YES - Disney did do good on this one.
It was kind of obvious when Emma Watson attached herself to the film that the new Disney live action version of the classic Beauty and the Beast was going to have some undertones of feminism and representation throughout.
Before we go too far, Belle is still played by a pretty white girl so there is obviously still a way to go, but the diverse cast of the film and inclusion of gay characters, really awards Disney a pat on the back.
The timing of the Disney film felt particularly relevant, in my opinion, and like a big ‘fuck you’ to a world of people who voted for Brexit and Trump. Outsiders aren’t that bad after all, guys!
Zoe William’s wrote a piece in The Guardian recently called ‘Beauty and the Beast, Feminist or Fraud’ in which she argued ‘The main – indeed the only – stated piece of feminism is that Belle has a job… I do, however, feel bound to point out that Belle’s 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 women’s 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. It’s unclear to me why anyone in this small family needs to know the time.’
I kind of feel duty bound to argue against this point, and not just because I’m a bloody Disney obsessed nightmare after seeing the film.
Nothing exists in a vacuum. Belle is not suddenly un-burdened by social pressures and expectations because she is clever. There are hundreds of thousands of women in the UK who are brilliantly clever and well aware they’re capable of doing more than the washing up, but they don’t get a chance. They don’t get a chance because of circumstance, expectations, and family commitment. We should not diminish what those women are doing. This is simply what Belle is going through, and isn’t her choosing to stay in a world with the Beast where she has access to books and is unburdened by the washing the main point of the film?