Beauty and The Beast is one of those stories that everyone is familiar with. We saw it as an animated movie when we were young, and in the years of growing up, we have come across it time and again – in multiple books that were its retellings, countless movie adaptations, and most recently in the movie adaptation starring Emma Watson as Belle.
Thanks to Belle’s love for reading and the inclusion of one of the biggest libraries ever seen in literature – if you are a reader or a bookworm Beauty and The Beast sweeps you off your feet. After all, Beast’s library is every book lover’s dream, right? The charm of the story often makes us ignore a lot of problematic things that I am going to address today, so let’s start!
1. Looks do not matter. Or do they?
A major portion of Beauty and The Beast focuses on the fact that external appearance can be deceptive. The Beast is a hideous-looking creature, but inside – he has a beautiful, soft human heart. It is Belle’s love for the person and not his appearance that helps him break the curse. For a tale that emphasizes internal beauty so much – it is very hypocritical when the protagonist is named “Beauty” or “Belle” and also aligned with traditional views of what it means to be aesthetic to the eye, particularly to the male gaze. Quoting from Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s original tale, statements like:
“She was a perfectly beautiful Young Creature” or “She was so handsome that she was called The Beauty” reiterates the importance of looks as a crucial part of her personality. Even The Beast, at the end of the tale, when the curse is broken, is suddenly a “very handsome” man, as if that was essentially a component of who he is.
2. The Normalization of Toxic and Unhealthy Behaviours.
As much as the story and movie charmed me when I was eight, it didn’t take me long after becoming an adult to realize this: Beauty is in a Toxic Relationship with Beast. Some also contend the Beauty has Stockholm Syndrome – a psychological response that occurs when an abuse victim or a hostage – usually when treated with kindness forms a bond with the captor. No matter how many books he gives her, the fact is that Beast isolates Beauty from her friends and family and keeps her only to himself- one of the classic traits of a toxic relationship. Beauty is, for the majority of the story, scared of the Beast. Note that she is under pressure to save her father – which is what drove her into Beast’s castle or rather “prison,” where she has very limited freedom. As a reader, we love the fact that she gets access to a big library! But is it really worth it at the cost of losing your own freedom? I hope not!
3. The Propagation of the Idea That You Can Change Someone With Love.
Beast is shown as a person with a rough exterior, and the animate objects around his castle keep saying that Beauty is the one who can change him – that she is the one! This is a very popular idea in our culture – that with love, you can change anyone. While people do change – I feel it is important to address it, it should not be anyone’s responsibility. Beauty is almost forced by the Candle, the Kettle, and others to trust – or rather gaslighted into believing that Beast is a good person, and she isn’t in a very bad situation after all. I think it really reflects how often friends also ignore the warning signs. Overall – the moral that a bad man can change with the love of a good woman is extremely problematic, and it’s high time to call out this massive issue in the story.
While there are many more problematic things you can spot in the details of Beauty and The Beast, these are the most prominent and worth spending some time thinking about. Is it a fairy tale, or in reality, a nightmare? You be the judge. You can get the book here! 📖
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