As anyone who knows me can tell you, I’m obsessed with fairy tales—particularly with animal/monster groom tales. Using a paper I wrote for the lovely Anne Philips during my undergrad as the background for my graduate project, I have taken my love of fairy tales to a new level. My project focuses on two 21st-century young adult adaptations of Beauty and the Beast: Alex Flinn’s Beastly (2007) and Brie Spangler’s Beast (2016). Beastly follows the transformation of Kyle Kingsbury from rich and popular NYC boy-toy to literal monster after a fateful night at prom with a vengeful witch. After being locked away in a well-fortified townhome with only a blind tutor and a housekeeper to keep him company, Kyle (later renamed Adrian) must come to terms with his newfound identity and discover what it means to love without boundaries and without means. Beast, on the other hand, is the story of Dylan Ingvarsson, aka Beast, a 6-foot-8 15-year-old with a pituitary gland issue that makes him overly tall and hairy. At the beginning of the novel, Dylan attempts suicide and is forced to go to therapy where he meets Jamie. The two fall in love, and Dylan discovers that Jamie is transgendered, which makes him question everything he knows about societal expectations of gender, sexuality, and love.
Using these novels and the vast historical lineage of adaptations that preceded them, I am working to understand why modern adaptors place so much emphasis on Beast-like characters rather than Beauty characters. Particularly, I seek to answer this question: Why are modern female authors writing books that focus so much on problematic male characters for a predominantly female audience? My project incorporates many different elements of theory including adaptation theory, feminist theory, and masculinity studies.
Bringing in masculinity studies was a bit of a challenge to me (isn’t everything men’s studies?), but it has opened my eyes to a whole new subset of theory and critical study which I had never considered before. Gender on both ends of the spectrum is constructed by society and thus must be broken down to be understood. The novels I discuss in my project show men at odds with the societal construction of what they should be as young men and what they actually are. Thus, one of the key arguments of my project is that these novels set out to break down the construction of masculinity in order to better understand the behavior, attitudes, and beliefs of men (particularly those whom society has deemed “other”—our societal “beasts,” if you will).
Working on this project has been one of the hardest and most stressful things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. I’m so looking forward to seeing it all come together in a shining finished product come March!
— Brittany Roberts (B.A.’16, M.A.’18)