Beauty and the Beast: A Disney Couple I Can Relate To
When the opportunity came to celebrate my favorite Disney couple, I jumped at the chance to write about Beauty and the Beast. Belle was a girl I could relate to, and I loved that she got a prince that had a little edge to him. I’m sure Charming is very nice and all, but I can’t imagine trying to hold a conversation with him!
As a child of the ’90s, I got to witness the Disney Princess renaissance that started in 1991 with Beauty and the Beast. The Little Mermaid had been released two years before, in 1989, and before that it had been 30 years since Disney had released a new princess movie. Belle was the first modern Disney princess. She was someone I could relate to. As much as I love Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, I’m just not the kind of girl who waits around for a prince to wander by and rescue me.
Then Belle came along – a princess who had her nose firmly planted in a book. That’s my kind of princess! And one who had her own opinions and wasn’t timid about telling the town’s most eligible bachelor that he wasn’t worth her time – very sweetly, of course. She turns down Gaston’s proposal of marriage, and is perfectly content to continue living a life of her own design.
I read somewhere that the only difference between a story’s hero and its villain is that the hero learns and grows, while the villian refuses to change. Prince Adam, who is turned into the Beast in punishment for his arrogant ways, is not so different from Gaston. Yet when he meets Belle, his back is against the wall. She’s his last chance to return to his human form, so he’s willing to change, to grow into the type of man she’d be willing to consider. Unlike earlier Disney princes, he isn’t a one-dimensional Good Guy. He’s got an edge to him. There’s depth to his personality. He’s intelligent, if stubborn. He and Belle are well-suited to each other.
Beauty and the Beast is the first Disney Princess movie where the traditional roles are reversed. The princess doesn’t really need saving. She is a prisoner in the Beast’s castle, but only because she came to save her father. She is not unhappy there. It is the Prince, the Beast, who needs someone to ride into his life and change all the rules. In Sleeping Beauty, the Prince kisses Aurora to break the spell. In Beauty and the Beast, it’s Belle’s kiss that shatters the enchantment, saving her Prince.
A Tale as Old as Time
Belle and the Beast grabbed my attention as a young teenager, because it disproved one of those old stereotypes I’d always hated – the one that said girls had to choose between being pretty (and lovable) or smart. Belle was both, so it stood to reason that I could be too. That lesson has stayed with me through most of my life, reminding me that I didn’t have to hide my girly side or dumb down my conversation.
I ‘m thrilled that Disney has made Beauty and the Beast such a large part of the new Fantasyland expansion. It proves once again that theirs is a “tale as old as time.”