(Warning: Beauty and the Beast spoilers galore. You have been warned.)
Before I begin, I would like to state that I love Beauty and the Beast. It’s a great musical, and arguably the best Disney piece ever created. That said, I still am constantly surprised that Belle and Beast are in a healthy relationship come the end of the musical. I mean, let’s be honest: that should not have worked.
Let’s look at this objectively. Belle finds that her father is captured by this secret, shadowy ruler at this secret, shadowy castle in this secret, shadowy forest. After sneaking into the castle, she finds her father locked in the tower of the castle, charged with trespassing, I guess. While she tries to gather facts on the situation, Belle encounters the master of the castle. Belle and the master end up agreeing to have Belle stay in the castle forever in exchange for her father’s freedom.
Oh, and the master of the castle happens to be a tall, muscular beast, complete with hair and werewolf-like features.
Now, if you’ve made it this far, you know that the Beast is actually a prince transformed into a beast, doomed to his fate unless he finds true love. You also know that Belle and Beast fall in love just before Beast turns into a beast forever.
Well, isn’t that just lucky?
So, let me just say this again: this should not have worked in Beast’s favor. Over the time period Belle is held prisoner, she begins to fall in love with Beast. Now, this is a Disney musical. The musical’s love story is focused on a prisoner falling in love with her captor.
Is that okay?
Again, let’s look at this objectively. If anyone looks at this story from the outside, Belle gets hit hard with Stockholm Syndrome.
What is Stockholm Syndrome? It is where a captured person begins to feel positive feelings, including sympathy and empathy, towards their captors. Does that sound like anyone we’ve been talking about for the last 300 words or so?
At the end of the movie, everyone seems okay with the fact that Belle is in love with Beast. Would they be okay with it if he didn’t turn back into Prince Not-So-Charming? Everyone is so happy when they’re dancing at the end, but no one wants to stand up and mention that their relationship is built on a throne of lies. Belle is in love with her kidnapper. No one wants to mention that fact.
Look, I don’t want to spit on my childhood here. I absolutely love Beauty and the Beast, but as beautiful as Beauty and the Beast is, it’s based on the story of a girl who seems railroaded into loving a monster. But that’s okay, because he might turn out to be Prince Charming? She didn’t know anything about the spell on Beast until the end, when he magically transformed back to human.
What lesson is this teaching children? Ladies, if you stay with your Beast, he’ll eventually turn into a prince. Men, be rude, arrogant, and violent and eventually some girl will love you because those qualities just become sexy.
Again, I love Beauty and the Beast, but this story is anything but kid-friendly. And Belle, for all her good qualities, is anything but a role model for relationships.
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Beauty and the Beast is NOT an example of Stockholm Syndrome! Belle only starts falling in love with the Beast AFTER he has been treating her with respect and kindness after the Beast saves Belle from the wolves. A better example of Stockholm Syndrome would be Frollo and Quasimodo’s relationship in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Rapunzel and Mother Gothel’s relationship in Tangled. If anything, Beauty and the Beast is an example of Lima Syndrome (in which the captor sympathizes with the victim/captive).