Disney: Beauty and the Beast Conversations

Screenshot from Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991) starring Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Feature Animation.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Now that we’ve written a thousand posts on BTS, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, I feel we should take a break to acknowledge one of my favorite movies and all of the conversations surrounding it. This movie was one of those movies that formed me as a child. Little me was so excited to learn to read, I pretended to read before I actually could. When I first sat down to watch this movie I was sucked into it as soon as the opening theme started playing. As soon as I saw Belle, dressed in blue and yelling right back at the Beast, a character who looked like me and had a love for books, I immediately became attached. All these years later, I still love the movie to bits. Of course, because of that I’ve seen so many controversies and conspiracy theories emerge surrounding this movie. Let’s be honest, we’ve all heard at least some of these. Some of them I found really funny, others made me raise a very quizzical eyebrow; but there’s so much I want to address so let’s get into it!

Stockholm Syndrome:

I’m pretty sure everyone’s heard this one at this point. For those out there who don’t know what this is, Stockholm Syndrome is when a hostage develops personality traits of and an attachment to their captor. Yes, this movie does feature the Beast keeping Belle as a hostage; but I have several arguments against this idea. Belle never develops personality traits of the Beast, if anything it is the other way around. The Beast changed because of Belle, not the other way around. Also, Belle is never even sympathetic towards the Beast during her time as a captive. I would argue that once Belle saves the Beast after escaping from the castle, she is no longer a hostage. They both know that she could leave at any point. It is only when she has a level of freedom back that the romance in this story begins. I’m not going to say that everything about this storyline is great. Despite this being one of my favorite movies of all time, I will still definitely acknowledge that we need to stop using stories that romanticize kidnappers. It’s really messed up and definitely NOT a good starting point for love at all. This isn’t great, but I’m not quite sure that Stockholm Syndrome applies here.

Beastiality:

I trust I don’t have to explain what this one is, but I’m not going to give an explanation even if I was asked. This is probably the most talked about controversial topic after Stockholm Syndrome, and I get why people are raising eyebrows. Still, I’m not quite sold on this one either. Belle doesn’t fall in love with an animal. At no point in this movie is the Beast completely an animal. Nor does Belle think he is. He is a cursed human that is admittedly very hairy, but human nonetheless. I mean, it doesn’t help that the Beast was never given a name. The fans sort of adopted the name Adam after a small-time game cited that as his name; but the game wasn’t even created by a Disney company. Still, there really isn’t enough here to call this beastiality.

Gaston is the Real Hero:

NOPE. No thanks. Not today. Not ever. Did we forget about that scene in the movie where Gaston warns Belle against reading because he believes women shouldn’t THINK? Or the part where he tries to forcibly kiss Belle? Or the part where he implies all a woman is good for is having children? Yes, in the end it makes sense for him to go after the Beast, because he did hold a person hostage and it is weird that Belle is now claiming to love her captor. But he does this for all the wrong reasons! He never has actual concern for Belle or her family; he states several times in the movie that he only wants to marry Belle because she’s pretty. He never listens to anything she has to say about anything, never mind what she has to say about the idea of marrying him. When he goes after the Beast, it isn’t because he actually views the Beast as a threat to the village or Belle. He goes after the Beast to get back at Belle for refusing to marry him. He even sends her father to the asylum, which were more than awful places back when the story takes place. In no world is Gaston even a semblance of noble and he definitely isn’t heroic.

The Enchantress Cursed a Child:

This..um…yeah… it did happen and it’s pretty messed up. The Beast is cursed until his twenty-first birthday and Lumiere says that the household has been cursed for ten years. That means the enchantress asked an eleven year old if she could stay in his house and he said no. Which more than makes sense for an eleven year old child who probably grew up knowing not to let strangers into his house. Maybe he was a spoiled brat but, again, he was ELEVEN. This poor kid! The recent and pretty useless live action remake in 2017 tried to fix this mistake by taking out the twenty-first birthday rule on the rose and keeping the castle eternally in the winter day in which it was cursed so that the Beast wouldn’t age. This technically does fix the issue of the original movie, but it isn’t in the original movie. I mean, either way it was pretty messed up for the enchantress to curse the entire house over one person, but at least this means that the enchantress was a bit better in one version.

LeFou:

There are so many problems with this one and they mostly have to do with Disney as a company. It has been a long held idea that LeFou is actually gay because of the way he acts around Gaston, which is something I can definitely see. Really, once it’s pointed out to you, it’s hard not to see that the guy who composed an entire song about a guy he follows around like a puppy is probably gay. The issue is that Disney tried to confirm this in the 2017 version and didn’t commit. Disney has done this with a lot of their recent movies; promising the LGBTQ+ community representation and then backing out last minute or having things happen in the background instead of actually featuring a LGBTQ+ couple. The worst part is, they do this because they’re worried they won’t get money from other more conservative countries. So it’s a money issue for a company that is already drowning in money. What they did with LeFou was a tease at best and a giant example of just how far Hollywood, and the world, still has to go at worst. LeFou should have been openly gay, but that is not what happened.

This movie definitely has issues, and my perception of the story has changed over the years because of some of these topics. Belle and the Beast used to be one of my favorite fictional couples because of the message of not judging a book by it’s cover. I still love Belle, but my perception of them as a couple has definitely gone downhill. Really, if you want a better, healthier, example of not judging a book by it’s cover in a Disney film I would seriously recommend looking at Tarzan and Jane from their respective Disney movie instead. Jane is also such a relatable and well written character without having too many of the princess tropes if you’re looking for that. This movie is still really good and still holds so much magic for me, but I think it’s good to acknowledge some of the problematic things in the media you really like. It helps all of us create new stories that reflect modern ideas. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is one of those things that keeps coming up in conversations like this, sometimes it doesn’t necessarily deserve it, but I’m glad that we can add things like this to bigger conversations.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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