This 'Beast' devours life

Kevin Cowherd

November 13, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

As of this writing, efforts to join a support group for parents of children addicted to "Beauty and the Beast" have proven unsuccessful.

All the local chapters are full, and have been since the release of the hugely successful Disney video last month.

My wife and I were allowed to sit in on one group meeting -- strictly as observers -- in the basement of a church hall.

Seated on folding chairs in a tight semi-circle, one parent after another rose unsteadily and, sobbing into a Kleenex, said something like: "My Samantha watches it five times a day. I . . . I can't take much more."

It's hard to say when it first dawned on me that I needed help.

Certainly I trace the beginning of the problem back to that morning in the shower when, lost in a cloud of steam, I apparently started singing:

"Just a little change,

"Small to say the least,

"Both a little scared

"Neither one prepared

"Beauty and the b-e-a-s-t."

When I came out of the bathroom, my wife was looking at me


L "That . . . was that from 'Beauty and the Beast?'" she said.

"What are you talking about?"

"What you were singing."

"No," I said, "that was 'Help Me Rhonda.'"

See, I was in denial back then. I didn't want to admit that my kids were hooked on the video, and that this dependency was starting to unravel my own life.

Then there was an ugly incident in the waiting room at Jiffy Lube. The man at the counter was explaining the 14-point service check when, to my horror, this blurted out of my mouth:

"Be our guest! Be our guest!

"Put our service to the test!

"Try the gray stuff, it's delicious!

"Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!"

Thankfully, instead of bolting into a back room and calling the police, the man at the counter was kind enough to pretend he didn't hear me.

The whole thing left me badly shaken, though. Driving home, I thought: Face it, pal. You need help big-time.

The sad thing is that none of this was foreseen when we bought the "Beauty and the Beast" video last month.

Like all the other parents of small children, we thought it was an innocent-enough purchase at first.

An animated, 84-minute movie based on the classic fairy tale -- what harm could it possibly do?

Looking back on it now, we were so naive. From the very first moment that Belle appeared on the screen, the kids were riveted. They wanted to see it again. And again and again and again.

Oh, they'll get tired of it, we thought. Pretty soon they'll go back to playing Nintendo and Barbie and trying to poke each other's eyes out with the curtain rods.

But they didn't get tired of it. And pretty soon it felt as if every day was a Beauty and the Beast Film Festival around my house.

You'd be sitting there trying to balance a checkbook or read a newspaper and suddenly, from the other room, you'd hear:

"We were getting fat and lazy,

"You walked in and oopsy-daisy!

"Be our guest!

"Be our guest!

"Be our g-u-e-s-t!"

Yeah. Try concentrating on the latest update from Bosnia-Herzegovina with that drumming into your consciousness.

After a while, it begins to feel like you're carrying around a tiny CD player in your head that plays nothing but "The Best of Beauty and the Beast."

The movie itself is engaging, although how it picked up six Academy Award nominations is beyond me. (One of those was && for Best Picture -- the first ever for an animated film -- leading to the chilling prospect that we might soon see a Road Runner film contending for Best Picture, or perhaps something entitled "Yosemite Sam: The Early Years.")

Actually, it's the same old story: girl meets horribly deformed beast, girl flees from horribly deformed beast, girl falls in love with horribly deformed beast -- who then reverts back to a handsome prince via some sort of spell cast by an enchantress.

Yeah, I know, I know . . . you've seen it a thousand times. My thoughts exactly.

Nevertheless, the kids in my house can't seem to get enough of it.

As for my wife and I, we start each day with trembling hands, making the phone calls, looking for a B&B support group that's still taking on new members.

The important thing is: we're in recovery.

We take it one day at a time.

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