To my way of thinking, there are four classic Disney Princesses:
- Snow White
- Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
- Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
You may not agree with this list—or, more likely, you’ll find it incomplete. These are the first five princesses prominently featured in Disney films, and the ones I remember from my own childhood.
I’m sure Mulan, Tiana, Merida, Elsa, Anna, and Moana are fantastic ladies, but as a thirty-seven year old woman without any kids, I’ve had no cause to watch their stories. And great as they may be, they’re the modern ladies.
Today we’re talking about classics.
They’re on my mind because this weekend I saw the Beauty and the Beast musical.
Belle has always been my favorite of the classic princesses.
I was ten when I first saw the Beauty and the Beast movie, and like every girl who spent her childhood reading, I felt a kinship with bookworm Belle. And every one of us reading girls grew into women who couldn’t help eyeing the Beast’s library with genuine lust.
Beyond the books, Belle is the first Disney princess with a spine. She is a good girl at heart, of course—minding her father and having a heart of gold—this is a Disney movie, after all. But she doesn’t give a fig for the expectations of the townspeople and knows from her reading that “there must be more to this provincial life.”
My favorite scenes come minutes into the movie—Belle refuses the marriage proposal of Gaston, the metaphorical meathead bro quarterback of the football team, and then subsequently mocks the idea of being the “little wife” of that “boorish, brainless….” The idea is so horrific poor Belle can’t even finish her thought as she tosses feed to the chickens. She vows that she will never become his wife before having her Sound of Music moment where she yearns for “adventure in the great wide somewhere.”
Can you see Cinderella or Snow White turning Gaston down? I can’t. Those two were toiling away under the tyranny of evil stepmothers, so you’d better believe they’d have taken the first marriage offer that came their way. Nice girls, sure, but beaten down and compliant. They were waiting for a man to come and save them. They both just got lucky the man that finally came happened to be a prince.
But Belle was defiant. She knew what she wanted—and what she didn’t. I love defiant heroines, and Belle was one of the first I’d met. She was like the heroines I’d come to love in regency romance novels, the ones who are plain and aging in a cut-throat marriage market, who turn down perfectly acceptable but boring, boorish, and brainless suitors so they can hold out for true love, knowing they will be spinsters permanently on the shelf and dependent on their brother’s largesse if they lose their gamble for love.
And the way Belle talks to the Beast! The girl has gumption. She’s afraid of him but still isn’t going to put up with his temper tantrums. Some people say Belle has Stockholm syndrome, but I don’t think so. I think she recognizes the soul of the Beast—she can look past his flaws and his temper to see the man inside.
And I think she’s just plain got the hots for the ultimate bad boy.
Cinderella and Snow White are just too nice. They’re as boring as their plain vanilla princes. Cinderella probably spends every night slathering her face with anti-wrinkle cream and measuring her waist to be sure she hasn’t gained an inch while her prince falls asleep on the couch watching How I Met Your Mother reruns. Snow White packs hand-made lunches with organic apples and all-natural peanut butter and sugar-free jelly sandwiches for the dwarfs, her husband, and her kids. And when someone gets mad and demands grape jelly instead of strawberry, she runs out right then to the twenty-four hour Wal-Mart. That one’s got doormat written all over her.
And Sleeping Beauty? Let’s not kid ourselves—that woman can’t make it through the day without a Xanax-induced nap.
But I’ll bet Belle and her Beast put the kids to bed early and have sexy time. She sexts him at work, telling him she bought new lingerie, and he cuts out early and rides his motorcycle back to the castle. In the bedroom, she still calls him Beast and he still growls like an animal.
At least, that’s what I like to think.
But I’ve read hundreds of romance of novels since that first viewing of Beauty and the Beast, so maybe I’m projecting.
Just a little.
But seriously…how many times do you think they’ve done it in that library?