Reinvention is the name of the game in storytelling. It’s how writers stand out when they work with familiar stories. Like all things with fiction, it can go really well. Or it can fail spectacularly.
Take Beauty & the Beast from the CW, for example.
Obviously it’s a re-imagining of the classic fairy-tale where the fearsome best is tamed by a beautiful woman. There are the hallmarks of the often-told story: a man who’s really a beast, a beautiful “Belle”, and a romance where they save each other. But there are twist on each of those aspects.
The Beast–Vincent–is very much a monster. He’s a super-soldier created by a secret government organization, possessing heightened senses and strength. And those abilities are only enhanced when he gets stressed. Like the traditional Beast, Vincent has been looking for a cure to his beast-ness. Whether that cure is going to come about because of his Belle has yet to be seen.
Belle is Catherine. Her mother was killed in front of her, and Vincent stepping-in was the only reason she wasn’t killed too. Catherine becomes a successful police detective who can hold her own, both in fights and intellectually. She stumbles upon Vincent and actively pursues him. There’s no kidnapping or imprisonment like a lot of Beauty & the Beast stories.
As for the romance, there’s two sides of Vincent and Catherine saving each other. Vincent saves Catherine physically–from a train, from multiple attackers, etc–as well as emotionally. Though the emotional angle is a bit hokey. She’s into bad boys, he’s the ultimate bad boy, but he’s a “good” bad boy who tries his hardest to do the right thing.
On the other hand, Catherine saves Vincent by showing him that he’s worthy of being loved. But it’s not a blind kind of love. She’s well-aware of his flaws, and she won’t let him walk all over her. Catherine has a backbone when it comes to their relationship.
Beauty & the Beast succeeds in reinventing the story of Belle and her Beast. It’s perhaps one of my favorite re-tellings, and I’ll be watching the rest of the series on Netflix.
Do you have a favorite reinvention of a familiar story or genre? What do you like about it?