The girl who falls for a beast is one of the most enchanting and revolutionary stories known. The story was one of the earliest written fairy tales, originating from France. The story is called La Belle et la Bete (Beauty and the Beast) written in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve. The Tale is about a young provisional girl named Belle from a small town in France. One day she comes across a castle belonging to a prince who is cursed for being self-centered and cold-hearted turning him into a beast. To break the curse he would have to find someone that falls in love with him. Eventually, Beauty meets the beast and they fall in love. The story teaches kids not to look at appearances but rather who they are on the inside. The story itself is a love story and shows how Belle becomes a real princess. Belle is a strong female character, not like any other traditional princesses as she doesn’t conform to societal expectations of the gender role and norms of a woman.
Societal Expectations of Gender
The media is very influential on the way society behaves and is supposed to behave. Particularly puts many constraints on women due to the existing inequality between men and women in society. Society has struggled with inequality for many years but was recognized as a real issue only in the late 1960s. Stereotypes developed among certain principles that were made to be acceptable to make the world live more peacefully. Such as men working all day while the women take care of the kids at home. Stereotypes were never really accepted as they restricted people of different genders with what they were and who they had to be. Over time society has removed many stereotypes, however, they are still present in the present day. A lot of older films evidently show these stereotypes in action, but today society is becoming more inclusive and the films have become different. Many film companies started to produce films that show how female characters avoid or break these stereotypes.
Fairy Tales and Gender Roles
Fairy Tales evolved through oral storytelling many years ago. These stories were originally used to communicate different knowledge and experiences from one’s daily life to others. Sometimes they included magic, imagination, legends and people choose to believe them if they wanted to. People listened to these experiences and followed the same actions (Zipes 2). It was and still is form of art used today which helps make the world more beautiful and entertaining. Over the years the stories changed from dark or evil plots, to more pleasant ones. Many famous collectors, wrote down some of the these stories which are more commonly known today (McGee). The original stories became more imaginative and magically making them more popular among children. Despite the huge success of fairytales, certain stereotypes still exist for fairytales. Women are given the passive roles, cook, clean and wash, lack of heroism, are over emotional and wait for a prince to be saved. Men, on the other hand, are meant to be strong, powerful, active and look for princesses (Garduno-Jaramillo page 38). Over time as technology started to develop many different film corporations decided to create film adaptations for the literature.
Gender in Film Adaptations for Fairy Tales
One of the most well-known film companies for its incredible but also controversial fairy tale retellings is Walt Disney Pictures (Disney). They are considered to be very controversial due to their representation of gender in their films. They adapted many fairytales to make them more pleasantly enjoyable, more appropriate for the younger generation and more relatable to society today. However, a lot of their features are exaggerated for both male and female (Lederer 8). It also teaches the younger generation about the good and the bad through the interaction between different characters, which are often very relative to the existing stereotypes. Therefore Disney can give many wrong impressions to their young audience. Nonetheless, the more recent fairy tales released by Disney today have been adapted to show a better picture of gender roles and represent females a lot different than the traditional tales. A good example for this is the Beauty and the Beast film which shows princesses from a better perspective because she doesn’t conform to societal expectations. Therefore she is different than the usual princess.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast 2017 film
In 2017, Disney released a modern live-action adaptation based on the 1991 animated film for Beauty and the Beast which they previously released. The 2017 film was directed by Bill Condon (Disney Enterprises Inc). The film engages more with the viewer through the songs.
The films stars one of the most well known empowering female activist and actor Emma Watson. She is the protagonist of the story (Belle). Emma Watson is a female leader on the outside world just as in the film. She is a role model to many young girls that look up to her. She already has a high status due to all of her success from the Harry Potter series and the motivation to bring gender inequality. Therefore she shows a good representation of how women should be treated and how they can also stand up to themselves in the film. She was given the voice in the production of the film to make sure she was representing the best version of Belle. Most of the film is still really similar to the original plot but made more feminist. Emma Watson plays her role genuinely as she shares really similar characteristics to Belle. The film shows us many societal expectations from the 1770s and how Belle doesn’t conform to them.
Portrayal of Belle
Belle, the protagonist of the film is not an ordinary female character, her personality traits are not what one associates with a women. In the film we see that Belle grew up very independently in a poor provisional town as her mother past away due to the plaque when she was a newborn and her father (Maurice) was an inventor, who had to work. She is very similar to her mom she was fearless, ahead of her time and treated disrespectfully for doing good. Belle had to move to a safer town and now lives in the lower class community (00:10:56 – 00:13:16). The town has are certain traditional norms and we see how people who don’t meet these norms are treated.
Belle is recognized as the most beautiful and kind girl in town. Therefore already praised as a princess yet to become. Also naming the character Belle is an epitome as that means beauty in French which she is. She was treated like a princess in her town not because of the ways she looked but because of her kind acts towards others. She also was different than any other women because she did things a lot different.
The flashback scene at the beginning of the film provides context to the plot of the story and leaves the audience questioning the outcome of the story “Who could ever learn to love a beast?” (00:04:26) as the title appears on screen. After a transition the viewer is given a wide angled shot of France with a castle in the distance that is long forgotten and we see the small