Within the first 5 minutes of Beauty and the Beast, it’s made extremely clear that Belle is not the typical young woman in the French countryside. The entire town sings about how, although beautiful, she’s far too “different”. Here’s a look at just two parts of that opening song:
Look there she goes that girl is so peculiar
I wonder if she's feeling well
With a dreamy, far-off look
And her nose stuck in a book
What a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle
Look there she goes
The girl is strange but special
A most peculiar mademoiselle!
It's a pity and a sin
She doesn't quite fit in
'Cause she really is a funny girl
A beauty, but a funny girl
She really is a funny girl
Gaston even confronts her during this opening sequence: “The whole town’s talking about it. It's not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas and...thinking.” For a very brief moment, with no one else around but her father, we see Belle start to question herself. She wonders if she really is too odd. I know I’ve felt this way at times, and I’m sure other Anomalies have as well. Although lonely, Belle doesn’t give in to those insecurities and, in fact, embraces those things that make her different. In the song’s reprise, she sings:
I want adventure in the great wide somewhere
I want it more than I can tell
And for once it might be grand
To have someone understand
I want so much more than they’ve got planned
So, sure, Belle’s a nerd. I’d credit her father, the inventor, who doesn’t understand why the others think she’s so strange (although he’s a little off-kilter himself). It seems clear that she helps him out quite a bit with his inventions. She devours the books she borrows, and her favorites are fantasy stories: “Far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise!” (If you watch the extended edition, she also reads Shakespeare, and even teaches the Beast how to read.) The most special gift she can be given is access to an enormous library - not “flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep.” She’s smart, curious, imaginative, opinionated; she doesn’t put up with pretension or rudeness; and she absolutely does not shrink from confrontation.
Belle is also pretty frakkin’ brave, loyal, and selfless - qualities typically associated with a Disney prince. She goes off on her own to rescue her father and gives up her own freedom for his (twice!). She tries to fight off a pack of wolves with nothing other than a fallen tree branch. And when she has a chance to run away while the Beast is injured, she decides to keep her promise and stay at the castle, nursing him back to health. She even ends up saving the Beast’s life, in more ways than one - her return gives him a reason to fight against an angry mob, she catches him as he’s falling from a balcony, and her love triggers the magic that will heal and transform him.
The obvious moral of Beauty and the Beast is to not make judgments based solely on appearances - Belle values people based on who they are, not what they look like. But the townsfolk judged Belle because of her interests and passions. The real lesson I learned from Belle - even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time - is be true to yourself and you’ll find where you belong and the people you belong with.
Anomaly Staff Writer