Beauty and the Beast is probably my favorite fairy tale. I haven’t met a version that I don’t adore and am re-watching the new Disney live-action edition tonight.
It was during the scene where Beast let’s Belle go to save her father that I had a revelation. As the past two weeks has brought #metoo to to the forefront and people are openly talking about how being harassed and abused by someone in a position of power makes people less likely to report that harassment and abuse, I have never realized how no matter what edition of Beauty and the Beast I have read or watched, include what I think is one of the first publications of the story, the Beast always let’s Belle go as a proof of his love.
…Okay. After further research, I hadn’t read the original by Madame De Villeneuve, but am reading it now :-).
I feel like most of the rest of the “Disney Princesses” don’t get much of an opinion about their lives. Cinderella gets bullied by her step-family until she takes the first ticket out of Dodge. Snow White is equally bullied and takes whatever help she can get. Sleeping Beauty is loved, but lied to and, well, who’s going to argue with true love’s kiss?
But Beauty has the choice to refuse to go to the Beast’s castle. She feels free to tell him that she won’t marry him (or otherwise denies his requests). Even after he falls in love with her, she’s freely allowed to essentially do her own thing. It is her choice to love or not to love, though I prefer versions of the story where the Beast isn’t so actively bribing Belle and her family.
Even though the Beast is holding Belle prisoner and though he needs her love to re-become human, he cannot force her to love him. He may act cruel and heartless, but unlike in real life, Belle never feels pressured to pretend to love him or even pretend to like him. She doesn’t have to smile at his bad jokes. She doesn’t have to stroke his ego.
She has the freedom to be 100% herself and fall in love with him on her own terms.