Life has a funny way of presenting things to us, doesn’t it? One of my biggest hurdles lately is feeling that I’m not contributing too much and not being the type of influencer that I dream to be. Anybody there with me? In attempts to make inspirational words flow, I put on a movie in the background hoping that it would keep me focused enough to write. Ironically, the movie I put in for background became my reason to write and gained some clarity at the same time: Beauty and the Beast.
A tale as old as time right? The Beauty and the Beast animated version came out in November 1991 and the live action in March 2017, both I saw from their very beginnings at a movie theater and both I’m absolutely in love with. The live action is constantly in the background at our home, especially when I’m working on a project (happiness + music = well done project). The glorious unfolding of a dramatic romance of two unlikely people learning what adventures life can give and what love really is. Pair it with the bold red rose and iconic yellow dress and you have an instant classic. Belle has always been my favorite among the Disney Princesses and it’s easy to see why.
Belle is a princess of her own making. She isn’t born royalty (she marries into later), but she’s always had the heart and soul of a princess. Belle is the perfect mix of mind and soul, her beauty is equally inside and out. She is adventurous, soft spoken yet bold when she needs to be. She won’t settle for what she doesn’t want (Gaston) nor what society expects of her (stop reading, stop being so “odd”, get married, have kids). She doesn’t take bullshit from the villagers and keeps doing her own thing (continuously reading and inventing/being an inventors daughter), even though it picks at her. We’re shown this in both the animated and the live action where she asks her father “Papa, do you think I’m odd?” In the live action version, when Belle asks if she’s odd, her father replies that “This is a small village. And it’s small minded, as well. But small also means safe.” Gaston practically confirms this small-mindness as he “tries” to “help” Belle in attempt to “console” her: ”The villagers will never trust the change you’re trying to bring… this is our world Belle. For simple folk like us, it doesn’t get any better.” Belle replys: “I may be a farm girl, but I’m not simple.”
After Gaston leaves, Belle’s famous hill scene where she declares “I want so much more than what they got planned…I want an adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell.” It becomes very evident that Belle feels trapped in her daily life. She is constantly looking to the future (which adds to her unhappiness). She has no idea that her wish is about to come true about the adventure she’s about to embark on is beyond what she dreamed of.
She continues to show how she beats to her own drum when Gaston comes to invite himself to dinner with flowers in the live action or to “propose” to her in the cartoon. Even once she’s in the Beast’s castle after the wolves scene and as she’s trying to help clean up his wounds and they’re arguing with each other, she’s not backing down. She refuses to stay in the dark and is always looking for the reason behind things. When meeting the Beast for the 1st time, she tells him to come into the light. In the live action, when he hesitates, she takes Lumiere and puts him closer to the Beast. When the Beast is reluctant to open the cell door to her father, she points out “Forever can spare a minute.” In the live action, once she and the Beast have at it about being forced to dinner, she works on her own escape plan taking the dress that Madame Garderobe (the Wardrobe) tried to put in her and makes an escape rope to scale down the castle walls. She is not willing to remain a prisoner (in the animated version, Belle flings herself to the bed and understandably cries).
How would you have reacted if you were Belle: would you be looking for an escape plan or would you have accepted what life just handed you? It’s easy to get into a Pity Party for 1 when life hands us something else than what we were expecting or if our dreams get smashed to bits. It’s very easy to get stuck in the rut of uncertainty and pout about it.
I’m sure Belle’s idea of adventure wasn’t taking her father’s place at the dark castle of an actual man-beast to never see her father again nor find the adventure that she had been yearning for. Little does she know… the same goes for us. What we expect is not what we always get and sometimes it is SO much for the better. We never know what new places we will go to (some right around the corner), who we will meet and how much they’ll mean to us or help us grow, or to find an unexpected love.
Belle isn’t one just to follow the “rules” or go along because she’s told too – she questions, she reads, in the live action she invents, she’s polite with everyone she meets… she is the role model of the modern woman. I feel that Emma Watson was a great choice for Belle for the live action version, representing both the feminine and the rebellious side of Belle. She rocked embodying what Belle is: the good kind-hearted woman, honorable, wants the best for everyone while taking care of what her heart yearns for. She is able to be “simple” (living out a modest life, nothing fancy) and also complex (her intellect, want of adventure). Belle is able to be simple (her blue dress) but she’s also able to dress up to take anyone’s breath away.
