Feminism In The Fairy Tale Beauty And The Beast

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​In children’s fairy tales, there is a strong protagonist that conveys a message that teaches simple morals and social norms to guide the young children in understanding the expectations that they will be accountable for as they grow. The idea of feminism empowerment supports and advocates for women’s rights on the very social and economic aspect. Andrew Lang’s fairy tale, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, incorporates these ideas and breaks barriers of social norms for women as the story displays a strong influential woman as the lead protagonist. The main character of Belle takes on the challenges of living in a society where toxic masculinity goes against the expectations of behavior as a woman during this time as she possesses characteristics of being strong minded, independent, and brave. This fairy tale is a unique story that allows a woman to defy the odds, go against men, display courage when saving her father from death, and teaching a manly beast how to love again.

There are various instances in the latest version of the fairy tale movie where the character of Belle portrays the potential underlying women power. One of he instances is during the introductory scenes whe Belle’s opening song depicts a character who is care free and is not perturbed by what people may say about her. She comes out as aloof and strangely weird to the villagers, opinions that are the least of her worries as she pursues knowledge from reading books. The haters surrounding her donor dissuade her from living her life. This is evident through her contagious self-confidence that helps her to focus herself without the distractions from others. She decides to stick to her dreams as a way of handling the village gossip and does not let any of them lead her astray from the path that she has chosen for herself.

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The theme of feminism in the fairy tale movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is prevalent as can be attested by the latest release in the franchise that has the lead role of Belle played by actress Emma Watson. The Hollywood sensation gave a powerful performance that oozed of independence and girl power in a world where women were expected to be submissive. She is daddy’s girl in every way as can be seen in the first scene where she is with her father. It is at this juncture in the film that the audience realizes just how Belle leads her life through intuition. Her father, Maurice, is seen to be working towards inventing a new machine. As they talk with his daughter Belle, she is at hand time and time again to give tools that he wants to use without even him asking for them. She is similar to her father because she is passionate about science, something that makes her as much of an inventor as he is. This cannot be said of many girls her age, either in the context of the film or in real life.

The empowerment of Belle in the film embodies feminism, especially the part where she utilizes her intelligence to invent a washing machine. Her thirst for knowledge sees her immerse herself in books almost all of the time. This eats into her time to do chores like laundry, leaving her to get imaginative and use her creativity to solve this problem. She makes use of a horse and a barrel around a fountain to get the job done, freeing her hands to embark on important stuff like flipping through the pages of her favorite book ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for the umpteenth time. She invents and creates when girls are supposed to be busy with their domestic chores.

The Walt Disney film Beauty and the Beast is awash with feminism with the female protagonist spearheading women empowerment. Belle is not only engrossed in reading for pleasure, but she also takes the time to share the knowledge she acquires from books with other small girls. She helps the little girls in the town with their reading tasks, an indication that she is a feminist agent of change seeking to empower others and not just herself.

Belle cherishes her status as an independent lady with her own mind and able to make her life choices. This is best seen in how she authoritatively shuts down the men around her keen on promoting patriarchy. The point where she blatantly shuts down Gaston is a clear indication that Belle wants to run her life as sh deems fit and not as dictated by others. Gaston is confident and believes he is entitled to at least a date with Belle. She is crafty enough to avoid his misogyny when she declines his advances by simply retorting with a no. Gaston, not one to give up, wonders why she would deny him a date and proceeds to enquire if she was refusing him because she was busy or something. Belle flatly tells him that she was not busy and woks away in a defiant manner that Gaston, and the viewers, did not see coming.

​Her independence is the epitome of the feminism in the story, especially her quest to be away from chauvinists like Gaston. Shutting him down is an indication that she does not like being commanded like she is someone’s property. This becomes evident when she does not let even the Beast himself order her around. She is adamant that her will and choices be respected irrespective of the man or beast in question. Like a true feminist, Belle does not even hesitate to hold a conversation with a beast that knocks on her door demanding to have a meal with her. She calmly responds with a decline to the demand despite it coming from the Beast who seemed menacing and scary enough to instill fear in the minds of girls Belle’s age. This is a true manifestation of feminism in the story where the bravery and speaking her mind out are qualities to be envied.

Finally, and perhaps more important, is the fact that Belle does not seem fazed by dangerous situations as she welcomes such scenarios with courage, unlike other average girls. A breathtaking scene in the story is when Belle and her father are running away to secure their freedom. She needs to return to the castle to save the Beast. Despite her father’s insistence that the mission to save the Beast was a dangerous one, Belle remains determined to see the mission through by heartily replying, ‘Yes it is.’ The response is an admission of the imminent danger and how unavoidable it is as it must be faced one way or the other. Emma Watson does the film justice by bringing to light be the protagonist character of Belle and her subtle feminist roles in the plot of the fairy tale.

Works Cited

  1. Craven, Allison. Fairy Tale Interrupted: Feminism, Masculinity, Wonder Cinema. Bern: Peter Lang, 2017. Print.
  2. Griswold, Jerry. The Meanings of ‘beauty & the Beast’: A Handbook. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2004. Print.
  3. Snortland, Ellen. Beauty Bites Beast: Awakening the Warrior Within Women and Girls. Sunland, Calif: B3 Books, 1998. Print.    


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