This weekend, the much anticipated, live-action film adaptation of Beauty and the Beast hit theaters. With adored characters brought to life again by some of our favorite actors (Emma Watson!!), incredible music, flawless costumes, and breathtaking visuals, this movie was one of the best Disney has made.
I’ve been in love with the story of Beauty and the Beast since I was a little girl. Not only did I find a lot of myself in Belle with her love of reading and longing for adventure and love, but also I learned many lessons which I still carry with me today. Swept off my feet by the new movie, I was reminded of some of those lessons as they were so flawlessly brought to life once again.
So, here are 10 Things We Learned From Beauty and the Beast:
1. “Not Quite Fitting In” to the Wrong Crowd is a Good Thing
“She’s different from the rest of us, she’s nothing like the rest of us, that Belle!”
In the film’s opening number, the townspeople sing about how odd and out-of-place the well-read farm girl seems. The townspeople are so obsessed with fitting in that to see someone breaking the “social rules/standards” is outlandish and strange to them. They even go as far as to wonder if she is slightly crazy. While the townspeople don’t completely understand Belle, they are not repulsed by her unusual ways, rather they are all somewhat curious and fascinated by them. “That girl is strange but special.” Belle, seemingly oblivious but truthfully beginning to wonder if something really is wrong with her, is reminded by her father that those who are looked at as odd are those who end up as the people who everyone else wants to be like. In his words lies a lesson I have carried with me for years. With this opening number and Belle’s fascinating peculiarity, we are reminded not to conform to a certain crowd, but instead to lead our own life.
2. Life Begins Where Our Comfort Zone Ends
“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell”
Unlike everyone else in the village, Belle knows that there is so much more to the world outside her protected home and “provincial life.” She dreams of leading a life beyond her comfort zone and is inspired by the passionate, heroic stories she reads in books. Even though countless people try to convince her that there is nothing outside of village life, including Gaston who claims he is the best chance she has at a great life, Belle stays strong in her resolve. While all the other townspeople have settled for “this provincial life,” she is always seeking more. Belle yearns to be somewhere where open-minds can thrive. She knows that she has more purpose than to simply be someone’s “little wife” in the village. By keeping this dream alive, Belle ends up not only getting that adventure she always dreamed of, but also helps so many others along the way, discovering the power of her true potential. With this, Belle teaches us the importance of dreaming big and expanding our horizons no matter what others say to convince us that where we are now is all there is in life.
3. A Pretty Face Doesn’t Always Yield a Pretty Heart (& Vice Versa)
The deception of appearance is a major theme in the story of Beauty and the Beast. On one side of the spectrum, there is Gaston. As the embodiment of vanity and egotism, the handsome, masculine Gaston shows that a beautiful outside can have a completely rotten core. All of his village admirers are blinded and cannot see past his attractive outer appearance to the evil that lies within, save Belle. On the other side, there is the Beast. Cursed with the face and body of a frightening monster, it is nearly impossible for people to believe that there is any goodness in his heart. Belle has the ability to see past both men’s outer appearances and judges them instead by what lies behind their facades. This lesson is an exceedingly important one, for all too often we are quick to judge others for what they look like on the outside. Beauty and the Beast teaches us that character must be judged blind to outer appearance and instead on what radiates from within.
4. The Smart, Headstrong Girl Leads the Extraordinary Life
This lesson alone is one of my favorite from Beauty and the Beast. When original Disney movies were made, many of the female characters were passive and could do nothing for themselves. Belle breaks these rigid female character roles by presenting herself as intelligent, independent, headstrong, and passionate– qualities I am so glad I got to admire and find in myself. Belle stands to inspire girls to take what we want out of life and pursue our dreams with wild passion, unwavering certainty and strong independence.
