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Problematic Things About "Beauty and the Beast"

Born in 1986, this '80s baby and '90s kid remembers the colorful and naughty side of millennial youth.



Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time with multiple book and film versions, but the 1991 classic is arguably one of the most beloved versions of the tale.

However, upon a closer look in the mirror, this Disney cartoon is beginning to chip.

One of the more glaring issues is with Gaston, a pompous 25-year-old whose obsession with Belle quickly turns toxic before the first song ends.

He's misogynistic, insisting that "it's not right for a woman to read" while trying to separate Belle from her favorite storybook. His narrow view of womanhood becomes even more pronounced when he barges into her home without her permission and tries to force her into marriage while imposing on her the idea of her rubbing his feet, cooking for him and producing "at least" six or seven sons.

He does not respect her boundaries when she flat out tells him "No" and he actually plans on ways to punish her for rejecting his advances. He stalks her, he tries to falsely imprison her father in an insane asylum, and it isn't long before his thoughts become violent in regard to making her his wife.

As if dealing with a flat-out violent stalker wasn't bad enough for Belle, there's also the people in her life who encourage her to spend time with him.

Belle's father Maurice asks why Belle doesn't give him a chance, though this idea is quickly dropped when he sees Gaston's true nature.

The Bimbettes - triplet sisters Claudette, Laurette and Paulette, chide Belle behind her back for not swooning over her stalker the way they do. They follow Gaston to an unhealthy degree, hoping he will notice them, while also refusing to accept that Bell is not as infatuated with Gaston as they are.

And this isn't even the start of it.


The Townsfolk

Belle can't even get through the morning without people talking about her like she isn't even there.

Granted, like any teenager, (Disney officially lists her age as 17 while her voice actress said she thought she was 18 and a few animators thought she was 20) she does sing to herself about how provincial (read: narrow-minded) the people in town are, but while that may sound rude, she isn't wrong.

The townsfolk are narrow-minded, save but for the bookstore owner. They actually erupt into song, harmonizing about how they can't understand why Belle loves to read books and why she doesn't look or behave like they do. They don't just fear what they don't understand, they absolutely loathe it.

This becomes clearer later on in the movie, when Gaston shows them an image of The Beast, and with very little provocation, the villagers begin inventing stories and rumors about The Beast, and then the men begin grabbing weapons and setting torches on fire, before singing all the way to the castle, breaking in and smashing as many of The Beast's living, enchanted, formerly human objects as possible.

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These people turn to gossip and violence the very second something they don't understand comes into view, so suddenly, Belle belting out about how "provincial" these people are doesn't seem so inappropriate.


A Loss of Agency for Belle

Belle wanted adventure in the great wide somewhere, but this wish she has for traveling is almost instantly erased by the events of the film, and never brought up again once she reaches the castle.

Prior to the start of the film, viewers get the impression that she and her father have moved around more than once, and that each time, it's been to further his self-employment as an inventor and to help him with his dream. She has had no say in where they live or for how long, and it is her job to take care of the animals who live on this property.

After the first song, Gaston is pushed onto her.

Then a few scenes later, she finds herself trading her freedom for her father's after he trespasses on The Beast's property.

From this point forward, Belle's agency over her own life begins to vanish.

The enchanted servants only act as though they sympathize with her, but in reality, they are really only concerned about breaking the spell that turned them into housewares.

Belle is visibly afraid of The Beast and simultaneously angered with his irrational temper, and yet at every turn, she has a wardrobe, a clock and a magic tea set all insisting that even though The Beast exhibits threatening behavior, she "owes" him chance after chance.

Even in the midquel movie Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas when he even goes so far as to throw her into a dungeon, at no point do any of the servants start to question the arrangement.

Belle's choices are only respected when it's something the other characters want or can benefit from, but when it comes to her own desires or even her own well-being, her agency is snatched from her.


The Beastly Prince Adam

Every ounce of The Beast's story is riddled with problems.

Between all three Beauty and the Beast films, we learn that The Beast began life as Prince Adam, a spoiled and selfish prince with no love in his heart. No mention of his parents is ever made, but since he is not a king, perhaps they may still be alive?

Regardless of their whereabouts, he was raised mostly by his servants until one night, when an old beggar woman appeared on his doorstep, seeking shelter. Because she was a stranger, (and an ugly one to boot) the young prince told her to leave, so she revealed herself to be an enchantress.

She then turned him into a beast, cursed all of his servants, and then gave him a magical rose that will bloom for ten years, until his 21st birthday. Find a woman to love who will love you back, and you and your servants can return to being human.

She then leaves and is never brought up again.

There is no comeuppance for this random stranger who cursed a castle full of people she does not know.

Worse? If Prince Adam was waiting for ten years before his 21st birthday, then she essentially cursed an 11-year-old child just because he didn't let a stranger into his house. Most parents tell their kids not to open the door for strangers, so he was punished for doing what he should have done.

When he entraps Belle into a living arrangement at the castle, his temper is violent. He tries to hit her when she wanders into the west wing and every aspect of her life revolves around what she can do for him and where his temper will take her.

But adding to the problem of Prince Adam is an age gap.

While Belle's voice actress and a few of the key animators were under the impression this was an 18- to 20-year-old maiden, the official Disney records show Belle is only 17, while Prince Adam is turning 21.

It may not be a very big age gap, and the film may take place around 1756, but it's still uncomfortable to watch a girl who is in today's world underage, being led around by a violent and beastly prince.

Knowing her age makes it more inappropriate that her fate is decided mostly by a fight between 25-year-old Gaston and 21-year-old Prince Adam, and is a fight between a misogynist stalker and her violent captor.

© 2022 Koriander Bullard

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