I love Belle. She’s smart. She’s resilient. She’s brave.
I hate Beast. He’s whiny. He’s self-centered. He waited for things to happen to him, rather than trying to solve his problem.
I love the 1991 movie version. I was a young teen when it came out, and I remember being excited about the technology they used to bring the movie to life, especially the almost 3d effect of the ballroom dancing. The songs–I had those songs memorized to heart for a long time. It didn’t help that I had much younger cousins–they were aged from preschool to early grade school so I watched that movie on repeat when I would babysit them.
But now that I’m older. A lot older, I just can’t. The thing that bothers me the most about Beauty and the Beast is the dubious consent issues. Knowing what I know now about consent and agency, I can’t get into the story the way I used to. I know, I know, I’m a big party pooper. I’ve already heard a thousand times from my friends who have told me I have to unclench. Sometimes I do but not in this instance. There’s nothing I find remotely redeeming about this story.
Belle was a prisoner. Sure she was lavished gifts, given a library (swoon), and all these nice things. Except her freedom to leave. Even when Beast finally let her go and she came back, her “will” was suspect. Given that she had been a prisoner for so long, there was plenty of time for her to develop Stockholm syndrome. One, at the very least, has to question whether she was truly acting out of her own accord, or from some deep psychological control that her jailor had over her for so long.
There are plenty of strong female characters in recent Disney characters (see Cinderella, especially the Cinderella in Drew Barrymore’s Ever After, or Mulan, and more recently Elsa and Anna) so I will reserve my time for these characters over Belle.