Beauty And The Beast is one of Disney’s most beloved, classic fairy tales. We’ve grown up with the heartwarming story, watching it over and over again in our tired VHS players. The story is so beloved that it even had a long-running Broadway adaptation and won two Golden Globes and an Academy Award.
Now that we’re finally getting a gorgeous live action remake of the beloved film (starring the ever so beautiful and charming Emma Watson), some people have been really thinking about the meaning behind the film. Could it be that the heartwarming story we all know and love isn’t so heartwarming after all?
A recent lesson plan from a U.K. teacher alleges that Beauty And The Beast glamorizes domestic violence and does nothing to help young women think they can escape from an abusive situation or are worth more than their looks.
According to the lesson plan, which The Daily Mail says has been downloaded over 600 times and viewed more than 11,000 times, Belle is in an abusive relationship where her only asset is her sexuality.
“The Beast does not attack Belle but the threat of physical violence is present. The movie says if a woman is pretty and sweet natured she can change an abusive man into a kind and gentle man. In other words, it is the woman’s fault if her man abuses her. And of course, the beast turns into a handsome prince because ugly people cannot be happy,” the lesson alleges.
Anyone with eyes can see that if you put a psychologist’s slant on Beauty And The Beast, you could argue that Belle is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. She falls in love with the beast after he imprisons her and forces her to do romantic things with him like eat fancy dinners and dance around the grand ballroom. He even dresses her up like a doll in that iconic yellow dress.
Oh the other hand, if you think Belle’s love for the beast was merely a coping mechanism or she was stuck in an abusive relationship where she wasn’t valued for anything but her looks, you’re missing some key points of Belle’s character. Firstly, Belle’s sexuality was never shown to be her only asset. In fact, in the live action adaptation, she’s an inventor. In the original, she was still shown as a smart bookworm in a town where no one appreciated how smart she was (except the Beast). This caused Belle to feel like an outsider. The guy she was supposed to marry was a raging idiot, and she was regarded as a weirdo because she liked to read. A woman who likes books? Well I never. Right? I know. She related to the beast on a deeply emotional level because he was also misunderstood. He was a terrifying hideous monster, after all (at least on the outside).
That’s whole point of the story — the beast isn’t a monster on the inside. He’s actually a wonderful person, whereas the charming, gorgeous Gaston is pretty terrible when you peel back that beefy, handsome exterior. One could argue that the beast exemplifies the opposite characteristics of abusive partners who are quite often wonderful on the outside, but on the inside, completely rancid (minus that whole kidnapping thing).
Have you ever thought about why those types of relationships are so hard to escape? Not only is it because they’re scary and frequently life-threatening, but it’s because it’s hard to discern what’s happening. Those types of partners are often so great on paper and/or successful, charming and kind to others in their outside life. In fact, at the start of your relationship, you probably couldn’t believe that anyone would be so wonderful and kind. The Huffington Post calls this love-bombing, a tactic used to draw you in so you can later be controlled. When the abuse begins, you start to feel totally crazy because they don’t treat other people that way. In fact, they used to be so kind it can’t possibly be real. That’s what makes you think it’s a fluke, and that’s what keeps you around waiting for change.
This isn’t the beast at all. He’s supposed to be a kind but misunderstood person. He has a fear of abandonment and massive social anxiety (we would too if everyone was always afraid of us and we were a hideous, giant beast). Okay, so it’s a bit selfish to trap Belle up in your castle just to break this horrific curse that’s ruining your life, but we kind of get it. You’re used to being treated like a monster and have emotional scars of your own. Plus, she’s literally the only person on the planet who can break the curse. You’ve got to somehow convince her to help, right?
If Belle can get past that whole kidnapping thing, which we admit would pretty much be a deal breaker for us, her relationship with the beast seems to make total sense. Then again, it’s just a Disney movie, and everyone is really reading too much into it.
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