Lesson in Recognizing the Obvious
So, there I am earlier this fall in my Romantic Rebellion class when the professor asks if anyone knows a particular quote that pertains to what we are talking about, “…the quote that Satan utters - according to Milton.” He looks around hopefully but the class is silent. I’m not 100% sure that what comes to my mind is what he is looking for but, in this class, I figure it’s worth a shot, so I raise my hand. When he calls on me I say hesitantly, “Is it the one about ‘It’s better to Reign in Hell…?’
“Than?” he prompts.
“Serve in Heaven.” I finish much more confidently.
The professor nods at me and continues with his lecture, probably thinking that I have read the complete works of Milton recently, just for fun.
But if you are a Beauty and the Beast fan, you know how I knew the answer to that question and you also know how I am rather intimately familiar with many of the poets covered back in that class: Wordsworth Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, they were all there. We had, at that point, already covered such poems as Ozymandias, by Shelley and She Walks in Beauty by Byron. I am convinced that the B&B writers must have had a text similar to mine on hand as they wrote the episodes – their Beauty and the Beast Bible, so to speak.
But how did I get here, you ask? Not very easily. I had always wanted to be an artist. I was told by teachers in grammar school that I had a certain amount of natural talent. But right from day one I had nothing but “bad luck” whenever I even went near a crayon or a paintbrush. I just did not get it, I believe that everyone should share their talents and abilities no matter what, but people in my life seemed hell bent on throwing obstacles in the way of art.
Those people included art teachers themselves, most of whom I had a funny knack for having disagreements and/or bad experiences with. I actually managed, through all this to get an Associates Degree in Illustration. It was a big dream come true for me, but I couldn’t completely let go of that nagging voice inside me that said I was a fraud. Even with a degree, I still could not do the kind of art that inspired me the most. The kind that inspired me to go back to school in the first place to study art. That would be the gorgeous Beauty and the Beast artwork that I saw year after year at conventions.
Beauty and the Beast also taught me the value of persistence, though, so I moved to a four year school to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design. But as soon as I started this new school, the same old resistance in the art department was back…this time with a vengeance. I won’t bore anyone with tales of the rather volatile encounters I had with the Art Teacher from Hell, as I like to call her. That was the last straw; I knew that with her as the Head of the Art Department and my advisor I would never be able to complete a degree - but what could I do? I was closer than ever before to getting a degree. I couldn’t just abandon it. But I couldn’t look at another art teacher if my life depended on it.
Then the thought occurred to me: I could change my major. It was the first time in my life that I had ever thought about studying something other than art. After getting used to that idea – the next question that presented itself was: If I do change my major, what could I change it to?
While those subjects were okay, I couldn’t see my self plunging into them in depth and possibly entering those fields.
Math? Goodness, that was a definite No! As were several other subjects that came to mind. Then what?????
It was a scary feeling, like I had just jumped out of the art plane without a parachute. It was my love of Beauty and the Beast that came to the rescue. When it finally came to me, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it a long time ago. I could have saved my self a lot of misery.
After all, from the very beginning in 1987, Beauty & the Beast did increase my awareness of and interest in literature. I’ve read several classics on my own outside of the classroom due to curiosity generated from B&B episodes. In addition, I’ve always loved books, loved to read in general and I’ve even enjoyed writing papers on a variety of topics for my non-major classes. Me-an English Major! As Fate would have it, I had a unique encounter that very summer at the Beauty and the Beast convention in San Francisco, that convinced me that it was the right move to make.
The following year, as soon as I made it official, things really seemed to change for the better. I loved the teacher I had for my first official English class as an English Major. She was so sweet and ran such a good, supportive class, that I participated in her class more than any other class I’ve ever taken. I later found out that she was my new advisor!! And I’ve enjoyed all of my other English classes too, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Victorian Literature just to name a few. So that brings me to this most recent semester and the class I would recommend to all Beauty and the Beast fans: one devoted to Literature from the Romantic Period. Our Beauty and the Beast, it would seem, fits the category of romantic in so many more ways than meets the eye.
Beauty and the Beast has brought about many positive changes in my life over the years, it’s true, but this was really a surprising turn of events that I’m still not sure I can fathom. My professors tell me I write well, but I mean really, I’ve only had nineteen years of practice! The more I think about it, the more I realize that we B&B fans are all at least honorary English students. Don’t we love to discuss, in both spoken and written form, the episodes, characters, plots and deeper meaning, or symbolism of the episodes? I wonder what my English Professor would say if he knew we did this for fun? Beauty and the Beast is a unique and wonderful show with an equally unique and wonderful Fandom that I am most thankful for.