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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Beauty and the Beast: Why Belle is the Best Disney Role Model

First of all, some exciting news:
My book is officially available on Kindle. If you follow the link on the "My Books" page it will come up as an option on Amazon.

And, Goodreads is hosting a giveaway with my book now through August 5th. So, be sure to enter if you don't have a copy and to tell your friends about it!!

Also, a word of explanation about this post- a while back I was talking with someone and after they left, I thought more about what had been said and formulated a better response and sent them an email. With a few modifications, this is the email I sent in defense of Beauty and the Beast and why Belle is such a great role model. And, if I get the chance, I might write a followup post about why it's the best Disney movie period. I'd really love to, but no promises...

Yesterday, when we were talking, you mentioned what you had read about Beauty and the Beast. You said that the message was that looks don’t matter unless you’re the girl. And, I agreed with you. Because, it does appear that way, doesn’t it?

That made me really upset, because, well that’s always been my favorite Disney Princess movie. I’ve always thought it was so amazing and a thousand times better than the others. But, when you said that, it made sense. I sadly agreed and moved on.

But, my brain obviously didn’t get the “moving on” memo because it kept thinking about it. And, I’m glad it did, because I came to the conclusion that, actually, I think you’re wrong about that…

Beauty and the Beast is a movie about looking passed appearances. It’s about how it doesn’t matter what’s on the outside, it’s what’s inside that counts, right? Here’s why I think that’s true for Belle as much as the Beast:

The Beast doesn’t fall in love with Belle because of her beauty. Think about it: he’s been stuck inside his castle, alone, for how long? He’s been hoping, longing for someone to come along and break the spell. But, he doesn’t think that’s ever going to happen. I believe the quote goes, “After all, who could ever love a beast?”

Enter Belle. Belle with her selfless proposal that she take her father’s place. Every time I watch that scene, I want to cry because of the way she says it, so passionately, without hesitation. And, then the way he replies with, “You would do that?” You can feel the hope stirring in him. He’s thinking “Maybe she’s the one. Maybe, if anyone, maybe she can break the curse.” Even after she asks him to step into the light, sees the horrible “monster” that he is, even with fear written all over her face, she still agrees to stay. How can he not help starting to love her?

But, because he’s be away from people for so long, he doesn’t know how to act around her. So, he’s a big jerk, they fight like crazy, until he eventually drives her away. The whole wolf scene occurs and then they go back to the castle together where Belle tries to nurse his wounds. Here’s where he falls a little deeper in love with her. She’s trying to wash the cut and he acts like a big baby about it and they get into a little fight? Remember how she gets the better of him and then washed his wound all gentle like? She’s probably the first person who’s talked to him like that in forever. All the others are his servants and while they do take some liberties, in the end, he always wins. But, here’s this girl who’s standing up to him and not even afraid at all. Like, really, he was growling at her and she’s all like “Well, it’s your fault it happened, so deal with it already…”

Then, there’s that whole Something There song. Remember, where he sings about how she’s not treating him like a beast at all, but like a normal person? (“She glances this way, I thought I saw. And when we touched she didn’t shudder at me paw. No, it can’t be, I’ll just ignore, But, then she’s never looked at me this way before.”) Remember the scene with the porridge where they both end up meeting in the middle so no one feels uncomfortable? Remember how they spend like every second together and the Beast is watch Belle the whole time with that look on his face like “How on earth did I get lucky enough to get a girl like this?” And, it’s not because she’s pretty. Not outwardly, anyway. She’s got a beautiful spirit and the movie portrays that. That’s what the Beast falls in love with.

It is only after all this that there’s the iconic ballroom scene. But, at this point, he’s already in love with her. And, can you blame him for being breathless when he sees her descending those stairs in that gorgeous dress? Have you never looked at your girlfriend like that, never had your breath taken away by her beauty? Part of love is physical attraction. It’s not all there is and it’s crippling to base a relationship on that, but physical attraction is not wrong. Physical attraction without love is wrong.

Besides all that, even the scenes without the Beast, Belle is an inwardly beautiful person. Seriously. She’s like the only Disney Princess I would be okay with my daughter saying she wants to be like.

I think she’s the only princess who doesn’t rebel against her father. She loves her dad more than anything in the world. She gives up her dreams for him. Remember that song she sings? “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell” is how it goes. And, you know what? She’s not going to get that locked up in the Beast’s castle. She’s giving that up for her dad.  Because she loves him, she’s concerned about him, and he is her whole world.

