Alex Haden '17
So I’ve seen people talking a lot about Beauty and the Beast, and I just have to get something off of my chest: Belle is actually really mean. I know, I know: “How can you say that? She’s the best! She’s so great! She is so sweet! She sees people for who they are! She has brown hair and reads books and I used to have brown hair and read books before law school caused premature graying and destroyed my free time!” But the truth of the matter is that Belle is probably not like you. Belle is not a nice person, and if you lived in Belle’s village, you would not like her. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the opening number.
Open on a beautiful, big, gorgeous home outside of a French village. This house is very nice and clean; there is a well right in front of it; and there are at least two stories to this house. Out comes a girl in a PRISTINE white and blue dress and white apron. Like, not a speck of dirt on her. Nowhere. To live in a house this nice and have that clean of an outfit leads us to only one conclusion: Belle is rich. She’s the Kim Kardashian of this town.
And then, she begins to sing! About birds, or true love, or friendship, or about being grateful for your lot in life? Nope. About the people she lives around who she considers to be common peasants. “Little town, full of little people.” Seriously? You’re gonna walk into town singing about how you think you’re so much better than everyone else? If Kim Kardashian walked into Walmart and started telling people how basic they are, people would not like it. Yet for some reason, Belle gets a pass. Okay. I see. But this town is full of decent people. They still say hello to her, despite her lyrics, even the guy in the stockades who is being punished for adultery.
“There goes the baker with his tray like always.” Yeah, that’s his fucking job. It’s how he feeds his family. Sorry he doesn’t get to walk into your living room and yell at you about your crusty bread. And that is not “the same old bread and rolls.” Those are freshly baked. And people like them, okay? If he is making them every day, then people are clearly buying them. But sorry that the bread has been boring you since you came to this “poor provincial town.” BTW, “poor” is another reference to her being richer than them.
Then, she decides that her two-minute walk has tired her, so she jumps on the back of another person’s wagon to hitch a ride. Seriously? If some stranger jumped on the back of your car, you’d freak out. But for Belle, everyone is just there to get her from Point A to Point B. And they’re so boring about it!
Then, she heads to the bookstore. Let’s be real clear here: it’s a store. The sign out front says “Bookseller.” Not “book lender.” But of course, for Belle, everything is free. She returns a book that she has borrowed and asks for something new. The poor bookseller tries to drive her away by telling her that there have been no new deliveries, but Belle responds by recklessly playing with the ladder. Honey, that’s expensive, and you’re gonna break it, and we know you’re not gonna pay to fix it.
Then, she says, “That’s alright, I’ll borrow this one.” SHE DIDN’T EVEN ASK! SHE JUST INFORMED THE OWNER THAT SHE WAS TAKING A BOOK! THAT’S WRONG! And she’s already read it twice! There must be over 50 books in that shop, and she’s read all of them some of them twice, and hasn’t paid for a single one! And the bookseller knows exactly how many times she’s read each one, so he is clearly counting and is mad about it. To get rid of her, he lets her keep the book so she gets out of his shop and stops playing on the ladder.
Let’s be honest: if the town is as provincial as she says it is, a lot of people probably aren’t buying books. So that bookshop is probably in dire financial straits. AND SHE HAS MONEY! But she gets books for free because Belle apparently has some sort of godlike legal immunity.
Then she heads to the town square and sits on the fountain. A woman behind Belle is quietly doing her laundry, while Belle is singing loudly around her. The woman is clearly irritated with Belle, and storms off. But Belle doesn’t notice. Seriously, go watch that scene. There is no other explanation.
Belle continues to sing to sheep, and shows them pages of the book as if they can read. In her head, Belle is secretly thinking “There’s no difference between these horrible people I live around and these sheep, who probably smell really bad.” While she’s showing the book to the sheep, one of the sheep eats a page. Duh. Sheep cannot read, and they like to eat things. What did she think would happen? Good think the bookseller didn’t want that book back, because Belle does not take care of her personal belongings. I wonder how many of the bookseller’s other books have bite marks in them?
Then she walks onto a work site where men are loading goods onto a cart. She literally walks on the cart while they are working and doesn’t care if she is interrupting. No one just walks into an office and interrupts normal activity there, but, for Belle, exceptions must be made. As if that weren’t enough she balances badly on the cart and SMASHES one of the guys in the face with the cart. Teeth go flying, he spins around unconscious, and Belle doesn’t even notice or care. That dude will likely have severe medical consequences as a result of her careless intrusion into a loading zone, and she doesn’t even stop reading a book that she has already read twice.
One more refrain of “this provincial life” in the middle of the town square (where people notice that she’s being super rude to them). In fewer than five minutes, Belle has already been cast as a rich, snobby person who is rude to people around her for no reason, insulting their livelihoods and stealing from them despite her wealth.
I’m not trying to say that all Disney princesses have to be nice, sweet, kind, caring robots. I’m just interested in the truth. Belle may still be your favorite, but you have to acknowledge that if she is your favorite, it isn’t because she is overly sweet and kind and gentle and blah blah blah. Because she knocked a cart into a guy’s face and almost killed him.
1 For tradition’s sake, I am looking at the 1991 version of the opening, but very few (if any) of these problems are any different in the remake.
2 You have to read between the lines, people.