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Feminist Criticism of Disney's Beauty and the Beast

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Katy Huynh

on 12 September 2013

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Transcript of Feminist Criticism of Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Feminist Criticism of
Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Belle vs. Traditional Women
Belle: the Power Woman
Belle the Rebel
Traditional Roles
Viewers can deduce that Beauty and the Beast takes place in France in the 18th century. In the 1700s, European women and maidens were placed under a strict code of conduct and behavior. Patriarchy and male-dominance were of a social norm and women had to comply with these norms unquestionably. Furthermore, women were not given the opportunity to pursue education, thus most women were illiterate. They were rather confined to domestic roles within the family to serve the husband, father, and to bare children.
Love is Respect
Belle’s romantic relationship with the Beast is also written in favor of feminism. Initially, the Beast attempts to lock Belle in a room to pose a sense of domination and strength over her. This can be perceived as a metaphor or representation of an abusive relationship. However towards the middle, the Beast realizes that confinement and coercion is no way to win her love and he grants her freedom.
By: Katy Huynh
Per. 2

The portrayal of Belle in Disney’s adaptation of Beauty and the Beast is quite different from the previously mentioned social expectations during her time period. Belle is a feminist who refuses to succumb to her society’s primitive view on the role of women.

Overview of Belle
Belle is perceived as a strange woman by her fellow villagers because she is knowledgeable and intelligent. Most striking of all is the fact that she can read and is often seen portrayed with a book in her hand. The fact that she can read can expose her to many perspectives views on a certain subject and therefore Belle is depicted as an open-minded character who is willing to accept new concepts and ideas.
Literacy and Intelligence
Independent Mind
Belle lives on her accord and ignores what the other conservative folks have to say. She actually has an independent mind that is uninfluenced by a man. She thinks and acts for herself. This makes it difficult for Belle to find a sense of belonging in her primeval society, but she shuns all of that.
Belle chooses whom she wants to love and departs from a judgment based on physical appearance. She disregards the Beast’s outer, horrendous appearance, and sees him as a character with a unique personality. She eventually falls in love with him for who he truly is inside. Belle also has the liberty to choose and make her own decisions. In the original Beauty and the Beast, Belle is forced to stay as a prisoner. In the Disney’s film adaptation, Belle actually takes initiative to voice her decision to stay with the Beast.

Power of Choice
Nonconformity to male dominance is that next approach toward the feminism observed in Belle’s characteristics and traits. The handsome, but conceited hunter, Gaston, is probably every girl’s dream. As seen in the movie, many maidens in town daze and their eyes glisten at the sight of Gaston and his prominent masculinity. His ultimate goal is to win Belle’s love, but in return, she shows no interest in him because of his arrogance and sexism.
Gaston is shallow and only chases after Belle because she is the most beautiful girl in town. He wants nothing more than to possess her and thus can deem himself superior. However, Belle is not superficial like him and rejects him at his every advance. Belle does not fall in love with any male character at first sight like most other princesses. Her love is gained through a series of hardship and mutual trust with the Beast.
Love is Gained
Out of the Ordinary
Belle does not want to be a typical girl or woman who just stays at home, waiting for a man to ask for her hand in marriage. Though proven to be a dutiful daughter to her father, she does not want to be confined to the conventional life style. Belle desires to leave her village life to go on an adventure elsewhere. In contrast to other Disney princesses, Belle wants to do something other than wait for her prince charming to come.
Not the Damsel in Distress
Belle is not the expected archetypal damsel in distress that appears in most fairy tales. Instead, she is the heroine who travels the dark forest alone in search for the Beast’s castle. She offers her freedom in return for her father’s release from the Beast. At the climax, although given a chance to escape to safety, Belle would rather choose true love and danger returns to the Beast’s side. It shows the strong-willed side of Belle despite her feminine, feeble appearance.

The Female Mentor
Belle brings about change in the Beast. She civilizes the Beast and helps him learn to regulate his temper. She teaches him how to become a gentleman, and indeed the Beast does change for her. In most typical fairy tales, the princes or male protagonists are the ones to bring about change to the females. But in this version, Belle is the one to bring out a better change in the male character.
More Than Just a Beauty
Belle may have been purposely portrayed to not embody a perfect appearance. She has a strand of hair that keeps shrouding in front of her face. Although this is a small detail, it is there to convey the message that women should not be expected to spend too much time chasing after perfection because there are, in fact, better and greater things that women can accomplish.
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