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A Beauty, But A Funny Girl

Today, I'd like to talk about a woman who has a name similar to, but is completely unlike, Bella.


She is Belle. She's beautiful in her own special way, she loves to read, and she sees below the surface. Some people seriously compare her to Bella, say that her relationship with Beast is a lot like Bella and Edward's. Some of those people intend it as a compliment to both stories, some mean it as an insult to one or both stories. All of them are wrong. And Belle is no Bella Swan. Let me list the reasons why.


Belle is one of the two leads in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, released in 1991. Many people cite her as one of the first more well-rounded Disney princesses--maybe even one of the first more well-rounded Disney heroines. And no wonder! She loves to read, and goes to the local bookshop every day to borrow a new book, or sometimes to an older favorite. She helps her father with his inventing and provides him moral support, she's kind and polite to everyone but she does have her limits, and she is able to look beyond the surface in everyone.

Yeah, I said everyone. Belle not only looks below Beast's frightening exterior to see the kind, lonely soul beneath, but she also sees through Gaston, who while considered the hottest man in town, is boorish, rude, conceited, sexist, and would go to blackmail and even murder to get what he wants. I should also point out that Belle knows of Gaston's negative qualities (she didn't expect blackmail and murder til the climax, but still) for the entire film. She wasn't drawn to him because of his looks and then learned the truth later--she saw him for who he really was all along. Conversely, while she was initially frightened by Beast's appearance--and really, who wouldn't be?--she doesn't refuse to have anything to do with him because of his looks, but because of how he initially treated her and her father, and how he talks to her. He dragged her father away without letting them say goodbye properly, he yelled at Belle and expected her to do whatever he ordered her to, and so she refused to be around him. If he'd been nicer from the start, she certainly would have--his appearance has nothing to do with how she treats or reacts to him.
Compare that to Bella, who is initially drawn to the Cullens because they look pretty. Bella notices looks first, personalities last--several times in the series, she mentions other people's physical attributes before ever knowing what they're like, and only notices their inner beauty later. The girl sat around a campfire with some of Jacob's pack and their imprints, and was quick to notice and point out to us that some of the girls were "ugly" or "plain," and only noticed other things--like the way they smiled, how their eyes sparkled when they laughed, how kind they looked--afterwards. She tries to attach herself to "beautiful" people, regardless of who they are underneath.

Good lord, the girl is attracted to Edward flipping Cullen because he's hot, and is never once deterred by his ugly, controlling personality. He's hot, therefore he's a good person and a good boyfriend, is what her logic says. Bella would have been all over Gaston, believe you me.

Speaking of Edward, that brings me to another topic. Now, as I said before, some people compare Beast to Edward. Some people say that Beauty and the Beast is just as bad as Twilight for promoting domestic abuse. Well, I'm sorry, that's bullcrap.

Here's another reason Belle trumps Bella. When Edward scolds Bella, she's meek and submissive. Edward knows what's best for her, she thinks. It's totally fine if Edward removes the engine from her car. Oh, she's mad for a minute or two, but she forgives him because he's hot, and lets him continue to abuse and control her. Edward tells her who she can and can't hang out with, tells her what to eat, tells her to cancel her plans so she can be with him and his family, has no regard for her feelings or her own friends/family, bribes his adopted sister to kidnap her for a weekend because he would be away and Bella wanted to hang out with someone else. And Bella just accepts it. If she's ever angry about it, it's half-hearted and only lasts a minute or two before she's forgiving Edward and sighing melodramatically and oh, he can go ahead and do it then, I love him and he loves me and this is just proof of his love.
When Belle was yelled at, she did something. Beast yelled at her to eat with him or starve, she yelled back that she wasn't going to eat and she wasn't hungry, no thank you. The stage play takes it further--Belle tells Beast "I'm not hungry," and he actually tries to order her to be hungry. Belle responds by pointing out how ridiculous that is, and tells him "You can't just order people to do whatever you want."

Later, when she goes into the West Wing despite being told not to, Beast catches her about to touch the enchanted rose and flips right out. (Now that I'm older, I can understand his reaction a bit better. That rose is a timer, and who knows what would have happened if Belle touched it--what if she knocked a few petals loose, losing him precious time? Incidentally, I found a great fic that explored Belle's reasoning behind going to the rose in the first place: All Along. But back to the subject at hand.) He shouts at her, breaking a bit of furniture, and rather scarily orders her to get out of his room. What does Belle do? She runs away. She leaves. She doesn't cower and beg forgiveness, she isn't meek and submissive about it as Bella would be--she gets outta dodge. And she keeps on running away til she's out of the castle and trying to find her way back home.

