Image: Author's Own
I haven't yet seen the new Beauty and the Beast but the old one is one of my favorite Disney Princess films and trust me, with a four year old daughter, I've seen a few. But with the new version out, the naysayers are ready to tear holes in the woman I consider to be the first feminist Disney Princess. They say that she has Stockholm Syndrome, as if it's a clever or original thing to say.
I don't buy into it. I reject the notion that the Beast is an abusive husband and Belle easily led. And here's why. First let's address the Beast's behaviour. Yes, he's an arse to her at the beginning. But he's under a curse. When the enchantress cast her spell, she turned him into a beast. She didn't make him just look like a beast... She fundamentally changed who he was. His behaviour is more like an addict than an abuser - his real self is trapped inside but something external is controlling him. It takes Belle's patience to break the cycle of addiction and re-socialise him after however many years of isolation (and let's not linger on the whole timeline thing. It's a massive plothole)
Which brings us to Belle herself. Easily led and desperate for love? Not this girl, who could have the attentions of any man in the village if you believe the opening number. But she chooses to fall in love slowly and on her own terms. She's tenacious and gutsy and in some ways, the Beast is the first man apart from her father that gets her (see how he encourages her love of reading instead of trying to squash it like Gaston)
Now Gaston really is an abuser. He assumes Belle would want to marry him despite them having nothing in common (I wonder whether she might be a vegetarian as she's not impressed by his slaughter for sport hobby). Five minutes into the marriage, the Big G would have been telling his "little wifey" what to wear and who she could socialise with and... Well, you can imagine the more intimate details of their marriage. The moment that he falls rejected into the duck pond had women cheering in 1991 and I hope they'll still be cheering in 2017.
Belle is a strong female role model for my princess obsessed daughter and her princess obsessed friends. Don't take this away from them by painting her as some weak minded little girl. In a world where a crucial meeting between two world leaders in reported in terms of their calves, we still need feminism. We still need Belle. I wonder why we didn't see it there before.