Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Domestic Violence in Beauty and the Beast


Beauty and the Beast Poster. Via IMDB
The last movie that I have decided to use to conclude my research project on Disney and it’s effect on society is Beauty and the Beast which was released in 1991. While Disney Princess movies have always remained the most popular, they haven’t always been my favourite. I’ve  chosen to focus on Beauty and the Beast as this movie has missed the mark on what are appropriate lessons to teach today’s children in terms of forming and maintaining healthy relationships.      
    Beauty and the Beast is not an original Walt Disney Production creation. The film is based on the Fairytale of the same name which dates back to 1740 and was written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. The Disney version while maintaining some of the original ideas of the fairytale mostly focuses on Belle, and the Beast falling in love.
Belle is more independent than the other Disney princesses; she has little interest in men and prefers to spend her time reading or helping her father.  This is seen in how she treats Gaston, the town’s overly cocky male chauvinist. As Gaston attempts to force Belle to marry him she brushes off his advances and chooses to read books instead which makes the town break out into song about what a “strange” girl she is. As Belle moves into the castle to be with the Beast and exchanges her life for her fathers, her refusal to do what he says and fall at his feet makes the Beast angry. In one scene where Belle is refusing to have dinner with him, Beast tells his servants, Lumiere the Candlestick and Mrs.Potts the teapot that if she does not dine with him, then she will not eat at all.
Belle tries to civilize Beast. Via thislifeinphotos.com
As the movie continues Belle decides that it is up to her to civilize Beast. It is at this point that a clear cycle of abuse becomes evident.  Beast not only takes her away from the only family that she has, but yells at her to try and force her to fall in love with him and stay, both clear signs of abuse according to Helpguide . Laura Beres writes in her article Beauty and the Beast: The Romanticization ofabuse in popular culture that “For a viewer who is living in a violent relationship, who needs to maintain faith in something beyond her immediate situation, this story suggests that if she acts in a loving way towards her abusive partner, he might learn from her how to be loving and might turn into a prince for her” the movie appears to tell us that yes,  you can change someone if you try hard enough. By the conclusion of the movie Beast is civilized and again human, and Belle is in love.
A part that I found especially odd regarding this seeming promotion for domestic violence is that a similar theme is not portrayed in the original story. In the original story the Beast informs Beauty that his castle is now hers and that he is her servant and the two become friends, and while the Beast asks her to marry him constantly she says no, not because she is a captured slave to him, but because they are friends. It is only at the end of the story that Beauty finds she has fallen in love with the Beast, thus turning him back into a price.
Belle and Beast (now handsome prince) dance. via IMDB
Ultimately Beauty and the Beast is a children’s fairytale which appears to be promoting domestic abuse. While there are many forms of abuse, from emotional to physical, the clear indication that abuse does exist within this movie makes it questionable, especially with such a happy ending. Beauty and the Beast may appear to be an innocent Disney movie; however the writers did not appear to think through how this may appear to the greater audience especially to children. As children have a tendency to mirror what they see on television and in the media, it is possible that children who are exposed to films such as Beauty and the Beast will see this relationship as something that is to be obtained as opposed to feared. In conclusion I can’t say that my feeling on this movie remain as positive as they once were and it makes me question what the writers were thinking when they put such a spin on the tale. 

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