What is it with the French and stories about ugly dudes?
I see a trend in a lot of my favorite French stories. First, there’s that tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast. Then there’s Cyrano de Bergerac, followed by The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera. B and the B is about a prince-gone-hairy who falls in love with a patient, loving, and beautiful (and maybe slightly nearsighted) peasant girl. Cyrano is about a long-nosed, but otherwise reasonably attractive soldier-poet who’s in love with a gorgeous ditz who is in love with a handsome ditz. Hunchback is about a deformed bell-ringer who falls in love with a gypsy girl of questionable morality. Phantom is yet another story about a deformed recluse who falls in love with (and obsessively creeps on) his beautiful voice pupil.
Noticing a pattern, here?
There’s another pattern. Almost every time, the girl overlooks the ugly guy for the “handsome” one. Of course, in one of the stories, that’s the safer plan—I don’t care how well he sings, it’s not a good idea to marry a serial killer.
But Roxanne overlooked Cyrano’s brains for Christian’s beauty. Considering how little was going on between Roxanne’s ears, I’d say Cyrano could do better. Several women in the audience will volunteer as tribute.
Esmeralda falls head-over-heels for Phoebus (which, being translated, means “Jerkface”), who dumps her halfway through the story, abandoning her to a death by hanging after false accusations—and poor Quasimodo follows her body to her grave, where he wraps himself around her body and dies of starvation. Victor Hugo was all about happy endings.
Then there’s little Miss Beauty (“Belle,” for the Disneyphiles). After a season of allowing herself to grow from fear of the Beast to friendship, then from friendship to love, she can overlook his fearsome appearance entirely. She alone can see the beauty within him, and for that beauty she loves him. After a really close shave (the poor guy almost dies in every iteration of the story), she finally tells him that she loves him and he turns back into a dude right before her eyes. Gets me every time.
From this sampling of French literature, we can come to the conclusion that three times out of four, it’s best to love someone for their brains, courage, and heart rather than for their outward appearance. That fourth time out of four is reserved for when a serial killer falls in love with you, in which case it is best to scream and run away.
The things we can learn from the French.