Has Disney really turned Beauty and the Beast into a feminist fairytale? Or is it all just posh frocks and womens work with a slice of Stockholm syndrome thrown in? We delve beneath the furry facade
Beauty and the Beast was billed as a great feminist retelling of a fundamentally regressive fairytale. It was so feminist that Emma Watson, its eponymous Beauty, has been pilloried on social media for the hypocrisy of such unfeminist acts as having breasts and being attractive. This, naturally, rallies the right-thinking sister to Watsons defence, and thence to defend and applaud the entire film. But is this a trap? How feminist is it really? I dunked it in some water to see if it would drown (this witchcraft analogy does not stand up to close scrutiny, move on).
1) Incomplete subversion of the genre
The main indeed the only stated piece of feminism is that Belle has a job, so escapes the passivity and helplessness that has defined heroines since Disney and beyond. Eagle eyed feminist-checkers noted even before the films release that Belles inventing is unpaid so its not a job, its a hobby. I dont mind that. The future of work is automation, and even feminists will have to get used to finding a purpose outside the world of money.
I do, however, feel bound to point out that Belles invention is a washing machine, a contraption she rigs up to a horse, to do her domestic work while she teaches another, miniature feminist how to read. The underlying message baked into this pie is that laundry is womens work, which the superbly clever woman will delegate to a horse while she spreads literacy. It would be better if she had used her considerable intellect to question why she had to wash anything at all, while her father did nothing more useful than mend clocks. Its unclear to me why anyone in this small family needs to know the time.