In July, a very interesting interview appeared on youtube that has very recently brought up a question that I think needs to be answered.
At the San Diego Comic Con, a reporter asked Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold/Rumplestilskin in Once Upon A Time) about the impending hallmarks of domestic abuse that appeared to her in Skin Deep, the episode that introduced Belle to the Once Upon A Time Universe and launched the onscreen couple moniker that is Rumbelle.
Some might argue that the story of Beauty and The Beast has not only the signs of an abusive relationship, but also of Stockholm syndrome.
Stockholm syndrome is defined as: a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with them.
I can see where the argument is valid. However, if one was to examine the fairy tale genre, they would discover that the messages that these stories are sending to girls are the same. They are just packaged differently, depending on the story.
Let’s examine a few of them:
- Snow White is the victim of her stepmother’s jealousy. She is being taken care of, first by the dwarves and then by her prince, who whisks her away to a life of luxury and royalty.
- Sleeping Beauty is the victim of Maleficent. It is, again, the prince who kills the sorceress and wakes her up from her sleep. It is then that her life is complete.
- Cinderella is the victim of her stepmother’s jealousy (Am I sensing a pattern here?). After she runs from the ball, she does not go the palace and announce that she is the young woman that the prince is seeking. She has to wait for him to find her.
What I like about Beauty and The Beast is that these characters seem the most human of the leading romantic characters in the genre. The Beast’s emotional wounds and extreme external appearance could be considered as an allegory for the emotional scars we have and the mistakes we wish we could undo. Beauty is the most active of the fairy tales heroines. She is no one’s victim, and certainly not waiting for some prince to rescue her. She takes her life into her own hands and makes her own decisions.
The overall problem is that fairy tales are part of our culture. Feminism has certainly helped to alter the way that girls see themselves and their futures. But change does not happen overnight.
To answer the question, what message does Beauty and The Beast send? I would say that, if told properly, proves that we can change and move on from what was holding us back.