My obsession with Beauty and the Beast can probably be traced to a home movie filmed soon after my Belle-themed fourth birthday party. Which leads me to examine one of my favorite movies of the most right time. Why this grand-scale, enduring popularity? I believe there are a few reasons: a strong, sensible heroine; sensitive yet fearless exploration of deep topics;, and a universal theme that resonate with all humanity.
Belle is, hands-down, the best Disney princess. She actually is a strong and intelligent young woman who takes care of her father and reads voraciously (unlike Gaston, who asks “how will you read this? It doesn’t have any pictures…”). Far from being one of the cliquish blonde bimbos who’ve nothing easier to do than let Gaston bench-press them, she outwits Gaston’s unwanted advances and stands up fearlessly to the Beast’s unchecked temper.
She is no Snow White, deciding it’s fun to clean little men’s homes and take apples from strangers, or Cinderella, who can do nothing but cry about the ball. However, neither would I consider Belle a rampant feminist. Unlike sword-wielding Mulan or Jasmine’s “I am not just an award to be won” attitude, Belle wears her femininity with elegance. She wears dresses and lets the Beast pull out her chair on her behalf. She allows him to grow into the right part of the gentleman, not insisting on always getting the command.
She is with the capacity of looking after herself but does not dominate those around her. She is smart however, not arrogant, brave however, not masculine, beautiful but not vain. What I think makes Belle a true heroine, however, is her attitude of self-sacrifice. She might be a cartoon character, but I genuinely admire her (and no longer simply for her gorgeous golden ball gown). While she will dream of “adventure in the great wide somewhere,” she actually is no selfish Ariel, resorting to rebellion and disobedience to get her own way.
Belle is more worried for her dad than for herself. She faithfully supports him in his eccentric inventing and leaves her budding love with the Beast to tend him at his bedside. She even offers herself to the Beast in her father’s place, one of the most beautiful gestures of self-sacrifice in all of Disney.
In short, she actually is forgetful of herself, and it creates her shine. This tempered view of beauty also leads the movie to a far more realistic view of love. Beauty and the Beast might be animated, but it is one of my favorite love tales of most right time. There is no three-day ultimatum, no first-kiss awakening. Seasons change, circumstances change, and yet this movie is clear: love is harvested, not “fallen into.” Belle’s prince starts out far from charming. The Beast’s vicious temper is as ugly as his face. Both he and she start out arguing incessantly, neither one ready to back down.
It had always been serious, Sarah thought. Letting herself out the front door she glanced to the clear tree now. No owls in sight. Sighing she strolled down the steps and ready to return up to where Jareth experienced slipped her off. A movement to her right caught her off guard, but it was just Jareth, emerging from the darkness. His appearance was anxious and his gloved hands were clenched as though he was finding your way through challenging. Sarah left the shadow of the porch to take his arm without protest.
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