelia and need for sexual arousal, the viewer often believes he must maintain a similar image or be seen as unattractive or sexually unappealing in comparison. The meaning of the Beast’s discernable ‘ugliness’ then comes to exhibit his inability to fulfill Belle’s natural scopophelic desire for an attractive man and doubles as a point of relation to the viewer as he believes that without a select set of physical characteristics he will be unable to fulfill the desires of his chosen partner.
Known to visual pleasure theory as a narcissistic adoration of the archetypal male form, as cultivated through continual exposure to related pop culture material, the Beast becomes a wild representation of anything accepted as undesirable. Although, as the story continues, the Beast transforms into the exact subject which he and the viewer fetishized alike. In particular, it is only through this transformation into the fetishized male form that the Beast attains the love of Belle and the two are married promptly afterwards. And in watching, the viewer fulfills his voyeuristic inclination by his private and voluntary observation.
In conclusion, the classic fairytale of Beauty and the Beast contains a visually appealing display that, while it does not immediately reveal itself to follow the trend set by popular culture, does, in fact, support the ideology that places fetishized attributes above the overall character of the subject through the Beast’s metonymical representation of the viewer’s flawed self-image.
Sellnow, Deanna D. “A Visual Perspective .” The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture. N.p.: Sage, 2010. N. pag. Print.