Groundbreaking animation, sweeping landscapes and marvelous musical numbers are just a few of the reasons #Disney captivated audiences around the world with its animated masterpiece Beauty and the Beast in 1991.
26 years later the studio is set to charm us once again, this time with a new adaptation that brings Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s classic fairy tale to life in a way audiences have never seen before. But it’s not the breathtaking visuals, remarkable songs, or powerful performances that have made this tale as old as time a favorite since it was originally published in 1740.
Though it’s been retold many times and in many different ways, at its core Beauty and the Beast has been a story about acceptance. It’s a tale that encourages us to accept others and ourselves for who we are; reminding us that perfection can be found in the imperfect and we are much more than what can be seen on the surface.
The character of #Belle embraces this notion by consistently remaining headstrong in her actions. Emma Watson portrays Belle in the live-action adaptation and she refers to Belle's "outsider quality" as an "empowering defiance of what was expected of her." From her adoration for her father to how she handles Gaston and the eventual love she feels for the Beast, Belle's ability to radiate immense kindness and strength is an admirable feat this fantastical heroine accomplishes again and again in the story.
Belle's father, Maurice is essentially the laughing stock of the town due to his numerous failed attempts at inventing and because of her father's oddities, the town ridicules her. As the vain Gaston relentlessly attempts to woo her, she politely refuses his advances until his sidekick LeFou brings up her "crazy old moon" father. At this point she takes a stand, but never loses sight of the person she is.
Additionally, Gaston's self-esteem depends on everyone marveling at his looks and complimenting his skills as a hunter every moment of every day. He can't fathom the idea of anyone not wanting to marry him, which is part of what makes Belle so appealing. She rejects the mainstream definition of perfection, seeking something greater.
Finding Perfection In Imperfection
In Disney's animated classic, the heart of this theme is highlighted best as the relationship between Belle and the Beast blossoms.
The sequence following Belle nursing the Beast's wounds, is one of the most important in the development of the cursed character. The previous decade has been one of seclusion and anger for the Beast due to his inability to change his exterior appearance. He is the furthest thing from perfection on the outside, believing the world will never accept him again. This is furthered by the fact that he has lived a privileged life, surrounded by others who follow his commands because he is the master of his manor.
Yet, Belle does not help him because she is obligated. She helps him because she believes it is the right thing to do; staying true to who she is at her core and this awakens a similar aspect of the Beast's true personality as well. He begins to believe he can be more than what he appears and he does not have to behave in the manner that is expected by others.
He also respects Belle's tenacity and ability to argue with him without feeling the need to hold back. His affection for her grows because she is different and refuses to conform to the definition of what society defined as a "perfect" woman at that time.
When he introduces Belle to his library, it's a surprise he specifically gears to appeal to her as much as he can. He is aware of her obsessive love for books and her desire to experience something more than life in her small village. Others, view Belle's priorities as flawed, but the Beast embraces them and begins to realize it's these aspects of her personality that society has deemed imperfect that make her so special.
Ever Just The Same, Ever A Surprise
The 2017 live-action adaptation of the story reiterates this timeless theme in new ways, promoting a more tolerant perspective for those who others view as different.
When it was announced that the adaptation would feature LeFou as an openly-gay character, a storm of controversy began brewing with some threatening to boycott the film. But those groups failed to recognize the central theme that beats at the heart of Beauty and the Beast: we are at our best when we accept the differences in ourselves and others.
The old adage, "don't judge a book by it's cover" is as true today as it was when this fairy tale began enchanting audiences nearly three centuries ago. Discovering "perfection" in the "imperfect," finding "flawlessness" in the "flawed," and realizing the beauty in the beast is story that speaks to every generation. It inspires us to be more than we are by loving who we are and that's the reason Beauty and the Beast isn't simply a tale as old as time, it's timeless.