(What prompts her into going back then? Beast saving her from a pack of wolves that were about to eat her and Philippe, under no one's orders but his own. That deed showed Belle that he was indeed a good person--he could have let her die, but he came back for her. And Belle's a good person herself--she's not about to let someone who saved her life freeze/bleed to death. She can't bring herself to let anyone die. Compare that to Bella as well, who doesn't give a damn about the tourists that the Volturi devoured, or the newborns who were killed, or anyone who isn't her, Edward, or someone who can be of use to her.)

If Edward has to save Bella's neck, he guilt-trips her. It's her fault, she shouldn't have been so stupid. Bella meekly agrees.

When Beast regains consciousness after the wolf attack, he tries to pin his getting hurt on Belle. What does Belle say? She tells him that he's more at fault for having scared her like that. Beast counters by saying she shouldn't have been in his room, implying it's still more her fault. Bella gets what I've seen described as "an 'oh you did not' look" and responds that Beast should control his temper. And that stuns Beast into silence, makes him realize Belle is right.


But she still sincerely thanks him. Sincerely, not begrudgingly.

See, Belle didn't just accept the blame. She didn't sit meekly by or beg Beast's forgiveness ever. When he yelled, she yelled back. When things got bad, she left. When he tried to blame his injury on her, she disagreed and argued with him.
Belle stands up for herself, something Bella only does half-assedly, if ever at all.

Speaking of that scene, I could make a whole other post on why Beast is better than Edward, but this is about the ladies. So I'll only say this, as my final defense of "Beauty and the Beast is nothing like Twilight and does not promote domestic abuse:" Beast didn't change because of Belle's love. He made himself change. He understood he had to be better than he was, and he changed. Belle only loved him after that. Edward never changed at all and Bella was still all over him.

And again, Belle fell in love with a physical monster. She saw below the surface, saw who he truly was, and fell in love with that. Bella fell in love with Edward's face first, so much that she didn't even seem to notice all his negative qualities. You may notice how Bella frequently describes Edward's looks, money, and possessions over his actual personality.

Belle could care less about material wealth or one's appearance. She sees peoples' hearts; that's what she falls for. She never fell for Gaston, never excused his actions because he was hot. When Gaston fully revealed his true nature, revealed to her that he had arranged for Maurice to be locked away if Belle refused to marry him, she called him out. She called him out in front of the whole damn village.




Earlier I mentioned that Belle lives with her father and offers him moral support. She does; she offers him real support and real love. Bella acts as if she's put-upon and Charlie wouldn't survive without her, taking up the responsibility of cooking the meals because surely a man who lived alone for a decade doesn't know how to cook, right? She acts like her father is a simpleton, treats him as such, and there are many times where she thinks Charlie's treatment of Edward is unjustified, or "Charlie doesn't have the right to know X."
Belle loves her father. She speaks to him like an equal. When she prompts him into finishing his invention in the beginning of the film, it's not in a condescending, "Oh woe is I to have an idiot father" tone that we know Bella would have. She simply reassures him that she knows and has always known he'll be a world-famous inventor, and is genuinely happy for him when the invention works. Belle tells her father more than Bella would tell Charlie--she admits to him how lonely she feels and that she doesn't want to be with Gaston, she was ready to tell him about who Beast truly was before she was interrupted...

Bella can't imagine a life after high school. It's part of why she wants to be a vampire; so she can stay young forever and ever.
Belle wants something greater. She doesn't know exactly what it is, just that she wants an adventure. She wants to be someone, to do something, she wants "so much more than they've got planned."


And for once it might be grand/to have someone understand...

Belle is just amazing. She's a great heroine, a great Disney Princess, wonderful role model, and she trumps Bella in every single way. She walks circles around Bella. She is selfless, loyal, loving, doesn't ever back down when the going gets tough, and is genuinely kind-hearted. Bella can only claim to have those attributes but never shows them.

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
inmh
Apr. 19th, 2012 04:48 am (UTC)
I love you for mentioning Belle. I really do. <3

Belle was, according to my mother, my first ever movie role model. I was apparently inclined to picking up the little cardboard books I had and pretended that I was reading like Belle. She remains, to this day, one of my absolute favorite characters. Ever. Unquestionably my favorite Disney character. <3

Edited at 2012-04-19 04:48 am (UTC)
ravenclaw_snark
Apr. 19th, 2012 05:31 am (UTC)
Belle is brilliant, she's probably my favourite Disney princess (tied with Rapunzel from Tangled). If she ever met Edward, or, actually, if she met Bella, she would see through her "I'm so shy and selfless" act in an instant and call her out on it (in *song*).

