The new live action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is hitting theaters on March 17th. My husband and I have already bought our tickets and it is going to be our daughter’s first time watching a movie in theaters. I was a late 80’s kid and I grew up obsessing over the animated VHS tape. I would watch, rewind, and repeat. Although technology has evolved over time, I hope that my daughter shares the same love of Belle and her beast. I am going to encourage her love of the film, not only for purposes of nostalgia but mostly because Belle is a positive role model for girls of all ages.
We live in superficial times. People are so consumed by physical beauty that “there’s an app for that!” Take Tinder, for example. For the most part, people approve or reject each other based on snap judgments. It’s all about looks. If the Beast was on Tinder, would Belle have swiped right? Probably not. Initially, his appearance frightened her. It took some time but she learned not to judge a book by its cover. When she came to that realization, they ultimately fell in love and her kiss broke the spell. She could’ve married a stud like Gaston but she turned him down because his pool is pretty shallow. There’s a lot of Gastons out there and if you never look beyond the exterior, you’ll never find your beast. So, in a time where society determines someone’s worthiness based on their appearance, Belle’s revelation can teach young and old alike to look deeper and find what lies beneath.
Belle’s selflessness is another reason why she is such an impeccable role model. When her father was captured by the Beast, she could’ve left him prisoner. Instead, she selflessly sacrificed her own happiness and freedom so that he could be released. Belle’s sacrifice was almost martyr-like. She didn’t know the Beast but she was terrified of him and there was no knowing what her fate would hold. Yet, she defended her father and showed her unyielding loyalty to family. This act of selflessness teaches children young and old to put the needs of others first, within reason of course.
Maurice was not the only one saved by Belle. She also saved the Beast, his castle, and his servants. Unlike many fairy tales where the damsel must be rescued from a tower or awakened with a kiss, Belle isn’t the damsel in distress. Instead, the Beast is the one who needs saving. This take is the opposite of Snow White. In this scenario, her kiss sets him free. Belle doesn’t settle for societal norms. She’s a strong woman and shows girls everywhere that females can be the hero, too.
Speaking of societal norms, the Beast is not the only outcast. Belle is, too. As much as the villagers and Gaston gawk over her beauty, they ostracize her for her love of books. Due to her gender, she’s expected to happily accept Gaston’s proposal because, as a female, that must be her only dream. The townspeople refer to her as “strange” and “funny” simply because she wants to be more than a “little wife massaging [his] feet.” Luckily, our heroine is true to herself, despite the ridicule, and continues to do that which makes her happy.
Although Belle feared the Beast, once upon a time, she learned to look beneath his grizzly appearance. Her lack of superficiality, her familial loyalty, her selflessness, her strength, her perseverance, her intellect, and her loyalty to herself are all admirable traits. I am so excited that my daughter’s generation can relive the magic of Beauty and the Beast through the new live action film. I hope that Belle’s character can teach this generation of girls to respect themselves and those around them and that they all live happily ever after.