I grew up addicted to Disney movies, so much so that when I was a young married woman I had the entire VHS collection before I had children. Even though I loved the plots, characters and music, I never saw myself in any of the princesses. They were all too polished, too poised, too perfect. Even the princesses in exile acted liked princesses. And to make matters worse they cleaned, too.
And then there was Belle. Outspoken Belle who adored her eccentric father, didn’t have time for boys and walked through the village with her nose firmly in a book, blissfully unaware of the world around her. She fought her own battles and although she had a feeling that she didn’t quite fit in, she moved beyond it.
I loved Belle because even though she was beautiful she felt like me.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was released my freshman year in college and I remember riding the public bus to the pathetic mostly abandoned mall to see it in the theater. Seeing Belle then, at that time and in that place, reinforced my self-image as a warrior queen and the last shred of princess aspirations fell away. Poof. Later on, Disney would give me Mulan, Merida and Elastigirl, more strong girls and women who didn’t quite fit in. Just like me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still loved the princesses and the girls and women I knew in real life who were like them. My daughter got a Barbie make-up desk for Christmas when she was four and watching her seamlessly navigate the aisles at Ulta now amazes me. There is a part of me that thinks it would be fun to be polished, poised and perfect. But that isn’t me and it won’t ever be.
My husband gets that. I have neither asked for nor expected a pedestal — and he would have no idea how to put me upon one. The closest we get is with my car; I casually mention that I need an oil change and it magically gets done. But even that is mostly a reflection of my inability to prioritize preventative maintenance and his need to keep things in tip-top shape. I’d be fine with a car that went 6,000 miles between oil changes, but he’s not.
Mostly, I’m thankful that we live in a society where both princesses and warrior queens can exist, along with the talented amazing women who don’t identify with either of those categories. I enjoy watching the expanding diversity and representation in tv shows and movies to give individuals characters with whom to connect. We live in a big, amazing world and I love to be reminded that I’m both weird and normal compared to it.
Besides, everyone deserves a Belle moment.