When Belle is not taking on the world her way, she’s looking to fix problems or looking at the world with a positive outlook. Her integrity remains intact as she suffers the spoken and whispered voices of the villagers, gracefully keeping her composure trying to politely deflect Gaston (in the cartoon version she tells him “I just don’t deserve you – cue open door), taking her father’s place at the castle, when the Beast is hurt, she could have left him there and freed herself (in both versions there is a moment of pause and you can see the internal struggle, especially in the live action as she sees the light leading the way out of the woods) and at the very end when Gaston is leading the villagers to the castle to kill the Beast, Belle goes back to castle to try to save him.
In all of the matters regarding the Beast, especially faced when she is able to free herself, her integrity of handling the situation expresses the depth of her character. In the live action, we find out what happened to Belle’s mom. While the Beast’s revealing of what the doctor’s mask means and while it crushes her heart knowing her mother suffered the Plague, she knows there’s nothing that can be done about it – the past is the past. While the news is certainly devastating, she now has her answer from all the years past about the uncertainty she’s always had about the circumstances of her life and why her father protects her so hard. She takes the horrible revealing with great dignity and tells the Beast “let’s go home.”
It’s not always easy doing the right thing or even sacrificing for those you love. Both Integrity and Love are not just feelings, they are a Choice. Feelings can change, the intensity of feelings can change, but it’s a choice. That’s the difference between Love and Marriage. People can fall out of love (hence the US staggering divorce rate). Marriage is a choice to walk through this adventure called Life (and not the board game lol) and walk it together “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.” These words may seem cliche, but they have a deep meaning. Marriage is not a job where if you don’t like it anymore that you put in a notice and just leave. True love is the good days and belly deep laughter and the days where you’ll scream if you see anymore dishes and fighting the urge to throat punch them on chaotic days (think feeling hangry haha). For us non-married folks, the same applies. It’s a RELATIONSHIP (emphasis on the RELATE part). Things can’t be one sided all the time. There will be times where one party will carry more (and sometimes it’s unfair and may seem longer than it really is), but it’s not 50-50 like everyone (and myself once thought). Both parties have to be willing to bring their 100% into the relationship so that it does work out 50-50 in the end (I know, the math is weird haha). Work out differences, negotiate compromises, create healthy boundaries, have an open mind and a humble heart. Their feelings and thoughts are just as equally important as yours. Your happiness is just as important as theirs. It’s easy to get stuck in the idea of another person will make you happy, but just like feelings can change, you can’t become dependent on that. You alone are in charge of your own happiness.
And speaking of happiness, I would like to give mad props to Disney for the live action version. Disney takes a forward-thinking approach to our LGBT community unless it has in the past. LeFou is definitely in love with Gaston’s companionship, yet being so devoted to him does blind him to the darkness within Gaston. In the scene of the servants as household items vs. the villagers coming to raid the castle, the wardrobe dresses 3 of the guys in women’s fashion of the time. Two of them run away and one stays and smiles. She then tells him “Go… be free, be free, be freeeeeee” and he smiles and goes down the stairs. When I watched the movie on opening night (3/17/17), our room broke out in cheers, laughter and clapping. It was great hearing a dark room full of strangers all paying $12+ for a movie (and God knows what else – I think my large drink, med popcorn and twizzlers was like $16 – I spent like $40 bucks on this premiere and damn right I’d do it again!), all come together to celebrate that character’s smile, happiness, and new found freedom in that moment. At the end of the movie, LeFouand the same guy end up getting swapped out as partners at the end during the celebration/wedding dance. This time our room exploded in cheers and even more enthusiastic clapping. Le fou means “the fool” or “crazy person” in French, but I feel that it’s just abbreviated for LeFound as his character has evolved. He found a) his own way in life, b) got awoken to the monster that Gaston really was and c) found new freedom to live his life out of Gaston’s narcissistic shadow.
To recap, these are the lessons I gained from the Beauty and the Beast movie(s):
- Follow one’s heart
- Take no bullshit and never take someone else’s bullshit to heart
- Help others always
- Keep doing what makes you happy
- Always continue reading and learning
- Things are never as they seem
- The unexpected happens always unexpectedly
- Things can happen right under your nose (like falling in love with a Beast)
- “That’s alright. One path closes…. another opens” – Maurice talking to Philippe when he’s spooked
- Companionship – the servants and Belle, Beast and Belle, LeFou trying to cheer up Gaston
- How easy is it to be spoiled and not realize what we had til we lost it (Beast)
- Don’t be afraid to adventure out
- Don’t be afraid to try new things/do things out of the norm
- You never know you’ll meet and how much they’ll mean to you
I hope that whenever you watch the animated or live action versions again, some of these lessons will stick out in your mind. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get a cup of tea.
Let your rose bloom and as always, shine bright