Princess Review: Beauty and the Beast


Released in 1991, Beauty and the Beast was the first princess movie in the soon-to-be saturated market of the 90’s. Belle is often thought of as one of the strongest women in these early movies: she values education and would rather have an adventure than settle down and start a family. And let’s be honest: there are a lot of little girls with brown hair out there, and since she’s the first dark-haired princess since Snow White, Belle would have a decent following no matter what.

The story is well-known for its unorthodox romance and the healing powers of love, but it’s uncertain whether those are enough to undo some of the damage this movie could cause.

Belle is a young woman who loves to read in a small town full of illiterates. She lives with her father, a lovably incompetent inventor. The townsfolk aren’t terribly fond of them, given the inventor’s general nuttiness and Belle’s tendency to think. Local legend Gaston, manliest of men, ignores the town’s poor perception of Belle and decides to marry her because she’s the hottest girl in town.


Belle’s father heads out to the autumn market with his latest masterpiece, leaving Belle at home. He loses his way and is forced to seek refuge in a spooky castle nearby. As is often the case with spooky forest castles, this one is inhabited by a monster and enchanted furniture. While the talking objects are glad to have company, the Beast, ruler of the castle, isn’t terribly happy about it, and he throws Belle’s father in prison.

Back in the poor, provincial town, Gaston decides to pop the question publicly. Belle rejects him. Gaston is humiliated, and vows to get Belle no matter what. This is the least of Belle’s problems; when her father doesn’t come back from the market, she goes out to search for him. She tracks him back to the spooky forest castle and heads on in. When she is inevitably discovered by Beast, she asks him to let her father go in exchange for herself. This is convenient for the castle residents, since the Totally Secret spell on the castle will be broken if a woman falls in love with Beast, so they agree, tossing Belle’s father back out in the cold.


Beast turns on the charms, but he doesn’t have many. After some mutual life-saving and a few months of cohabitation, they begin to grow fond of each other. Beast becomes calmer and learns to care about someone other than himself. They have a romantic evening, complete with candlelit dinner and ballroom dancing, and Beast tries to express his feelings. Belle admits that while she’s mostly happy, she misses her father. Beast lends her a magic mirror, through which they find that her father has been spending the last few months searching for her and getting sick. Beast lets Belle go to find her father, giving her the mirror to remember him by.

Belle brings her sick father back to their house, where Gaston is waiting with his revenge. He locks Belle and her father in their house and storms off to hunt the Beast. Belle and her father escape, making it to the castle just in time to see Gaston and Beast battle. Beast prevails, but not before being badly wounded. Belle gives him an emergency dose of Magical Love Tears, breaking the spell and turning him and the rest of the castle human again.

My reaction

As a young brunette who loved reading, I didn’t have much of a choice but to love Belle. The movie had the perfect combination of serious moments and funny side characters to keep me entranced. Beast’s huge library seemed like a wonderland, and using dogs as foot rests was clearly the best idea in the world.

Rewatching this movie as an adult really brings in what a silly villain Gaston is. He’s a terrible person, of course, but his complete lack of intelligence makes hims somehow appealing, and his villain song is one of the most hilarious ones out there.

Note the wink- every last inch of him’s covered in hair. One could, of course, make the same assumption about Beast.

Best Message

Belle is an interesting character, and a lot stronger than some previous princesses. She’s still clearly very young and quite the dreamer, but she keeps her head in tense situations and actively tries to defend herself. She’s looking for a friend, not a husband, and she has ambitions beyond being a kept woman. Interestingly, she’s also the first princess to eat something on screen that isn’t poisoned. She’s not perfect, of course, but seeing a woman actively fight off wolves and yell back at an imposing character is definitely a strong message.

While Gaston is handsome and Beast is pretty horrific, Belle judges them on their personalities. She’s not completely angelic, given that she shies away from Beast the first time she sees him, and she’s reluctant to admit that she has feelings for him. One could argue that her reluctance is due less to his looks and more to the fact that he’s technically an animal, but I’m sure the former didn’t help much. Still, she realizes that she loves him over time, regardless of his appearance.

Worst Message

There is a song in this movie about how people who serve others for a living feel completely empty inside without someone to do things for. It’s certainly catchy, but that’s pretty messed up.

But that’s not the worst message.

The castle was cursed because Beast refused entry to an enchantress ten years ago. His transformation and those of the others was a punishment for judging appearances. Given that Beast meets Belle shortly before his twenty-first birthday, this means that he was eleven years old when it happened.

Not having any new contact for ten years means that, emotionally, he is still eleven years old when he meets Belle. He is used to getting his way, and screams and storms out of the room when things go wrong. He doesn’t think of others of their feelings at all. When he meets Belle, her acceptance of him changes him completely. He puts her needs before his, controls his temper, and becomes the perfect gentleman. She fixes him.

And that, right there, is why this movie is so dangerous. Belle is strong enough that little girls know she’s a good role model, and if they’re trying to be like her, then they, too, can fix a guy. I don’t know a grown woman who didn’t try to “fix” at least one guy she was with. Some never stop trying to fix them, constantly searching for a guy that’s “good enough” and attempting to make him “better” over time. I was guilty of this, too; helping an immature guy grow up was clearly the year-long responsibility of a seventeen-year-old girl, right? Disney would do well to have more relationships based on accepting and loving a person as they are.

Romance Quality

“What?” you say. “This is a classic romantic movie! The male in the relationship doesn’t only talk, but also grows significantly as a character! How could this be ‘awful’?”

Even ignoring the horrible message Beauty and the Beast sends about the ability to change people, Belle and Beast don’t have a great relationship. His anger issues and childlike behavior make Belle into more of a mother than a partner. He yells at her and threatens violence. Yes, he calms down, but what about when the infatuation phase is over? It’s not enough for him to be gentle most of the time.

To their credit, though, Beast and Belle have one of the longest relationships shown in princess movies. Getting to know someone over the course of several months is certainly preferable to a three-day romance, and they aren’t shown getting married at the end.

Face switch

I loved Beauty and the Beast as a child. I still love the music and art style and watch it pretty frequently. This doesn’t change the fact that it portrays a horrible relationship as the ideal and gives girls some terrible expectations. Can we also mention how creepy it is that the characters drink out of Chip, a ten-year-old boy in the form of a teacup?


He mentions how much it tickles when people drink out of him. Seriously. His transformation back at the end just makes it worse. “Do I still have to sleep in the cupboard?” Yes, Chip. Nobody likes you.

Previous Princess Reviews:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Sleeping Beauty
The Little Mermaid