You can also see the difference in how the communities treat them. The townspeople are polite but distant to Belle, noting that she doesn't fit into their idea of normal and sane. Belle is never grudging to them because of this, only having the idea that it might be nice to have someone to talk to and understand her point of view. Meyer's Forksians are always all over Bella, no matter how bitchy she is, and when some of them cool off in New Moon, she complains about it like it's some kind of betrayal.

(Also, difference between Belle and many shallow YA heroines: She blames Gaston for his douchebaggery rather than talking about how horribly shallow the girls who like him are.)

Can we all agree that Mrs Potts is a far better mother figure than Renee or Esme (or others in that vein)? :)
gehayi
Apr. 20th, 2012 09:15 pm (UTC)
Mrs. Potts is wonderful and huggable and loving and maternal. AND SHE IS A TEAPOT. A teapot trumps all of the mother figures in the Twilight series. (And I adore her rather a lot.)
midoriri
Apr. 21st, 2012 01:16 am (UTC)
And unlike Esme, she actually calls out her "son" (I personally think that Mrs Potts was Adam's nanny growing up, so she sees him as much as her child as Chip is) when he does something wrong. She's actually stern with him, too.
"Well, you can start by acting like a gentleman--straighten up!...Don't frighten the poor girl...You must control your temper!"

Certainly more than Renee or Esme ever were, that's for sure.
aikaterini
May. 4th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
/(Also, difference between Belle and many shallow YA heroines: She blames Gaston for his douchebaggery rather than talking about how horribly shallow the girls who like him are.)/

That's a good point. In fact, Belle never speaks with or even thinks about the Silly Girls at all. They insult her behind her back, but she never interacts with them.

P.S. Although, now that I think about it, does anybody think that it's odd that the Silly Girls don't show up in the Mob Scene?
midoriri
May. 4th, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
P.S. Although, now that I think about it, does anybody think that it's odd that the Silly Girls don't show up in the Mob Scene?
I kinda figured they were too...what, dainty? "Girlish?" Lady-like? I dunno--for it. Like, they had their own sort of reputation to uphold (what exactly it is, I don't know, but I just have this funny feeling) and appearing in a mob would have tarnished it.

I dunno, that's my train of thought. *le shrug*
zelda_queen
May. 25th, 2012 03:31 am (UTC)
They do show up in the stage production, or at least they did when my high school did it. They're captured when Cogsworth ties them up with a giant spool of thread.
midoriri
May. 25th, 2012 03:41 am (UTC)
That's really awesome. 8D
They showed up in the version I saw in town with my father, too, but they just kinda disappeared in the chaos. I like what the one you saw did!
ng55snarkings
Apr. 19th, 2012 05:31 am (UTC)
Belle trumps Bella ANY DAY. :D

So many people have said this film promotes Beastiality and Stockholm Syndrome. Which is stupid and untrue, I might add. But that's often because they don't do the crucial thing of PAYING ATTENTION and seeing what's beneath it.

Not to mention, throughout the film, as the Beast matures after saving Belle, he actually becomes more human! He's standing upright, his clothes are more conventional, he behaves less animal-like and more human-like, and even his voice is softer! There was visual, mental and symbolic changes being presented in how he matures. :D

Belle is a great character, she really is. She's written very well, drawn very well, and acts so well. Everything about her was done right. She's beautiful, but she doesn't flaunt it. She's a bookworm and fairly introverted, but she's still a kind person, even if she does have her limits, which is perfectly realistic.

A lot of people seem to think that she's more of a role model than she is a character, and it may somewhat ring true, but the way she acts and reacts to everything is perfectly realistic and understandable. There's no reason not to enjoy that, because we finally see something in it that's written so well and works for the movie. That's the real point of it.

But regardless, she's always got SO much over Bella. Both Belle and the Beast have WAY more over Edward and Bella, and always have.
aikaterini
May. 4th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
/So many people have said this film promotes Beastiality and Stockholm Syndrome. Which is stupid and untrue, I might add. But that's often because they don't do the crucial thing of PAYING ATTENTION and seeing what's beneath it./

Exactly. The beastiality charge usually comes from people who are incredibly immature or incredibly dense. As for the Stockholm Syndrome...boy, if only the writers knew that by trying to make the Beast a more complex character, they'd lay the foundations for people to accuse them of romanticizing domestic abuse. *sighs* (And the midquels certainly didn't help much)

Of course, I'm sure that if the Beast *had* been gentle and sweet for the whole movie, some people would have called him a simpering pansy who disgraced the name of beasts. *rolls eyes*

/Not to mention, throughout the film, as the Beast matures after saving Belle, he actually becomes more human! He's standing upright, his clothes are more conventional, he behaves less animal-like and more human-like, and even his voice is softer!/

