GUEST POST: Why Belle Wasn’t A Prisoner Until The Live-Action Movie “Fixed” Her By Winter Naomi Vera

Participants of my ongoing Saving Cinderella class have the option to a write guest post on the topic of the session they attended. This post is in response to Session 4: Bestiality? Belle and the appeal of the monster.

To watch past sessions of the class, click here.

The following was written by Winter Naomi Vera.

As anyone who knows me can attest, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is one of my all time favorite films. I’ve done a school presentation and written three presentations on the film for my college classes.  Belle is very much an active protagonist and her love inspires profound change in the Beast, long before the spell is broken. I had issues with the remake, though. The big one was that they took something from Belle that changed her from an active protagonist to a passive one, leaving the rest of the film to pick up the slack for it: her honesty.

Belle never lies to anyone in the 1991 original, even when it would have been much easier to do so. “Sorry, Gaston. My father has set me up with someone else. I can’t marry you.” After the Beast closed the door to her bedroom, she could have waited until the Beast was gone and made her way back to town with the Beast being unable to find her, but then she wouldn’t be Belle.

In the original, she finds her father imprisoned for trespassing and, for the sake of his health, offers to take his place.

BELLE: If I did, would you let him go?

BEAST: Yes, but you most promise to stay here forever.

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Even seeing the Beast, she stands before him resolutely and says four words that show her strength of character: “You have my word.” He takes her father to the village — he doesn’t even let her say goodbye — and when he returns to her, she is watching him leave from the window of her open cell. That’s right. Her open cell. She could have followed him out or snuck away, but she didn’t, because she made a promise in exchange for her father’s safety. She didn’t leave, even though every door was open to her, because she gave her word.

Trying to appease Princess Critics who want to see a woman refuse to be held prisoner, they changed this in the remake, but they didn’t realize  she was never a prisoner in the first place. Closing herself in her cell, promising her father she’ll return to him, and making a rope out of bed sheets made her a prisoner. In the original film, Belle chose where the story took her because she knew whom to give her word to and why.

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Belle gave her word to the Beast, but it was on  her own terms. He didn’t force her to make that choice, and because she made the choice, she was willing to live with it, until the Beast’s admittedly abusive action in the West Wing changed her mind.

As Faith Moore writes in her book, Saving Cinderella, Belle has a superpower which allows her to see the best qualities of others. When she doesn’t see those qualities, she doesn’t give them anything of hers, certainly not her word. Gaston offered not to commit her father if she married him. She said, “Never.” If you give your word to someone who will take advantage of it, the outcome will only be heartache.

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I learned this when I gave my word to a friend. I’d never leave her side, no matter how much she pushed me away, but she hurt me emotionally. She nearly broke my spirit and I couldn’t keep my word, because giving someone your word means YOU choose your outcome, not them. Giving your word to those who won’t use it to hurt you or take advantage means you’re never a prisoner, especially when you love that someone and they love you.

 

Winter author photo

I’m Princess Winter Naomi Vera, I may not be literal royalty but I have learned that I don’t need to be. It’s the qualities of a princess, not a crown or royal blood that matter most. I’m a fan of Superheroes, Princesses, Superhero Princesses and stories of all kinds. I aspire to tell my own stories to add to the world that inspired me. 

 

5 thoughts on “GUEST POST: Why Belle Wasn’t A Prisoner Until The Live-Action Movie “Fixed” Her By Winter Naomi Vera

  1. Great piece! I think they did that change in order to make the “new Belle” more “empowered”. But, as you say, it ruins the essence of who Belle is. It shows a serious lack of understanding of the character, of fairy tales and their meanings.

  2. Well, I’ll acknowledge that the remake definitely did badly regarding that bit about keeping her word, or lack thereof, or that they emphasized her being a prisoner at times (more than what was actually necessary), even though I personally think the remake overall was an improvement.

    That being said, even in the original 1991 movie, while she was never an out-and-out liar, she never really kept her word either. Let’s not forget, when she deliberately disobeyed the Beast to go into the West Wing, and got caught, she outright tried to flee the castle, even explicitly saying “promise or not, I cannot stay here another minute.” And considering the whole reason she did that prisoner swap in the first place was so her dad would be freed, that essentially meant her actions would have resulted in Beast capturing her dad yet again due to viewing that as breaking their agreement. Heck, it was literally only her first night there as well. And quite frankly, I thought the 1991 version itself had a fundamental lack of understanding for the original story, as well as fairytales and their meanings, especially when Linda Woolverton rewrote the story to be a Women’s Libber propaganda piece. We don’t even get Belle’s wicked sisters in this, or indeed, even any similar characters to compensate for their absence (and no, Gaston doesn’t count, as he’s more Beast’s foil than Belle’s foil). Those triplets, if I must state this, did a very terrible job of actually being foils to Belle regarding the intended moral (if anything, how the triplets were depicted in the remake was actually a significant improvement, since at least there, they are pretty clearly hideous on the inside).

  3. I love the lesson you drew out of this; sticking by a friend’s side even if they push against you. I didn’t really care for the new remake as it just felt like it emphasized things that totally weren’t in the original Disney movie, and added things that took away from the fairy tale.

    keturahskorner.blogspot.com

  4. Love the lesson you drew out of this; of sticking by a friend’s side even if they push against you. Personally, I didn’t care for the new remake at all … it emphasized/ added things that completely took away from the original Disney movie.

    keturahskorner.blogspot.com

    1. Oops, thought the first comment didn’t go through, and now I don’t know how to delete this one ;p

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