I have seen so many articles like this, most of the complaints seem legit, but I haven’t seen half of these movies so it is hard for me to tell. For the most part the problem is that I am sick of people complaining that the only reason Belle is with the Beast is because she has Stockholm Syndrome.
Stockholm Syndrome is named after a case in 1973 when a bank was held up in Stockholm and the bank employees were held with dynamite strapped to their chest for several days. Afterwards they showed a emotional bond to their captor, fear of their rescuer, and overall cognitive dissonance for what happened to them. Basically, trauma equals topsy-turvey emotions.
I’m going to tell you why this isn’t the case with Belle. On the surface if you look at the main plot of Beauty and the Beast and the classical definition of Stockholm Syndrome they do line up, but if you look at a more in depth character study of Belle and Adam, and a in depth look at the narrative you will find the story much more empowering then you thought.
First, Belle is a woman with a strong sense of will, she has encountered sexism and harassment every day from Gaston and she is able to ignore him. Despite claims from the town’s people and Gaston that she is weird and too smart, she keeps on doing what she is doing because she has high self esteem and courage of conviction and she is comfortable with her identity. Second, She is firmly loyal, which we can see when she offers to exchange herself for her father as The Beast’s prisoner. Belle has no idea what she is getting herself into but she does it because she knows she is mentally stronger then her father and can endure it better than he could.
Then if we look at the narrative and Adam’s character development the story becomes more complex. The enchanted rose that puts pressure on Adam/ the Beast’s quest for a girl is counting down to when he is 21 years old. Since the story takes place 10 years after he first meets the enchantress he was 11 years old when he is described as “spoiled” and generally horrible. If he was so horrible that he “deserved” to be cursed it is probably because he has absentee or dead parents. I mean, who is looking after this kid? Why is a Lord of the house opening the front door? Adam is too young to be held responsible for being rude to a homeless person, his caretaker should have teaching him how to be a nice person!
basically the Beast has been living by himself brooding and traumatized for 10 years, and has lashed out at the servants who try to help him because he is scared, angry, and feels alone. Belle comes along, and he locks her father then her in the dungeon because that is how he thinks he is supposed to act. Her father was an intruder and that generally jail is how people still punish people who break and enter, later her father is locked up for being “crazy”. So clearly it isn’t an extreme punishment by the standards of the time.
As far as their relationship goes, the Beast starts out a angry childish person and by virtue of Belle giving him a chance he matures into a sweet, gentle adult. She plays the role of a mentor or therapist more than a captive. When he grows enough, he realizes that letting her go is the best way to repay her friendship. She goes back to warn him of Gaston attack because of her loyalty to the person she rehabilitated.
Really she returns not because she is experiencing cognitive dissonance for her captor, but because she care what happens to the person who exposed his vulnerability to her. Despite his physical strength and monstrous appearance he is just a man who experienced a difficult trauma early in life, and she has the power heal that trauma so she does. Gaston is shown to be the real villain because he refuses to change or grow, and he dies because of it.
…and placed a powerful spell on the castle and all who lived there
I have a headcanon that if Belle wasn’t able to break the spell in time, she too would be transformed into an object, as in accordance with the spell. This makes her name even more fitting, for she is both the “belle of the town”, and a potential bell. The gold, bell-shaped dress also helps. :)
"You are very obliging," answered Beauty, "I own I am pleased with your kindness, and when I consider that, your deformity scarce appears."
"Yes, yes," said the Beast, "my heart is good, but still I am a monster."
"Among mankind," says Beauty, "there are many that deserve that name more than you, and I prefer you, just as you are, to those, who, under a human form, hide a treacherous, corrupt, and ungrateful heart."
"If I had sense enough," replied the Beast, "I would make a fine compliment to thank you, but I am so dull, that I can only say, I am greatly obliged to you."