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Belle: Our Introverted Role Model

I must start this article with a confession: I completely snubbed Beauty and the Beast when I was a little girl. I had noting against it and found it enjoyable. But when I look back to my childhood I remember it being consumed by The Little Mermaid, Ariel dolls, and Barbies with fishtails, while Part of Your World played repeatedly in the background. The moment that live action remake is released, you’ll probably see me crying long before the trailers even start.

It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I gave Belle another chance, due mostly to Once Upon a Time‘s re-imagining the character and to several meta I read on Tumblr that analyzed every aspect of that movie, shattered the myth of Stockholm Syndrome, and claimed that Belle was a good role model for girls everywhere. Only then did I realize that several messages that Beauty and the Beast tried to convey went over my head and that this was a movie worth not only watching again, but worthy of the glorious remake it got.

While Mulan was joining an army to defend her honor, Ariel was rebelling against her controlling father, Jasmin was loudly turning down suitors, Snow White was heading a household with seven men like it was no big deal, Aurora was… Aurora’s fairies were saving the day and getting none of the credit – while all of this was happening, Belle was a hero through her quietness and compassion. Her enemy was not an evil sorcerer, but rather ignorance and patriarchal values. And a Beast who couldn’t be conquered through sword, but through patience and understanding.

Belle is a clever woman, her value has always lied in what’s in her head rather than her physical skills and I was very pleased to see that the new movie celebrates her intelligence, instead of following the trend of mistaking the word “hero” for “fighter”. As a way to update the character and make her more suitable to modern audiences, they made her an inventor, an educator, and an advocate for the education of girls. What a breath of fresh air! Belle hasn’t changed, she’s been improved and there is still much one can learn from her.

Just within the first five minutes of the movie, for example, we learn how important it is to befriend people who share the same interests as you. For her, it was a little old bookshop owner (turned into a priest in the new version) who saw her love for books as something to be encouraged and praised. When you’re part of a community who doesn’t get you, people who share your passion will give you strength – and if Belle could find someone in her tiny village, you’ll surely do better now that we have the internet.

Also, see the way Belle reacts to being treated as the strange girl. Her society doesn’t know what to do with her introverted ways and her wild ideas, so she’s often labeled as odd. She’s ostracized and even punished for not conforming to the world she’s in. Yet, she keeps on being herself, even though it’s not easy to be kind, patient, or quiet. These are skills that take time and practice and are a lot less passive than most people will give you credit for.

Even though complying to the social norm would’ve made her life much easier, she continued to read her books, stand up for her father, and she wouldn’t give in to Gaston’s harassment. Which leads to another great lesson: don’t settle for less. You deserve more than someone who sneers at your interests and hopes that you’ll someday become their ideal companion by changing everything about yourself. You deserve a castle, and someone who’s going to look at your introvertedness and say, “I should give them a library, they’ll like that!”

And of course, a lesson I was glad to see in the remake because it’s 2017 and it was about damn time: it’s okay to be extroverted and LGBTQ+. You are not someone else’s laughable sidekick, your flamboyant ways are not a joke, and you don’t have to “tone it down” to be respected. You’re a character in your own story.

Among the many things one could learn from Beauty and the Beast, perhaps the greatest lesson of all, is also the scariest: sometimes, you have to face the world outside of your comfort zone.

As introverts, we come to love what is familiar to us. The same places, the same faces, the same activities are a source of great comfort and the way we keep ourselves productive and sane. For Belle, that was her books and her father, but even though she was content to spend her days reading, she also craved for something more. The “adventure in the great wide, somewhere”, something she couldn’t find in her little village, or even in her books.

In our yearn for the safety of a routine, it’s not difficult for us to trap ourselves in a situation that is less than ideal, and after a while, that becomes a difficult habit to break. Belle stood still despite being clearly unhappy, and it wasn’t until she received an opportunity to go on an adventure (in the form of rescuing a kidnapped parent) that she finally forced herself out of her inertia.

What a boring story that would’ve been if she hadn’t.

What would you like to do that is outside of your comfort zone? And what do you think about Belle and the remake of Beauty and the BeastLeave a comment below!

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  1. This was really beautifully written.
    As an introvert, I agree, we do tend to love what is familiar to us.
    I love my comfort zone and want to stay in it; I don’t think I even have anything I want to try outside it.
    However, if a wizard were to invite me on an adventure to save the world. I’d definitely go.

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