Yes, all of those changes were intentional, just like how Gaston becomes more animal-like by the end of the movie. I especially love the library scene because Beast/Adam is such a teddy bear there. ^^
zelda_queen
May. 25th, 2012 03:48 am (UTC)
"Of course, I'm sure that if the Beast *had* been gentle and sweet for the whole movie, some people would have called him a simpering pansy who disgraced the name of beasts. *rolls eyes*"

Funnily enough, that's pretty much how he was in the original fairy tale. That version of him actually made me raise my eyebrows, because he's written as a very well-mannered, considerate guy...and he orders a dude to send away his most beloved daughter to live with a monster, possibly condemning her to death for all the guy knows. I mean, I know that the Beast is desperate and that the father broke the law of hospitality and whatnot, but it still made me rather uncomfortable.

In the Disney movie, the Beast's actions were meant to be selfish and demanding of both Belle and Maurice. Everyone calls him out on it, and he eventually makes amends by letting Belle leave permanently to be with her father (the Beast in the fairy tale gave her three days, and lay down to die after she was a day late). In both cases, the story kicks off with an act of selfishness from the Beast. It makes more sense though, if the Beast starts out as a selfish person who has to learn to be kinder.
midoriri
May. 25th, 2012 09:34 am (UTC)
And you pretty much nailed why I prefer Disney's version to the fairy tale. Character development; also willing to let your love go forever if it'll make them happy and then getting stabbed by the villain and saying you're just glad you got to see them again > saying they can go for a few days and then deciding to just drop dead when they're a day late.
The latter always made me uncomfortable.
aikaterini
May. 25th, 2012 03:45 pm (UTC)
I like both versions, but you're right: the Beast and the father are much more passive in the original fairytale. After Beauty goes to the Beast, the father goes home and basically mopes until the day he dies. He doesn't try to go back to the castle, he doesn't try to rally the men of the town to rescue his daughter, nothing. In the versions of the story where Beauty has brothers, he doesn't even try to send her brothers to rescue her. We only see the father again when Beauty has to go home to tend to him while he's sick and dying. After he dies, she's free to go back to the Beast. So, if you think about it, the father was really just a device to unite and separate and then reunite the couple.

And yes, the frankly passive-aggressive guilt-trip that the Beast gives Beauty when she's about to leave is another reason why I'm frustrated by people who claim that Disney!Beast is abusive when he *doesn't* give Belle that guilt-trip. He just lets her go. However, I've also seen analysis of the "Beauty and the Beast" fairytale which argues that the stipulation that the Beast gives to Beauty is sort of a reversal of gender dynamics, since the Beast is dependent on Beauty and not the other way around and Beauty holds the Beast's life and death in her hands. Also, dying of a broken heart tends to be portrayed as more feminine in fiction.
zelda_queen
May. 27th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
"After Beauty goes to the Beast, the father goes home and basically mopes until the day he dies. He doesn't try to go back to the castle, he doesn't try to rally the men of the town to rescue his daughter, nothing."

Alex Flinn found that really disturbing herself, which was why Lindsy's father in "Beastly" was so sleazy. He's a drug addict who gladly hands his daughter over to a complete stranger to avoid being arrested (Lindsy herself is initially afraid that she's going to be used as a slave or - implicitly - raped, so it's not like those possibilities are ignored). In a series of bonus writings, it's revealed that when Lindsy goes back to take care of her father, he reverts to his drug habits and eventually abandons her and leaves her homeless.

(When Flinn explains her thoughts at the end of "Beastly", she adds that the Disney version makes the father much more sympathetic)

"However, I've also seen analysis of the "Beauty and the Beast" fairytale which argues that the stipulation that the Beast gives to Beauty is sort of a reversal of gender dynamics, since the Beast is dependent on Beauty and not the other way around and Beauty holds the Beast's life and death in her hands. Also, dying of a broken heart tends to be portrayed as more feminine in fiction."

Oh yeah, I see that. Still, when it comes to role reversals in fairy tales, the ballad of Fair Janet and Tamlin will always be my favorite. ^_^
zelda_queen
May. 27th, 2012 02:38 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, it made me uncomfortable to. It smacked of the moral "Girls, if your kidnapper is kind enough to give you three days to see your family again, you'd best hop to it and get back to him on time! If you don't, he'll roll over and die (of a Goddammed Hole, no doubt) and it'll be all your fault!"

Not to mention that it's much easier to buy that someone would die from a knife wound to the back, given that people actually die from that. O_o The whole "I'll die of a broken heart! D:" thing is rather stale, even by the standards back then, I think.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )