Like many others, I went and saw Beauty and the Beast this week. I loved it. It was perfect in every way. Although, I will admit I am biased. First of all, Beauty and the Beast was always my favorite Disney movie, and Belle has been my favorite Disney princess as far back as I can remember. I’ve always related to Belle; how she was a little odd and not the most popular, her stubbornness, how much she loved books…I even liked to think that we looked a little alike (wishful thinking at its best). My husband made a comment while we were on the way home from going to see it. He said he understood why I loved Belle so much because I was a lot like her. I don’t think he intended for it to be as much of a compliment as I took it to be but it meant a lot.
Belle was different from the Disney princesses of her time and I loved her for it. Her story was one that I grew up with and she was a person I always wanted to emulate. There is so much I’ve learned from Belle.
You can be the hero of your own story. Unlike Cinderella, Jasmine, Aurora, or Snow White, Belle’s happy ending didn’t depend on her being saved, found, or kissed by a prince. Belle took the reigns of her own story and chose her own ending. She could have had the life that every girl in her village dreamed of by marrying Gaston, but she wanted more for herself than to stay in the same village for the rest of her life popping out babies for the town a-hole. When Philippe came back without her father, she didn’t wait around for someone to help her find him, she went out herself. The Beast let her go. Twice. And both times she went back to help him even though she didn’t have to. Belle was the master of her own life – her own story. She didn’t let someone else dictate it for her.
A relationship requires two equal partners – you can’t always expect someone to “save” you. I’ve always thought the princes of Disney stories got the crap end of the stick. They have to fight all the monsters and the fair maiden’s life is always their responsibility. It’s impossible to be that strong all the time. Everyone needs saving every now and then. Even a strong and handsome prince. I love Belle because she and the Best saved each other. He saved her from the wolves and she healed his wounds. She saved him from the mob and the curse and he helped her escape from her “provincial life.” They fit together so perfectly and they were each exactly what the other needed.
A love of books creates a thirst for intelligence that leads to opportunity. The very first thing that drew me to Belle as a young girl was her love of books and reading. I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember – so long that I can’t remember the first book I ever read. I remember being jealous of the library the Beast gave Belle in the castle. Like Belle, I’ve always escaped in books. I love them so much I’ve chosen a career that allows me to share that love with my students. It’s proven that a well-read person is a well-educated person, and a well-educated person has so many doors in life that are open to them.
Looks can be deceiving. Gaston was a handsome heartthrob. All the ladies wanted him. And he was the world’s biggest prick. Belle saw right through the handsome face to the egotistical, misogynistic, creep underneath. She was the only one who wasn’t fooled. In the original cartoon, even her father liked Gaston – at first. Belle knew better. The Beast was a hideous monster of a man. He was covered in fur, had horns and claws, and I would imagine he didn’t smell all that great either. Yet, Belle allowed herself to get to know him and she saw past what no one else could. She loved him and risked her life to save him because she knew he was worth it – even if he didn’t look like it.
First impressions aren’t always accurate, everyone deserves a second chance. Belle hated the Beast at first, and who could blame her? He came off like an angry spoiled jerk when she first met him. He wanted to steal her father from her. He lost his temper. A lot. But then he saved her from the wolves and she saw a different side of him. She took a step back and took the opportunity to see him for who he was. Everyone has bad days, and the entire character of a person can’t be measured by one interaction.
Never give a damn what other people think. This is my favorite part about Belle. No one is immune to gossip and rudeness. She questioned why people thought she was odd. She wished that people understood her. But she didn’t let that define her. She didn’t let that change her. She stood up for people no one else would – like the Beast and her father. She refused to let someone else’s opinion determine what she thought of herself.
Don’t be afraid to be stubborn or fierce. Stand up for yourself. Belle went after her father on her own, and when she was faced with a monster she didn’t cower or run. She stood her ground. And on top of that, she completely defied him even though he probably could’ve crushed her with one hand tied behind his back. She had every reason to be afraid and she wasn’t. She had every reason to comply with the Beast’s initial demands and she didn’t. Belle stood up for her father and she stood up for herself. She didn’t let fear make her pliable. She was stubborn and she was angry and she made sure the Beast knew that she absolutely did not agree with the way he handled things. Everyone says that Belle is a perfect example of Stockholm syndrome. I completely disagree. Belle didn’t comply. She argued with the Beast at every turn. Victims of Stockholm’s syndrome are brainwashed into feeling affection for their captors. They change an aspect of themselves out of necessity. Belle never changed. If anyone changed it was the Beast.
Belle was ahead of her time. She allowed her love and compassion to save an entire castle full of people from a fate worse than death. She never gave up. She felt fear but she didn’t let fear control her. Belle was fierce and independent, but she wasn’t afraid to accept help when she needed it. She thawed the heart of a Beast. She chose the ending to her own story. What more could you ask for in a role model?