This paper deconstructs two movies: Within Our Gates and Beauty and the Beast with the aim of identifying their themes with regards to the prevailing social and cultural factors at their production time. Within Our Gates was produced in 1920, and it shows the racial divide in the United States during this period, especially in the Southern states. Importantly, this movie underscores that racism exists because of ignorance and hinders unity. Beauty and the Beast, also known as La Belle et la Bête, is a French fairy tale that shows the importance of love in enabling couples to conquer various difficulties in their relationships.
Within Our Gates is a silent film that was directed by Oscar Micheaux and shows the social and economic class differences between African and White Americans. The protagonist in the movie is Sylvia Landry, a young woman of color. Landry is involved in a relationship with Conrad and is waiting to marry him when he returns from Brazil. Interestingly, her jealous cousin Alma also loves Conrad. In the meantime, she decides to find donors in the North for Rev. Jacobs overcrowded black children school. Despite her efforts to find donors, she is unsuccessful, and she decides to try her luck in Boston. Immediately she arrives there, a stranger steals her purse and a local man, Dr. Vivian, chases and captures the thief. Her tragedies are not over, and she is later hit by Elena Warwick’s vehicle. During their interaction in hospital, Warwick learns of Landry’s mission and agrees to donate to Rev. Jacobs’ school.
Dr. Vivian falls in love with Landry after they have a few conversations. He asks Alma of Landry’s past relationships which she vividly narrates to him. In particular, she describes to him about Landry’s difficult childhood. Alma also notes that when Landry was a teenager, she was almost defiled by Gridlestone’s stepbrother, who also happens to be her father. This film ends when Dr. Vivian professes his love for Landry, and they agree to marry.
The film Beauty and the Beast is mainly about a love story where a lady called Beauty falls in love with a beast (Beast). This story gives an account of a wealthy merchant who loses most of his property in a storm. Although one of his ships manages to arrive at the landing docks, all the items it had carried are repossessed by the businessman’s creditors. On his way home, Beast provides the trader with accommodation and everything he needs. The following morning, the merchant decides to pluck a rose flower, for his daughter Beauty, from Beasts farm. This action angers the latter, and he decides to kill the businessman. The trader pleads with Beast, and the two agree to a truce where he decides to give his daughter to the latter. Beast on his part says that he will take care of her.
Based on the agreement between Beast and the merchant, the latter sends his daughter to live with the former. By his promise, Beast provides her with a lovely accommodation and all her needs. However, she is not happy because she believes Beast has imprisoned a charming prince that she usually sees in her dreams. One day, Beauty requests Beast to grant her permission to visit her family because she has grown homesick. However, she overstays, and when she returns, she finds the latter has collapsed and is almost dead. She is distressed, and she weeps uncontrollably. When one of her tears falls on Beast, he transforms into the prince that she regularly sees in her dreams.
Within Our Gates deconstructs the prevailing racial segregation in the United States. In particular, it illustrates how the country’s legal system is skewed to favor White Americans. Landry’s life story reveals the experiences of a person who has been continuously oppressed by White Supremacists (Gregory, 2017). For example, she was almost raped, and her guardian was murdered without any fair trial. Interestingly, the country’s judiciary and police department are blind to these events, and the organizers of the murderous mobs are not convicted.
The film also shows the limited opportunities and resources for African-American societies. Rev. Jacob’s school is underfunded, and most African’s are uneducated. This scene illustrates an aspect of class differences in American communities, which may have been caused by discriminative policies such as the Jim Crow laws. As a result, most African-Americans are likely to remain in poverty because of the systemic inequalities in the country.
In Beauty and the Beast, the theme of love and loyalty is shown by the characters of the merchant, Beast, and Beauty. The trader’s love for Beauty, makes him pluck a flower from Beast’s garden so that he can fulfill his promise. Similarly, Beauty’s love for Beast makes her return to the palace when she finds the latter has collapsed. Her love is also shown when she weeps after she sees him lying helplessly in his farm. The merchant, Beauty, and Beast are loyal since they all keep their promises. The trader, for example, requests Beauty to go and live with Beast. Beauty on her part returns to the castle after visiting her family, and Beast keeps Beauty safely and provides her with all her needs as he had informed her father.
Overall, both Within Our Gates and Beauty and the Beast are important in advancing positive social behavior. In particular, Within Our Gates advocates for equality and Beauty and the Beast demonstrates the importance of love and loyalty in every society. Consequently, these movies provide filmmakers with relevant topics which they can use to advance positive social change.
Gregory, D. (2017). Defining moments in black history: Reading between the lies. New York, NY: Amistad.
Micheaux, O. (Producer and director). (1920). Within Our Gates [Motion Picture]. United States: Mischeaux Book & Film Co.
Paulve, A. (Producer), Cocteau, J. (Director). (1946). Beauty and the Beast [Motion Picture]. France: DisCina.