5. Love is Found in the Most Unlikely Places
This whole love story is the epitome of this lesson. Many people have the idea that love is convenient and readily apparent– easily seen and easily pursued. Beauty and the Beast begs to differ. Keeping someone prisoner and frightening them with hostility doesn’t seem like the beginning of a love story, but here, both Belle and the Beast begin to accept the roles they are playing in each other’s lives and find themselves slowly falling for each other. “There may be something there that wasn’t there before.” The two are slightly confused and “a bit alarmed” by their newfound admiration for each other but let it in despite their cautiousness. By looking past first impressions and unfortunate circumstance, the two find great companionship and eventually true love. The other side of this lesson can be seen in Gaston’s obsessive pursuing of Belle with no real connection ever. These two situations teach us not only that love is found in unlikely places, but also that true love cannot be pursued and is rather stumbled upon in the most surprising, beautiful way.
6. The Past Does Not Define Us Forever
In this new adaptation, the story dives a lot more into the characters of both Belle and the Beast, giving insight into their pasts which have shaped them into who they are in the present. The Beast’s heart was hardened by his tyrannical, wicked father as well as the heartbreak of losing his mother at such a young age. Belle is still saddened by the death of her own mother and the affect it carries on her father. She still feels the weight of the loss even though she was too young to remember. Both of these pasts shaped the two characters into who they are. It isn’t until they help each other confront that pain and grief that they have so long buried that they are truly able to accept it and grow. In this, we are taught that though the past does shape us into the people we are in the present, it is not meant to hinder the person we are becoming.
7. Love Endures
One of the most iconic parts of this story is the lively house-hold objects who were cursed along with the Beast. Mrs. Pots, Lumier, Cogsworth, Chip, and the other memorable objects stay hopeful and happy in each other’s company through all the years that they are cursed. They turn their backs on bitterness and self-pity for what they are having to go through and never let anyone get too down. Belle is moved by their ability to stay strong and hopeful, singing, “How in the midst of all this sorrow can so much hope and love endure?” She later realizes that the objects’ unwavering love and friendship for each other has saved them. From the lively objects, we learn that love can endure any amount of pain or misfortune when shared and welcomed by all those going through that which must be endured.
8. Let Love In and It Will Forever Change You
For this adaptation, Disney decided to add a few new songs to the original soundtrack. One of these is sung by the Beast just after he lets Belle go, titled “Evermore.” In this song, the Beast laments the fact that he turned love and happiness away for so many years, because now “it is too late.” He also is extremely saddened by Belle’s absence, finally realizing how much he loves both her, the person he is with her, and how human she makes him feel. The Beast continues exploring his heart and his feelings for Belle and himself, when he finally realizes that even though she is gone, she will be with him always, in the incredible human he is now. “Now I know she’ll never leave me, even as she fades from view. She will still inspire me, be a part of everything I do.” Therein lies one of the most beautiful ideas of love– when we fall in love, we fall twice. Once with the person we love, and then again with the person we have become because of them.
9. Sacrifice- The Ultimate Act of True Love
We’ve all grown up with the saying, “If you love something let it go,” but the that is only the beginning of the quote. It continues to say, “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, it was never meant to be.” In this story, the Beast realizes his deep feelings for Belle have completely wiped away the selfishness he once carried in his heart. Even though letting Belle go means that he might be doomed to be a beast forever, he does so anyway. This sacrifice is the ultimate act of true love. While he hopes that Belle will return not only to break the spell but also because he loves her, the Beast is willing to give up his own life for hers. He also knows that love can never be true if it is not free. By setting it free and it returning to him, he knows that it is true. This is another of the story’s greatest lessons: love is selfless, and sometimes we must sacrifice everything for it. If it is true love, it will return to us.
10. Love Conquers All
Here lies the essence of Beauty and the Beast. The curse placed on the Beast and the castle would only be lifted if he fell in love with someone who loved him in return. This curse forces him to look deep into his heart and find hope for love once again. Through this, the Beast realizes that to truly love someone else, he must first love himself. When he finally does and is able to share those feelings of love and open up to another human, he becomes human again. This gives us all the strong belief in the power and magic of true, pure love, not only for another person but also in ourselves. No matter how painful or difficult the situation, the heartbreak, or the curse, love can and will conquer all. The strongest people in the world are the ones who carry it in their heart always.
Beauty and the Beast has inspired me and so many others for years. Bringing the tale as old as time to life once again reminded me of all the beautiful lessons that can be learned from both the characters and the story itself. This tale of passion, sacrifice, and true love will be carried in our hearts forevermore.