Monday, December 28, 2009

Disney Princess Smackdown: Ariel vs. Belle

Ok, so that title is totally misleading. No Disney Princesses will be harmed in the writing of this post. Hopefully.

I'll admit it--I'm a Disney fan. I have been for all of my life, and I just don't see that changing any time soon. I will also admit that I love those Disney Princesses, especially the ones that have come along since 1989.

Ariel came along when I was thirteen years old, and I immediately identified with her. She loved to sing; I understood her need to venture out and how she felt trapped by her father's strict rules. "Part of Your World" became my theme song. It still holds a very special place in my heart, and I will sing it at a moment's notice. When Richie gave me the Original Cast Recording from the Broadway musical for Christmas, I cried tears of happiness.

"Beauty and the Beast" came along when I was in high school, and was secretly thrilled when my French teacher brought it to class for us to watch. A Disney princess that's a bookworm and feels misunderstood by her small town peers? Sign me up, please! I felt my heart leap when the Beast gave Belle the library in the castle. Ok, I was majorly jealous, too.

As I get older, though, and I listen to the various soundtracks, I find myself leaning more towards Belle, and questioning Ariel (although "Part of Your World" is still my theme song), specifically when it comes down to their romantic entanglements. Like I said earlier, I was 13 when I first saw The Little Mermaid and I never once questioned that Ariel immediately fell in love with Eric upon laying her eyes on him. I was thirteen and Ariel was sixteen--love at first sight existed. Nineteen years later, questions plague me. How did this happen? How do you fall in love with someone with whom you've never had a conversation? How do you know if you have anything in common? You don't fall in love at first sight, you become attracted, and I don't believe anyone could ever tell me different. You can't tell at first sight if someone is kind or likes the same kind of movies or cheers for the same football team as you. Unless of course you walk up on someone kicking a puppy or pushing old people in the street. In that case, I believe it would be safe to assume that person is NOT KIND and you should walk away quickly.

Belle is a more mature princess, though, and it becomes very clear early in the movie that she's not on the lookout to snag the most handsome guy in the village. In fact, she's not looking for a man, period, something that has to be applauded. It would be very easy for me to slide into a pro-feminist diatribe here, but I will not. I promise to stay on task! When the Beast and Belle meet, they are very uneasy with one another, because they are strangers. But the more time they spend together, the more they find they have in common. They both love the outside, books, and apparently fine dining from all those meals Mrs. Potts cooked up for them. They find it very easy to talk to one another, and these are all things on which to build a real relationship. Another thing I love about Belle's story is that she ends up being the hero of the movie, not just the ingenue. She saves the Beast in more ways than one. Not only does her love bring him back to life (yeah, I know that's sappy), but it also frees him from his physical prison. Certainly she is someone that I, at fifteen, could look up to, and now at 32 can admire.

Bottom line--as a child, I loved childish things, and understood that point of view. Inevitably, though, I've spent more time as an adult and have really come to appreciate the slow burn as opposed to the flash fire. Winner: Belle from Beauty and the Beast.


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