How Disney’s ‘Beauty And The Beast’ Can Make Or Break Feminism For Young Girls

For the possibility of a female future, Disney needs to promote equality of women and the LGBT+ community to children – especially within the princess franchise.

With the recent release of the film’s vocal soundtrack, the buzz surrounding the upcoming live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1991 film Beauty and the Beast is stronger than ever. Recreating such a classic and beloved film, known for portraying the purity of love in all forms, makes it even more important that it lives up to the hype: especially for young girls inspired by Disney Princesses. Given the flaws of the original to be redone and the revelation that the villain’s comedic sidekick will be gay (later rephrased to be a “subtle moment” by the movie’s director), so much can be misrepresented, prejudiced, or straight-up sexist in this new film. There is so much at stake for the influence of this film on younger audiences, including Emma Watson’s future feminist behaviors (as she is soon to become adored by a new generation). Also, it will be important to evaluate the characters’ mannerisms towards Belle, LeFou’s behavior as either a stereotypical or unorthodox homosexual man, and the overall tone – whether or not it outweighs claims of promoting Stockholm Syndrome with a sense of curiosity, intelligence, and adventure.

Firstly, it is important to explore why this movie will be crucial to the futures and opinions of younger viewers. Little girls who admire female characters such as Belle are part of one of the most influenceable groups – so the entertainment industry should value their developing opinions and aspirations more than the profitability of their demographic. Women need to be shown as an unstoppable subsection of humanity rather than only for beauty, so girls can embrace their gender while following whatever dreams they wish. Not only is this important for girls, but boys too, as they may become the ones practicing misogyny. With a lack of awareness and education for LGBT+ children within the school system, even in this era of new social normalities, movies may become the first introduction to same-sex attraction – therefore, it needs to be depicted as unchangeable, a source of pride, and certainly not evil. Since the Disney Princess franchise is one of the biggest in the world for young females, there is a heavy burden on the creators’ shoulders to bring feminism to a new generation while keeping intersectionality in mind.

For the sake of inclusivity, Disney should have never cast Emma Watson as Belle – as a self-proclaimed feminist, she expresses her white, wealthy, and overall privileged experiences as a blanket statement, and is an example of hypocrisy in Hollywood. We can only hope that she can pull together her activism enough so that youth admirers can see the full picture – race, sexuality, mental and physical ability/disability and all. Other actors in this movie, such as openly-gay Luke Evans portraying Gaston, would be exceptional influences, but unfortunately, the quality doesn’t always get the most screen time, just like the ranging singing abilities in this film.

Also, the news-breaker regarding this project – the director’s statement that LeFou, a flamboyant sidekick, will be in love with narcissistic Gaston – has the greatest potential to go sideways. Having Josh Gad, best known for voicing Olaf, play this overall comedic role may draw the attention from the fact that he falls on the ill-intentioned side of things, but at the same time made homosexuality into an archetype. It is also important to note that queer baiting is alive and well, so by making a minor character be attracted to gender, we may be falling into Disney’s trap; the company will profit once again from the tale as old as time, while we are enticed to see how their attempt at social justice represents the gay, lesbian, and bisexual. One’s first introduction to the concept of same-sex love should be at the forefront of a heroic story so that children are taught love of this kind is acceptable, not a mockery intended to stay in the background. Overall, this issue will come down to a merging of execution and intentions, but for now, the LGBT+ community can only hope that Bill Condon, luckily an openly gay even as a director, delivers for the sake of us all.

One’s first introduction to the concept of same-sex love should be at the forefront of a heroic story so that children are taught love of this kind is acceptable, not a mockery intended to stay in the background.

The mistakes of the original are inexcusable to repeat. From the beast’s brute-force method of seduction to the fact that Belle is reduced to her looks in the title, so much is foundationally wrong with this film that was worsened by its final presentation. Her interactions in the live action have the opportunity to make up for the blatant misogyny expressed in 1991, as kids rarely see into the story’s building blocks. Given the underreported announcement that Belle, rather than her father Maurice, is an inventor as well as an avid reader, we have seen some effort shine through to enhance her aspirations. In addition, the filmmakers will have to paint Gaston as more demeaning towards women, rather than as attractive as he was thought to be in the original.

In the end, it all comes down to intentions – if this movie was produced with care and commitment from all parties, it would be received with an atmosphere of inclusion and poise that has been unseen from Disney Princess films. If this does work out for all parties, it’s a victory that deserves praise and the attention it deserves from our children and ourselves – but if this movie falls on the other end of the quality spectrum regarding messaging, boycotting it and its merchandise will hurt the Disney production company. Simply ignoring media that is prejudiced will force the creators to do a better job next time. As it stands, the mixed reviews from critics can’t show us how it will affect young girls and the women of tomorrow, so all we have to do is give our daughters the best feminist-valued media possible, so they truly believe that they can do anything.

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