In this fifth installment of The Princess Pretense series, I will be reviewing the princess Belle. Belle is an interesting princess because she is reminiscent of her predecessors and the abusive controversy of her relationship with the Beast. Belle is arguably the princess that feminists hate the most. In addition, many parents are weary about the semi-abusive relationship she maintains with the Beast. Belle is also controversial because of how quickly her presence reforms the beast.
Belle begins as the typical Disney princess. She reads fairy tales constantly because fairy tales are her favorite and she dreams of her knight in shining armor. However, Belle is feistier than the average princess is. Even though almost all of the maidens in town are in love with vain Gaston, Belle rebukes his advances and refuses to marry him. (Positive side note: The attire of Belle is more modest than that of the Gaston fan girls. Let us forget about the Lumiere/Fifi supposedly sexual affair for the moment because this article is about Belle.) However, the trouble begins when her father becomes lost in the woods…
After her father becomes lost in the woods, Belle heroically pursues him. When she discovers that, the Beast is imprisoning him, Belle, even though the Beast terrifies her, heroically offers to take his place. For feminists, this has is a point of confusion because feminists debate this two ways. The first way is to look at Belle’s imprisonment as heroically sacrificing herself for her father. The second way is to look at Belle’s imprisonment as the transfer of a piece of property from a gentle man to an abusive man, even though Belle’s father tried to talk Belle out of the imprisonment. Belle’s stay in the castle is problematic as well.
After Belle refuses the Beast’s attempts to ask her for dinner, the Beast furiously proclaims to his staff that they cannot feed her. Mrs. Potts, the female cursed teapot, and Lumiere, the male cursed candlestick, come to Belle’s culinary rescue. When Belle’s curiosity gets the best of her, she searches out the forbidden area of the castle that holds the enchanted rose. When the Beast discovers her, he furiously chases her out of the castle. Belle almost loses her life in the forest to a pack of rabid wolves; however, the Beast came to her rescue. On a positive note, when the Beast tries to argue with Belle again, her feistiness comes back and she holds her own against the Beast.
In the meantime, Gaston uses the patriarchal society that he lives in to his advantage. He asks the asylum owner to lock up Belle’s father if Belle does not agree to marry him. The asylum owner excitedly agrees. Meanwhile, Belle and the Beast are quickly falling in love with each other. After the famous ballroom dance, Belle discovers that her father, who has been pursuing her and her captor, is ill. In one of the most famous scenes of the movie, the Beast finally releases Belle because he loves her. When Belle and her father finally get back home, the asylum owner meets them and prepares to haul away Belle’s father when Belle refuses to marry Gaston. Realizing that Belle has fallen in love with the Beast, Gaston plots to kill the Beast and imprisons Belle and her father so that they cannot stop him. Chip, the cursed male teacup, ultimately comes to the rescue of Belle and her father. All of the cursed objects in the castle fight against the Gaston bandwagon townspeople; however, Gaston escapes. When Gaston finds the depressed Beast, he wastes no time in beginning to fight him. Belle just watches the fight from a distance and screams out, “Beast,” in horror from time to time, reducing her role from feisty heroine to helpless damsel in distress. After Gaston falls to his death, the Beast struggles for his life while Belle cradles him. After the Beast dies, Belle cries because she realizes that she truly did love him. This realization breaks the curse, brings the Beast back to life and everyone supposedly lives happily ever after.
The relationship of Belle and the Beast is controversial for many reasons. In the male point of view, the male portrayal in this movie is largely antagonistic, with Gaston, the asylum owner and the earlier personality of the Beast. Parents and feminists worry about the relationship between Belle and the Beast for many reasons. They argue that this film can inadvertently teach those in abusive relationships that their lovers will change. In addition, they argue that this film can teach little girls that it is their duty to reform men. The relationship between Belle and the Beast is also controversial because of the so-called “‘Grease’ phenomenon.” The “‘Grease’ phenomenon” is essentially the belief that teenage movies and fairy tales teach women that they can reform men if they enter into a potentially sketchy relationship. However, the reality is, these relationships do not last. Not only do they not last, they do not end well because sociologically, people theoretically cannot change by that time in their life. I am not saying that there are not exceptions to this rule; I am simply stating that these exceptions are rare. While the tale of the Beast and the love that changed him is as old as time, it can still affect generations today.