A Yellow Dress

 

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The live-action adaptation of Belle’s iconic dress was revealed a while ago and I have been mulling it over for a while. I think it’s going to bug me. Particularly when she’s joined by the Beast in his gold-embroidered blue coat and swathes of lace, her dress looks too flimsy, too simple, too contemporary.

Emma Watson had a say in the dress. In Entertainment Weekly, she says, “I really embraced working on the dress, making sure that it was utterly whimsical, and magical.” The problem is, it just doesn’t look that whimsical and in a film that so far appears to evoke the 18th century so beautifully, it simply doesn’t fit. Jacqueline Durran says, “In Emma’s reinterpretation, Belle is an active princess. She did not want a dress that was corseted or that would impede her in any way.” Of course, women in the 18th century were active. Corsets were often worn sensibly, loosely laced. They provided the necessary structure for the gowns of the period, particularly taking into account the lack of modern underwear. Women of all classes wore corsets and, of course, the fashions of the time, and many of those women performed physical tasks. They worked and they played. Certainly, women in magnificent gowns were capable of dancing. There seems to be a basic disconnect with the lived reality of 18th century fashion. Furthermore, the dress that Belle wears needs to be the most fantastical concoction. It needs to be rich and adorned. The image below of Louis XV’s mistress is from the decade or so after publication of Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s “Beauty and the Beast” (1740) and gives an idea of the elaborate nature of aristocratic fashion. It simply wasn’t minimalist.

François Boucher portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour

François Boucher portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour

 

The stage productions of Beauty and the Beast have been better at capturing the amazing concoction of the dress. I particularly admire more recent productions.

The Dutch 2015 production with Edwin Jonker and Anouk Maas

The Dutch 2015 production with Edwin Jonker and Anouk Maas

The gown sparkles, as you can see from the trailer, and, of course, Maas is able to sing and dance in it. I’d even hazard that the stage Beast is more attractive than what looks like a CGI’d Beast from the film.

Writing the Gilmore Girls

We all have different opinions about the Gilmore Girls Netflix episodes. I think in many ways, the negative responses are an oddly positive sign of how far we’ve come in what we demand of our television shows. Yes, it is basically a show about privileged white women. That has its set of problems and many of those problems have been exasperated in the past decade. However, while the body shaming in the pool scenes was an off-note, it doesn’t detract from the years of positive representation of Miss Patty and Sookie. Never once did the show cast any aspersion upon their weight – they were whole, successful, sexual, and attractive figures. And while there could be more diversity in the casting, that doesn’t take away from what great characters Lane and Mrs Kim, Michel, and even Gypsy and Ceasar have been. I’m also tickled pink to see Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeting about watching the series from the start – I like a nice cultural convergence!

And, honestly, being a musical theatre geek, no, the Stars Hollow musical scenes are not too long. They are perfect. I love them.

However, that’s not what I wanted to write a quick blog post about. Rory’s story in the revival has been the most criticised. Often justly! There’s no denying that she is annoying and we all wanted better from her and for her. I cringed the moment I realised she was with Logan. The bit that particularly intrigued me, though, was Jess’s suggestion that she write the story of the ‘Gilmore Girls.’

I found it oddly satisfying and very frustrating. It felt like a perfect beat, echoing Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. The heroine is stuck, seemingly rootless and directionless, and a man tells her ‘write what you know.’

Of course, two problems. First, a man tells her – why is it always a former or current love interest?* Seriously? Why do they need the man to sweep in and tell them what to write? Secondly, write what she knows?? That advice always frustrated me. Why do female authors always get that advice? Why is there an assumption that they should stick to writing about their own lives, rather than exploring all sorts of exciting alternatives? There’s nothing wrong with writing about one’s own life, of course, but it’s often treated as the sole option for the female author. While I think there is a nice rounding out of the themes in Rory writing about her mother and herself, I miss the Rory who went out on the campaign trail with Obama, who wanted to be in trenches reporting on wars. I actually wouldn’t have even minded a Rory who took the Stars Hollow Gazette to great new heights, whiskey in her desk drawer and all. She could still be a contender. She loves that paper.

In my mind, I’m just going to imagine that she remains as editor of the Stars Hollow Gazette, gets motivated by those last four words, and digs in and makes a life for herself with or without a baby.

giphy-1

 

*In terms of Anne of Green Gables, this picks up on the miniseries with Megan Follows.