Out of all the Disney Princesses (at least from the earlier eras), I think it’s fair to say that Belle is one of the most beloved. She’s a move towards the Disney Princesses we know today, and arguably one of the smartest. Having grown up relatively sheltered, most of her adventurous spirit comes from the many books she reads. This is at odds with most of the town, where the main BNOC of the town Gaston is lovely for his deeds and his looks, even though he is a vile person.
Belle however doesn’t value this kind of arrogance, and it is for this reason that she manages to fall for The Beast when she has to stay with him. She sees beyond his ugly appearance to see the goodness he is capable of. It’s Belle’s belief in this that saves the day, as well as her strength in standing up for what she believes it right. One of the greatest lessons is that people are not necessarily what they might appear – appearances do not demonstrate inner goodness.
She’s one of the less controversial princesses and as a white character she’s lucky not to come up against as much scrutiny as say, Pocohontas, Mulan or Jasmine. Whilst she still wears the fabulous princess gown and has the dance with the prince, she does have an inner strength that shows the growth of the Disney Princesses in the franchise.
Of course if anyone picks enough we can find faults in any of the Disney Princesses, and Belle is no exception. Some have accused her of being a victim of Stockholm syndrome, but both Belle and The Beast are not just figureheads, and they aren’t just ideals. They’re real fleshed out characters which we can identify with, and Belle more than most. She’s the hero that can also be ‘nerdy’ (for the use of a better word), without having to change. I guess that’s why this review is so comparatively shortL It’s easy to see why she is so beloved, which someone might not celebrate with Cinderella or Snow White.
As we celebrate Belle as a new kind of Disney Princess, what can possibly confront the women of Disney next? I’ll hit on that next week with Jasmine.