I have two school age kids, so needless to say I will be seeing Beauty and the Beast this weekend, and probably the weekend after that, and maybe a few times after then as well. It’s a nice moment come full circle for me, as I was in high school when the original came out so now I get to share something I loved with my kids. That being said, the years have not dulled my conflicted feelings towards the flick.
Beauty and the Beast is a great movie that is also seriously messed up. At sixteen years of age when I saw the cartoon for the first time, I was just beginning to understand how relationships were supposed to work. But even in my fledgling state I was taken aback by the notion that this really intelligent, independent woman would go full Stockholm syndrome with a buffalo mutant with anger management issues and this was somehow aspirational. Because this was pre-internet I had no one to discuss this with. My date for the movie- more of a Gaston type, sadly- thought the thematic issues were great. So, I thought, it’s just me being cynical.
This movie set the stage for a good many examples of me putting up with things that I really shouldn’t have been ok with. I blame Disney for my generation’s woes. But it’s actually a really great analogy for life in the clinic, isn’t it? We see all these characters every day:
Well, you’re Belle, of course. Feisty, smart, fiercely devoted to knowledge and those you love. We all knew Belle was going to grow up to work in the veterinary field if she hadn’t detoured to be a hostage; we all saw the way she handled getting that demanding jerk Gaston out the back door after his marriage proposal, right?
Speaking of Gaston, yes, we all know and abhor him. Gaston is every awful person who comes barging into the clinic two minutes before closing saying, “Do you KNOW who I am?” and demanding you drop what you’re doing to fill a prescription for a pet you’ve never seen. Gaston is the client who talks over you when you’re explaining a diagnosis, because he has a bigger, better diagnosis. He feeds his wolf hybrid that one food you hate and laughs when his maneater snaps at you because clearly, you’re showing too much fear. He’s paleo and makes sure you know it.*
Gaston mansplains the gender wage gap to you, without being asked for his opinion. He never learns your name, referring to you as “The Ladyvet” to the front desk staff, occasionally holding his hands in front of his chest for emphasis. He snaps his fingers at the technicians, who have all stated a strong preference for deep cleaning the freezer in the parvo ward rather than talk to him.
Lumiere is the one co-worker who keeps you all sane. Lumiere has five different names for Gaston, none of them nice but all of them hysterical. Lumiere entertains you by talking as the pets in the back and giving them all different voices, and is the one you send in with your most difficult clients because you know he can charm them into submission. On his days off, you text him stories that just can’t wait until you’re both working. You know Lumiere probably also has a nickname for you that isn’t super flattering but he’s so funny that you don’t even care.
Every clinic needs a Mrs. Potts, who serves as the matriarch (or patriarch!) and heart of your hospital. When you’ve had one of those days, with five euthanasias and six Gastons and Lumiere is on vacation, when you’re looking longingly at the oxygen delivery man and re-thinking your life choices because he gets to leave and you don’t, Mrs. Potts hands you a Snickers. She knows that a little chocolate goes a long way. She has a perspective much longer than yours, which makes sense because she managed to forgive her boss for turning her into a teapot and you’re not sure you could.
5. The Beast
Need I say it? The Beast is veterinary medicine itself. You’re both drawn and repelled, experiencing deep love and seething disdain, depending on the day. Some days the Beast treats you with kindness and respect, and the next he’s howling at you because you walked up the wrong set of stairs. He is loving and playful, manipulative and harsh. You try to run away, you know he’s no good for you, and yet here you are, because there’s nowhere else you want to be. His heart is in the right place, you suppose, but even when the dust has settled and he’s turned back into a wide eyed human prince-man, you never forget the damage he inflicted on you, all in the name of love.
* a veterinarian who is also a DACVN wants to point out that with all those eggs Gaston eats he must have some very serious cholesterol issues. This is what happens when veterinarians get together.
When she’s not questioning the societal implications of Disney cartoons, Editorial Director Jessica Vogelsang is a San Diego veterinarian with Paws into Grace and the creator of the popular website pawcurious.com. Her writing is regularly featured on outlets such as dvm360, Vetstreet, and petmd. Her debut memoir All Dogs Go to Kevin is available in bookstores, online, and as an ebook from all major book retailers. For more information about the book and Dr. Vogelsang, visit drjessicavogelsang.com.