Belle – Battered Codependent

By now no one will be surprised when I say that I’m not a huge fan of Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

Some might see Belle as a redeeming character because she is smart and loves to read. She is, after all, bright enough to tell Gaston, the quintessential good-looking football player type, where to go. Good for Belle, even though all the other village girls love Gaston, she thinks he’s a moron and is looking for something different.

When her mad scientist father gets held as a hostage by the mean ugly beast, Belle, the loyal daughter, finds him. Selflessly, she trades her own freedom so that her father can go to the invention festival. What?!?

Here’s the first lesson we need to tell our daughters, Your dad and I will never, ever trade you for anything. If you are ever held by a beast or anyone else we WILL bring the police and find you or die trying. If you are ever kidnapped or someone tries to take you then you should do anything you can to get away. Scream, bite, scratch, kick and run as fast as you can.

The rest of the story is basically how Belle is such a good and sweet young woman that she transforms the compassionless, angry, self-absorbed, violent, ugly and mean beast into the Prince he always was inside.

Basically, the story is just early training for future battered women everywhere. This is Stockholm Syndrome. Women love to love their abuser and fantasize that eventually she’ll love him enough that he’ll start treating her with love and respect. Every woman who gets abused desperately wants to believe that her compassionless, angry, mean, self-absorbed jerk of a husband or boyfriend has a kind prince locked inside and if she is just a good and sweet and forgiving enough wife or girlfriend then she can change him into a sweet guy.

What kind of codependent crap are we feeding our daughters at bedtime? We’re setting them up to be victims with this story. Is it any surprise that 30% of women put up with abuse at some point in their lives? Come on!

I recommend telling our daughters the truth.

If you marry a mean and selfish or violent beast of a man you will never, ever change him into a nice guy. People are who they are. No one has the power to change anyone else. Don’t waste your life trying.

The best thing to do is to marry a guy who is already good and sweet and kind and generous. Find someone who treats you with respect from the beginning and skip all the fairytale drama.

Here’s the Challenge: add, if not completely replace some of these princess horror stories with stories that have good messages like The Practical Princess, and other liberating fairy tales. And give your daughters a new perspective on the old messages found in Disney’s version.

12 replies
  1. alexis saint says:

    I am going to write out a real life synopsis of each fairy tale to counterbalance what my daughter might subconciously process from the Disney princess stories. I think I will print these in pink ink using a very princess looking font and paste them into the one and only Disney princess book we own, a gift from a person my daughter adores so I have to keep it.

  2. Anna says:

    Perfect. To be honest, I never really thought of this, since Belle wasn’t my favorite character. However, Cinderella was, so just imagine how many bad relationships I was in while waiting for Prince Charming to ‘rescue’ me. A book called ‘Better Single Than Sorry’ finally made me realize what I was doing, and after that change was so easy – I love being alone, and the difference with my current partner is that we don’t Need each other. I loved that little video you posted the other day.

    I tend to agree with you on the Princesses from Disney, my problem is how to get rid of them. They’re plastered all over cereal boxes, snack containers, etc, and worse – my sister is obsessed with them. Nearly every gift she brings my daughter is Princess themed. I hate to just get rid of it all, and I do appreciate what she does (by request, she has eased up on it) but I don’t really like having it around either. :-/

    Alexis – I would love to see this as well!

    Anna’s last blog post..Oreo Cakesters

  3. Tracee Sioux says:

    I sat Ainsley down and told her what each of the princesses should have done if she were smart. Then we took all that stuff to a used bookstore and traded for better books.

    I put “please no princess, bratz or barbie” on her birthday invite and we exchange or regift random princess stuff.

    trade for princess bubble or other better princess messages.

    Tracee Sioux’s last blog post..Cheerleading: Limiting or Empowering?

  4. Amy Jussel says:

    Great post, Tracee…lots to think about on many levels of deconstruction.

    Re: the ‘next phase’ of this (not princess, but tween/teen romance) I’ve noticed kids are ‘over the top’ in terms of the Nicolas Sparks’ style adoration of certain love stories. (note the mixed messages and hoopla about Twilight too) sooooo…sure do applaud and appreciate your voice in the ‘what are we telling our girls?’ mix!

    Shaping Youth is supporting the Packaging Girlhood team on their new campaign to leave Dora the Explorer the adventurous soul that she is rather than turn her into fluff-n-stuff to hawk beauty crud as you can see by my post: “Discover the world, not the mall.”

    Here’s the Packaging Girlhood petition hot off the press:

    Join us?

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Coen Brothers Ad For Clean Coal Air Freshener

  5. Annie says:

    Wow! I saw the Beauty and the Beast story when I was little believe me I never thought my parents were going to abandon me with a beast, I knew at my 7 years of age that it was not real. I liked the story because it shows how love can make an angry person change. If we see the bad in everything we should probably start with the fact that woman created all this stupid world of thank you cards, gifts after receiving a gift, not able to breastfeed in public, not able to dress whatever because you are slut, all that is done by woman.

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  7. Mandy says:

    It makes me sad that you’re not teaching your daughter what good comes from these stories… because that’s what they are; just stories. Not real. For argument’s sake though; Belle is unselfish, (by the way, her father does do everything in his power to find and get his daughter back and Belle only traded herself because she knew that the only choices were to save her sick and dying father or leave him). Belle is also patient with the Beast’s mood swings; possible mental dissorder, as well as kind, gentle and tolerant. You know that the best way to help someone and teach them is by example and that’s exactly what Belle uses. It’s not automatic, certainly not as quick as the movie, but it’s a movie and it has to end somewhere. That’s the good of the story… I wonder if, in your prejudice, you see that.?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Belle. She’s kidnapped and falls in love with her own abuser. Turns him into a prince even. Um, […]

  2. […] for a pithy princess post, you might want to also read Tracee’s  ‘Belle as a battered co-dependent’ Disney spin for a reality check on the whole fractured fairytale princess […]

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