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A Feminist Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast is a classic. I grew up with it, as I’m sure many others have as well, it was part of my childhood. Now, having watched the newest remake featuring Emma Watson, I’m sure that it’s going to be part of many other people’s childhoods as we can see from the box office sales (25 March).

Children are constantly learning- from their parents, from teachers, and most importantly, from movies and books. With the new advances in CGI, movies like Beauty and the Beast are able to appear a great deal more life like than when I was a child. It makes it more real and arguably, more applicable to real life. This is why I think it’s so important to analyze the message that this movie sends out.

I have only included four points for each, and I’m sure that I’ve missed out quite a few others. I would love to hear your point of view as well. Add yours in the comments!

What Worked

  • Belle is “different” and that is portrayed as positive to the viewers. Despite being labeled as “weird” by the rest of her community, we’re seeing quite a few things from Belle’s point of view and she takes joy in most of the things that she does. She’s inventive, well read, and wants to have adventures.
  • She takes the initiative to save her father by herself and doesn’t go to anyone for help. She’s a strong independent young woman, but it doesn’t take it to the extremes as so many other stories do. She’s able to be a role model, all the while still finding it in herself to love. More times than not, strong female characters are shown to be quite devoid of emotion – I’m glad that Belle was not. People can be strong in so many different ways than simply detaching themselves from others.
  • The teapot can be a mother, but also kick serious butt. The range of emotions that the teapot was able to show was amazing. Not only was she a caring mother who tried her hardest to look after both Belle and her son, but she was also able to protect the castle when it was needed. She was also the most sensible one of the bunch, and very good at keeping everything in order.
  • In the beginning of the movie, Belle tried to teach a little girl to read. Not only does this emphasis the need for girls to support other girls, but it highlights the importance of education as well. Respect for both of these things is vital to a young girl or boy’s life.

What Didn’t Work

  • She said that she wanted to find ‘adventure’ but all she found was love. Sure, love can be an adventure but what about all the places that she wanted to visit? The big cities and the new people? Hell, that’s basically what the first song is about. Sadly when she did finally go somewhere other than her little village, Paris, she wanted to leave almost as soon as she got there. While there are the circumstances to be taken into account, this could be interpreted that Belle has realized that her wishes of traveling are ‘stupid’ and that staying where she has been the whole time is something that is worth desiring. Not a great message.
  • When Gaston and the Beast were fighting, she did nothing of value despite being a hand widths distance away. She wasn’t proactive in the slightest. Letting the men do all of the fighting, while Belle just stands there doing nothing doesn’t send out a very positive message for young girls. Especially when both of those men have desired her at one point in time, and that is arguably part of the reason that the two men are fighting– she is not something that can be owned.
  • She’s still defined by her name, and constantly gets remarks about how pretty she is. I would have understood if they had created a dialogue where she talks about being more than that – but they don’t really do all that much to address it. We get a little hint of her being more than that, she loves to read and she supports other girls! However, due to a great deal of the story revolving around the beast falling in love with her, we don’t really get to see that.
  • The Beast is rude, violent and prone to fits of vicious anger – yet Belle sticks around long enough to realize that he isn’t always like that. This is worrying from many aspects. In real life, it’s extremely rare that someone with all of these complexes will turn out to be a prince in shining armor. It’s much more likely that they’ll drag whoever was trying to ‘save’ them down as well. This storyline appears to be encouraging young girls to stick with those who appear to be highly abusive, not even mentioning the fact that he’s forcing her to stay in the castle.

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A seventeen year old IB student with a passion for books and speaking her mind.

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