For a long time, girls have had to live with the idea that they were inferior to men. Early versions of Disney films, such as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty taught us that girls need a prince to save them, as they cannot do so themselves. Which might have been something that was generally accepted in the 1950s, but as we are getting more progressive, it is certainly not something that belongs in the current era.
Luckily Disney seemed to realise that putting girls in the damsel in distress role is not cool any more. They released films like Frozen and Brave and even featured a female lead in the new Star Wars film (and then did not include her in the merchandise for a while but let’s not talk about that). Kick-ass female characters are cool. We had Katniss who defied and overthrew a government, Arya Stark who murdered whoever got in her way and we had Hermione, without whom Harry would have died the moment he set foot into the Hogwarts Castle.
Beauty and the Beast
Speaking of Hermione, Emma Watson is starring in the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. And being the feminist that she is, she decided to change the backstory of Belle just a little bit. Instead of just loving to read books, Belle is an inventor like her father, and she invented the washing machine which means she doesn’t have to wash all day and has time to read books. That’s my girl! While a lot of people were not bothered by this change with some actually cheering, there were also people who could not fathom why they would change (such a minor) detail in such an timeless classic, ruining the patriarchy.
What they forget is that originally fairy tales weren’t written for children, but were gruesome tales written for adults. Over time, these fairy tales have been adapted many times, by Disney and many others to appeal to children or adults alike. My favourite adaptations being The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle. Beauty and the Beast has never truly been a feminist tale and I doubt it will be in this new adaptation, but any change that makes Belle more independent and clever is a good one in my book. And don’t forget, guys, feminism is not about women wanting to be better than men, but about wanting to be equal. Those are different things.
I came across this comment in the comment section of the article which talked about this change. I could not believe what I read and so I commented on it and I had to share.
Equality for women
Yes, this is a woman saying she is sick of Hollywood turning Disney girls into heroines. This is a woman who says that we should stick to what we know. Even though in this day and age, we have made so much progress when it comes to equality for women. This woman does not want girls to watch these films and think “I can do that too! I can also be a great fighter or save the world by using my brains!” And let’s not forget to mention that we should definitely not accept same-sex love from famous characters. That is blasphemy!
While this woman told me that I did not understand her point, I am pretty certain I do. Change is scary and especially if you’ve been taught that the current system is a holy one. Boys don’t cry and girls are inferior to boys. But that is not the world we should aspire for the next generation. Pop culture is an extremely powerful method that could break the stigma and break the system. And that’s a good thing. I want my niece to look at these films and believe that she can be a heroine too. That she can change the world by using her wits and brains. That she is more than just a pretty face.
So Disney, don’t stick to what you once knew. Keep walking the progressive path. Many of us will applaud you for it.