For day three of Beauty & the Beast Week, which is also Femme Fatale Friday, I have decided to focus on Belle as the heroine of Beauty and the Beast. Belle is a young woman whose defining feature begins with her beauty. However, that is not the only thing that makes her special. In the Disney film, they chose to make her totally different from all of those around her. In her French provincial town, everyone is shown to be shallow and wrapped up in the worship of brutes like Gaston. In contrast, Belle is wrapped up in her mind and is shown to be more deep and introspective than any of her peers.
She is shown walking through her town reading books. Even her appearance is purposefully made to be different from anyone else in the town. She is the only one shown wearing blue. This visual cue further signifies her being of a different mindset from the rest of the town.
We find that not only her appearance but her interest in books that sets her apart. She seems to be the only character in the narrative who does not want a simple life, even outright rejecting Gaston when he proposes to her. While the audience sees Gaston for what he is, a total brute and swine, the rest of the town would swoon at the idea of marrying him. Therefore, by the standards of her peers, this marriage would actually be a good move, however, that is not something Belle is interested in. She wants more than to simply bare and raise sons who would turn out just like Gaston, as she wants a life of adventure and intellectual intrigues!
Her kind heart and brave nature are the reasons that she is willing to trade places with her father as the Beast’s captive. It is also this same compassion and empathy that will go on to allow her to see past the Beast’s facade of feral violence. He is more than a violent beast or a dumb one as he is assumed in some of the earliest versions (with the French word bete meaning both beast and dumb or stupid). The reality of his situation is that he is a Prince that had been cursed due to his ignorance in not showing a stranger (who turned out to have magical powers) kindness. This rejection of hospitality, a major thing in ancient myth (hospitality being sacred across the ancient world), led to a curse that nearly killed the Beast when Belle left to check on her father! Personally, I view the curse as being fully connected to the ignorance of the ancient sacredness of hospitality.
Belle slowly falls in love with the Beast as she learns of his intelligence and protective kindness. Examples include saving her from wolves and giving her that massive library. I have always said I would adore that library, being a massive reader myself, but I digress. Belle nearly lost the Beast when she left to check on her father, which sticks quite close to the original, except this time it is not her sisters trying to prevent her returning, but Gaston beating her there and nearly killing the Beast. Alas, Gaston dies of a fall (a very common end for Disney villains) and Belle’s tears and declaration of love save the Beast turning him back into his original form of Prince Adam!
At the end of the day, this tale is one of the triumph of love and Belle is the ideal heroine to show that love knows no limits. She does not judge the book by the cover, being a huge reader she knows the best stuff always lies within and ends up getting to know the Beast for who he is on the inside. She lets herself know him and is charmed by his protective nature and his intelligent mind. Belle is a heroine that exemplified the feminine ideals of nurturing and compassion in a way no other character in her narrative seemed to understand! I hope you have enjoyed this analysis of the character of Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for this very special Femme Fatale Friday. What is your favorite version of Belle? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Belle and the rose. I found the image on https://www.businessinsider.com/beauty-and-the-beast-aladdin-fan-theory-is-wrong-2016-2/
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- Beauty and the Beast (1991)