Last week marked the 25th year release of Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast.
Let’s pause for a moment.
Twenty-five years is a long time ago. I graduated high school, did my OACs (remember those?!) and had my whole future ahead me twenty-five years ago.
And of course, Belle graced the screens with her tenacity, her determination and her smarts. She wasn’t like the Disney Princesses that came before her; a vast contrast to her direct predecessor, Ariel.
Yes, I’m biased, we all know how I feel about Ariel…but back to Belle.
Belle is beautiful, smart and loves to read; however she isn’t perfect. She is brave and smart, headstrong, independent and determined. She puts other’s first, and doesn’t bat an eyelash when she finds her father imprisoned in the Beast’s castle. Instead she asks to take his place, in order to set him free.
She isn’t looking for a man, she isn’t trying to be something she isn’t, she isn’t in a battle with a wicked witch. She simply wants to save her father and get on with her life.
Oh, and she has to deal with the hunk of a man, Gaston.
You know, the town’s self-proclaimed lover boy who only has eyes for Belle. But our girl won’t be spoken down to, or mistreated, and she certainly has no intention of marrying this douchebag, or giving him the brood of sons he hopes for.
No, she is content going about her business, taking care of her father, burying herself in her books and befriending the animals around town. And while she wishes for more adventure in her life, she truly is happy being who she is.
So it shouldn’t come as a shock when she so bravely demands that she change places with her imprisoned dad. That’s just the kind of girl she is.
Once she takes her father’s place at the castle, she aligns herself with the right people – er, objects. And then she bravely ventures out to learn more about her surroundings and her captor. She isn’t afraid to stand up to him, especially when he scares her. She finds a way to scold him and yet help him at the same time. A very modern way of handling yourself.
I find it interesting that some people think that Belle suffered from Stockholm Syndrome (where the captive falls in love with the captor), but I don’t think that is necessarily true. Belle doesn’t change herself. She’s not looking to change. She is the muse to the Beast’s transformation, both inside and out.
There is nice, and evenly matched, back and forth relationship that happens between Beauty and that Beast. When he agrees to let her father go, he shows her around the castle. He warns her to stay away from the west wing, where he is staying. He invites her to dinner and she doesn’t go. She doesn’t listen and sneaks to his side of the castle, and when he finds her he gets angry. She escapes, but then runs into trouble in the forest, where he comes to help her and attack the wolves. When he is hurt, it’s Belle who helps to tend to his wounds. She isn’t afraid of the Beast, and tending to him comes across honestly and tenderly.
This is where the Beast realizes again how good of a person she is. He has made assumptions about himself and his hideous appearance, yet it doesn’t seem to phase her. As a way to thank Belle, the Beast shows her the castle library.
I remember loving that library. Wishing I could have that many books at my disposal.
Belle thanks the Beast in return by teaching him manners, and forging a friendship. That friendship leads to love, however Belle cares for her father still and misses him dearly. When the Beast shows Belle where her father is, through the magic of his mirror, eventually he lets her go in order to be with him. Belle accepts the gift of the mirror, as a way to remember the Beast, but doesn’t look back.
See, she wasn’t looking for love at all.
Of course, Gaston isn’t ready to give up his conquest that easily, and secretly arranges to have her father taken away. His ploy to “save” her father in exchange for her hand in marriage infuriates Belle, who refuses. This is where Gaston stands out as one of the great Disney Villains. He isn’t afraid to lie, rally an entire village and bombard the castle. He locks up Belle and her father, so they have no chance to warning the Beast of the impending mob.
Belle finds a way to escape as a great fight takes place on the cliffs that surround the castle. But as Belle arrives on the scene, she sees Gaston stab the Beast. The Beast is thrown back, which pushes Gaston off the edge and he plummets to his death. Later douchebag!
The Beast is hurt and yet remembers his manners and thanks Belle for coming back for him. She cries with him in her arms and begs him not to die. She expresses her love for him just as the last petal falls.
She never judged him for how he looked, or what he was. She loved him for him. The inside of him. That never happened before this movie. Some of the Princesses didn’t even know their Princes, only loved them at first sight.
Through the magical powers of Disney, the curse is lifted. The Beast turns back into the Prince, Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumière and Cogsworth turn back into servants and we live happily ever after.
The ballroom scene of them dancing will forever be one of my favourite scenes in a Disney movie ever. The fact that she reads and has interests in the world beyond her own is what makes her resonate with so many people. She doesn’t care or pay attention to those fawning over her beauty, because she’s more than her looks. But it’s her ability to put others ahead of herself that makes her so loved.
The way in which she brushes off Gaston, is not only humorous, but so un-princess like. Of course that has changed with Merida, and now Moana, both of whom have no love interest at all!
Yes, as I mentioned, Belle is beautiful (hence her name), but it’s her inner smarts that help the Beast see the meaning of true love. It’s how he changes himself, in order to win Belle’s love, that breaks the spell. Unlike the stories before, where the Princess sat around (or slept), awaiting the Grand Rescue. Belle isn’t waiting around for anyone, because Belle doesn’t need rescuing. And as much as I love Lumière and Mrs. Potts, they can only help her as much as a candlestick and teapot can help!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are aware that they have rebooted this classic into a live-action movie, due out in theatres in March 2017. It looks to be pretty good, with Emma Watson taking on the role of Belle, Dan Stevens playing the Beast and Luke Evans playing Gaston.
The kids have only seen a teaser and have already “called it” as a movie they need to see. I’m not going to lie, this one may be a hard one to convince D to come to. He came to the live-action remake of Cinderella last year, and hated every minute of it. But we’ll see. The Beast may be the lure we need, vs some mice and a Fairy Godmother.
I mean, it’s Beauty and the Beast! A tale as old as time, non?!
Happy anniversary Beauty and the Beast! You’ve aged well.