Belle, the reader.
About the Look
La Belle et la Bête was first published as part of a collection of fairy tales in 1740 by novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. The story was adapted across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and has appeared in animation, film, television, theatre, and dance. It also sparked many thousands of words of feminist analysis.
Arranged marriage was still common in the 18th century and this story suggests it is possible for a girl to fall in love afterwards, even if one’s husband is a beast. As arranged marriage fell out of fashion, Beauty’s predicament was recognized as imprisonment. And in the original version of the story, the Beast was not transformed because he is selfish and superficial, but because he refused the sexual advances of his fae nanny (yikes!). In later tellings a failure to see beauty within even the ugliest or most mundane became the flaw that doomed the prince. These two ideas changed the Beast into something more villainous and made the story more sinister. Now, we have a heroine forced to spend her life with a monster, and more problematically, choosing to return to him when given the opportunity to escape.
Modern retellings require the Beast to go through a transformation of spirit in order to be worthy of a (re)transformation of body. He must atone, show remorse, give penance. He must change. The most famous version of the story, Disney’s, also provides an alternative antagonist who is outwardly handsome, popular, and desirable, but is in truth demanding, coercive, and beastly. The debate over these additions being enough to redeem a story of imprisonment and manipulation continues. For me, Disney’s best addition to the tale is Belle’s love of books.
Disney’s Belle is an outsider nerd who dreams of living through one of the adventures she’s read over and over while growing up lonely and misunderstood in her tiny, boring town. Raised by a single dad, she’s both had to do all the wife things already and never been indoctrinated into why she should want to. She has no interest in marrying the most popular man in town and popping out a dozen sons, each one a miniature copy of her boorish husband who would rather hunt game than read a book. Because that’s not what happens in any of the stories she’s read. They’re all about danger, mistaken identity, curses, magic, secret royalty, distant lands, monsters, knights, battles, and romance that happens in a whirlwind of peril and passion. Belle doesn’t want to marry the boy next door. Belle wants to be kidnapped into an adventure. Belle wants a Beast.
I’m not going to say if the end of Beauty and the Beast is feminist enough, you can decide that for yourself. But I believe that young women like Belle are smart enough to understand the difference between a story and reality.
About My Look
I have had this look planned almost all the way back to last Costober. I found the delightful hoodie at one of my many visits to a local thrift store. Beneath the oversized hoodie, I am wearing my Comfy Belle Cosplay, which I first put together for my recent trip to the Magic Kingdom.
For my Costober look — and my trip to Barnes & Noble — I added the “no shelf control” hoodie (you can find many varieties of this theme for purchase online) and my UGG boots. The UGGs were purchased on Poshmark and are the first actual UGGs I have ever owned. However, the ‘oversized hoodie, leggings, and cozy boots look’ was my default in college.
Peek my stack of books for spoilers for what’s to come this Costober!