The Metonymical Beast


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.

Works Cited

Sellnow, Deanna D. “A Visual Perspective .” The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture. N.p.: Sage, 2010. N. pag.    Print.


3 thoughts on “The Metonymical Beast

  1. After reading this Visual Pleasure theory analysis of Beauty and the Beast I agree that this film objectifies Belle as a sexual object. First of all, the metonymy of the film lies in the names of the characters; Belle means beautiful which labels her as what she is used to represent, and Beast because of his foul and horrific appearance. Also, Belle is used as a tool in breaking the Beast’s curse in a rather dehumanizing way. Her sexual appeal is also contrasted with the Beast’s brute nature and unattractive appearance to express the alternative subject of rhetorical significance mentioned. I also agree that the Beast later becomes the exact subject fetishized by the viewer (and himself). The message sent by the film is that the Beast would be unable to attain the love by a woman, let alone Belle. The immediate marriage strengthens this attitude of the viewer because as he becomes visually appealing, he also succeeds. Not to mention the confidence he gains after he considers himself to be appealing(after the change in appearance) or is shown affection from Belle.

  2. An impressive share, I recently given this onto a colleague who was simply performing a little analysis for this. And then he actually bought me breakfast because I ran across it for him.. smile. So well then, i’ll reword that: Thnx for any treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending some time to discuss this, Personally i think strongly concerning this and enjoy reading much more about this topic. If you can, as you grow expertise, could you mind updating your blog site with a lot more details? It is actually extremely of great help for me. Large thumb up in this blog post!

    • Thanks, John! I’m glad the post is helpful. We add to this blog as part of a course that I run sometimes. It has been a few years but the material still seems relevant so I keep the blog live. Whenever it is updated, I’ll push a notification forward.

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