This was an interesting take on the new live action movie version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
I have vague memories of going to see the animated version at the cinema, but stronger memories of the stage musical version that came afterwards, as I knew people in the original Australian cast (which included a pre-Hollywood Hugh Jackman as Gaston).
It seems it’s practically compulsory for book-lovers to list Beauty and the Beast as their favourite Disney movie, and Belle as their favourite Disney heroine, but I’ve always had some reservations.
The reason I don’t have huge love for Belle is exactly the same reason I get angry at so many Young Adult and New Adult books:
She suffers from the classic “I’m not like other girls; I’m better!” syndrome.
‘With live-action performers, it’s also easier to realize that everyone in Beauty and the Beast is kind of an asshole.
Emma Watson is less engaging as Belle, whose introductory song, “Bonjour” is the ultimate “I’m not like other girls” anthem. The remake expands on Belle’s status as the nerdy princess, giving her a side-gig as a budding engineer. It’s a smart, feminist update for an old-fashioned heroine, but the film undercuts it by pitting her against her peers. She enjoys reading, unlike the illiterate peasants from her village. She’s naturally beautiful, unlike the girls who wear makeup. She strolls past her neighbors while singing about how boring their lives are. It’s hard to tell if she’s an outsider heroine, or just a snob.’
And while she goes on and on about it, what does she go and do?
She styles her hair, puts on a big ball gown, and becomes your standard Disney princess!
Yes, Belle, you ARE just like other girls. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I have no doubt I’ll see this movie at some point, and I’m sure I’ll love many aspects of it. But we need to drop certain ideas from out “feminist” characterisations.