And, even as much of a jerk as Gaston is, she isn’t all like “Oh my goodness, Gaston, you’re horrible, leave me alone.” She’s polite to him. Yeah, he’s annoying, yeah, she’d not going to marry him, but she’s polite to him. He steals her book and tosses it in the mud (trust me, one of the gravest offense a guy can commit :P) and what does she do? She picks it up and wipes it off and continues to be polite to him. Even when he comes to propose she’s not like “I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on earth!” or “How could you even ask that, I’m so repulsed by you!” No, she listens to him and it’s only when he won’t let her answer him that she throws him out of the house. It’s not until she’s alone that she calls him “boorish” and “brainless.” It’s not until he’s trying to use her father to force her to marry him and going to kill the Beast that she calls him a monster. All those years she tolerated him because he was “harmless” and it’s not until he threatens those she loves that she speaks up.

And, all that’s just Belle. Don’t get me started on why that movie’s awesome because the Beast’s side of things. :P

Seriously though, I can see where you’re coming from. You don’t want your daughter to be wrongly influenced by this. But, here’s what I would say: The problem with this movie is not the story but the parents. You and I are both smart enough to know you don’t park your kid in front of the TV and leave them and never talk to them about what they watch. Maybe it does seem like this movie’s message is that looks don’t matter unless you’re the girl and then you better be pretty. But, when your daughters are twirling around saying, “Belle’s so pretty. I want to be just like her” take the opportunity to say, “Yes, she is beautiful. Both outside and inside.” Talk to her about how important inner beauty is. Remind her of the message the movie portrays. Looks don’t matter. You can be very beautiful and still be a horrible person. It’s okay to be pretty but you want to make sure your heart is pretty too. That’s the more important issue.

Also, I think beauty is a subject people are afraid to tackle. We get so focused on inner beauty that we forget how girls are wired. Girls want to be beautiful. They want someone to look at them like the Beast looks at Belle, like Flynn looks at Rapunzel, like every guy in every romantic comedy looks at the girl. And, is that wrong?

We teach our girls that inner beauty is all that matters, that outer beauty is vain and sinful. I think that’s wrong. I think we need to teach them what true outer beauty is. That it’s being comfortable with who God created you to be. Whether you’re short or tall or skinny or not. Girls come in all shapes and sizes and each and every one of them is beautiful. We need to teach our daughters to find their good points and learn to highlight them instead of trying to change everything about themselves. We need to teach them that love and attraction are two different things and that attraction without love is not good. We need to teach them that the look mentioned above isn’t all about outer beauty. That those guys look at the girl like that because of who she is as a whole. And, if the guy isn’t looking at all of you, inside and out, then he’s not for you.

And, if you really think about it, telling a girl who desires to be beautiful that inner beauty is all that matters could be taken the wrong way. I know if someone told me that I would take it that they were trying to be nice and spare my feelings because I’m not beautiful. I would feel like the inner beauty talks were a consolation prize because I can never attain outer beauty. And, all that’s going to do is cause the girl to gravitate toward someone who tells them they’re beautiful. Because that’s what she wants to hear.

Also, on a silly note, Belle was the only princess who didn’t make me insecure because she always seemed to be the most “normal” of the princesses. Her clothes were modest (unlike Ariel’s and Jasmine’s) and her hair wasn’t some gorgeous hairstyle could never have (I’ve always wanted red hair like Ariel or a cute bob like Snow White or long and straight and blonde like Aurora’s). So, really, Belle was the one who made me feel comfortable with who I was because I felt like she was someone I could be like rather than someone I simply envied.

And, she likes books which promotes the idea that reading is cool. And, princess-y.

So, yeah… sorry, this ended up a lot longer than I expected. But, once I started I just kept going and as you can tell, it’s something I’m passionate about. I understand where you’re coming from and there are probably other reasons too that you have against this movie. However, I just wanted you to get the other side of it. I get that you probably only read well thought-out articles on why Disney is bad and then fluffy “it’s so magical” things on why it’s good. And, I wanted to show that Beauty and the Beast is much more than at.

How about you? Do you agree or disagree with the points made in this post? Who's your favorite Disney Princess? Why?


  1. WOW. This is something that every parent should share with their daughter(s)!!! A very insightful piece of writing.
    I can still remember the first time I saw this movie... I had to take my son and a grade-school friend to see it. Boring... right? Not only did I have to wipe my eyes in the dark of the theater several times, but I went home raving to my spouse about how great it was, and I insisted we go back so I could see it again. I think I bought the VHS on the very day it hit the stores, too!

  2. Beauty and the Beast is Lizzy/Firiel's favorite Disney movie and probably, if not first, in the top three of mine:D and Belle is definitely my favorite and always has been. When I was younger it was because I thought we were SO much alike! I mean, we both had brown hair and eyes, and we both love to read...:D good post;)