By now no one will be surprised when I say that Im 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 hes 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?!?
Heres 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 shell love him enough that hell 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? Were 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. Dont 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.