By now I’m sure y’all have noticed that I LOVE to read (current read is ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell). I’ve written a few blog posts about the books I’ve read and my favorites. As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved to read. And Belle’s love of reading is one of the main reasons I love this movie so much!
I can actually remember going to the movie theater with my mom when I was about 5 years old to see Disney’s Beauty and the Beast when it was first released. It was just me and mom- she’s made a ‘Girl’s Day’ of it for the two of us, leaving my then 2 year old brother and Dad at home. I remember watching the opening scenes in complete awe of the beauty of them, and then suddenly there was this smart, kind, girl who loved to read as the main character. I was hooked.
As I grew up, Belle was a perennial favorite- I’m pretty sure we had to buy a second VHS tape because I wore out the first one! I had all sorts of merchandise as well- sheets, books, a watch, a necklace, toys- anything that my family could find and afford, I had.
But then I became an adult, and friends and family assumed I’d put away childish things and move on. And I did, to a certain extent. Not my love of Belle, though. My collection downsized a bit (I lost the bedding and outgrew the clothes) but continued to grow in general. Finally, my mom stopped and asked me why I loved this movie so much.
I know I surprised her with my reply, but when she thought about it, she agreed with me: Belle, and her love of reading, finally made it okay for a little girl to be smart and adventurous. To want more than to fall in love, get married, and have babies. Belle wanted those things too, but they weren’t her main goals. She made it okay to want more out of life. I mean, here is this beautiful Disney princess telling young girls it’s okay to dream of adventure and to love learning. We all know how much young girls can be susceptible to the ‘Princess Syndrome’. I was no exception, but because Disney gave me Belle, I think it changed the way I saw princesses from that point on.
I also know what critics of the movie say: that it’s a pure example of Stockholm Syndrome, where a captive falls in love with her captor. But, I would argue that that isn’t the case here. Prince Adam (Beast for those who don’t know his real name) wants absolutely nothing to do with Belle- nor she with him- at first. But then, as his servants push him to be more hospitable toward her, Prince Adam begins to learn about her, and as an educated man himself, begins to appreciate her mind and pursue her as a friend. Belle, in turn, takes notice of his love of reading and finds herself enjoying his company and conversation. Neither one ever expected to like each other, much less fall in love. And the very basis of Stockholm Syndrome is a power struggle: the captor manipulates the captive into falling in love with him/her in order to maintain control over the person. This is clearly not the case for Prince Adam and Belle.
So, I will continue my love of Beauty and the Beast, and I will continue to pursue adventure and knowledge because of the example set for me from a young age by- of all things- a Disney Princess.