As far as Disney Princess’ go, Beauty and the Beast’s Belle is on the slightly more acceptable end of the spectrum.
After all, her story isn’t centered around finding a husband via a misplaced piece of footwear (here’s looking at you, Cinderella) or turning her back on her family and throwing the mother of all teenage temper tantrums. All because she wasn’t allowed to hook up with a guy she spied once on a boat (ahem, Ariel).
In many ways, Belle was the ultimate Disney trailblazer. Her focus was on devouring books, words and ideas, rather than wishing for a Prince to swan by while she formed an acapella group with the local wildlife (that wasn’t your best moment, Snow White).
As a child I thought she was the bees knees, but now that I’m an adult, I see Belle for what she really is.
Rather than an adventurous maiden who teaches us that bravery is just as important as beauty, Belle has been unmasked as the thing the modern world fears the most.
Even worse than a Sea Witch who tricks you into giving up your voice, or a dragon that threatens to demolish your home with its fiery breath, Belle is the one thing guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of adults everywhere.
For Belle is a millennial.
In fact, had her little French village featured a decent café she sure as hell would have spent her days idling away the afternoon there, spending her weekly allowance on heaped plates of smashed avocado, rather than contributing to society in any meaningful way.
The truth is, you don't need an Arts degree to figure out that once upon a time, a Disney heroine morphed into the very first millennial.
Belle spends her days aimlessly wandering around town, with her nose stuck in a book, thinking that she is superior to those poor schleppy townsfolk who are forced to, you know, actually perform menial work tasks during their days.
Just so they can afford to do fun things like buy food for their families and thatch their cottage roofs.
Clearly, Belle has been gifted a superior education compared to the rest of the townsfolk, yet she has strangely been unable to parlay her schooling and skills into any kind of viable career path.
She wants “adventure in the great wide somewhere” and is obviously of the persuasion that her special snowflake status should only allow her to pursue a dream, rather than a job with steady paycheck and a superannuation fund.
Forget about a castle full of people being imprisoned and left to die in the shells of animated households objects, Belle's perception of the workforce is the most terrifying thing about this movie.
And while she’s busy twirling about the town, lamenting that “for once it might be grand, to have someone understand. I want so much more than they’ve got planned” and then making her way back to her father’s spacious country home, it also becomes clear that Belle has no plans to quit mooching off her dear dad Maurice anytime soon.
We, as the audience, used to find ourselves shaking our heads in playful condemnation as “crazy old Maurice” struggles to create and transport another volatile invention to the fair. But any poor parents out there with millennials currently in tow know that what Maurice really deserves is a pat on the back and a stiff drink.
Belle, who is believed to be in her early twenties in Beauty and the Beast (which, in those days was practically middle aged. The plague will get her soon enough) shows no signs of wanting to move out of her father’s home anytime soon. Which is probably why Maurice seems so frazzled when we first meet him.
The poor sod is looking down the long, sad barrel of supporting of his over educated, egomaniac daughter for the rest of his natural life.
The same daughter who labels their neighbours “little people” and turns down a perfectly good marriage proposal from a man who, yes, was indeed a misogynist sociopath, but at least he appeared to have an array of skills that would have allowed him to make a valuable contribution to their town.
And he was well liked and respected by everyone in the village, while Belle’s only friend’s where those docile sheep that hung out by the town fountain and gnawed the pages of her borrowed book. They say you are the some of the five people who spend time with, so maybe this is the point Belle should have looked into a non-enchanted mirror.
Our Belle sure was quick to gripe about her comfy living situation in the picturesque French hamlet, yet she seemed to be making no plausible effort to stand on her own two feet and change her own life.
No wonder poor Maurice said he would rather stay locked up in the Beast’s dank dungeon...
The town beauty also dreams about getting out into the big wide world and exploring it, which is great, until she realizes she has no actual life skills to survive in a world she has only touched on in books.
First, she trespasses in the Beast's home, touches belongings she was specifically asked not to touch and then runs away from her problems only to find herself cornered in the woods by a pack of wolves. A situation which she would have been able to get herself out of had she spent less time using fairy tales to paint an abstract view of the world and more time with skilled town workers who could have shared their skills and knowledge with her.
This may seem like a harsh critique of a Disney damsel who was just trying to free her beasty boyfriend from a curse, but since Belle has always been seen as a trailblazer in other ways, it's worth noting that she was probably born a few generations too early.
But, hey, she ended up living in a lavish castle with a dozen servants at her beck and call.
And so, my fellow millennials, maybe there's hope for us all yet.
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