I love Beauty and the Beast. I have since I was little and saw the cartoon version, and I love the live version even more. Perhaps it’s the book nerd in me falling for a guy who gifts a girl a huge library, but there’s always been something about it that I absolutely loved. However, now are the days of questioning every story and trying to find the evil within. Is this the tale of Stockholm syndrome or an abusive relationship that’s going to lead girls to believe they can change their abusive boyfriends/husbands if only they love them enough. I find both ideas utterly ridiculous. Maybe I’m blinded by my love of the tale, but I’m at least going to back up my reasons for why.
First off, it couldn’t possibly be Stockholm syndrome. Stockholm syndrome is described as “positive feelings toward their captors and sympathy for their causes and goals, and negative feelings toward the police or authorities. These feelings, resulting from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time spent together, are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims. Generally speaking, Stockholm syndrome consists of strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” I stole this from Wikipedia but I’m sure you can find this sort of info from a more reputable site if you’d like.
However, looking at this it doesn’t follow with what happens. First off, Belle chose to stay with the Beast so she wasn’t really taken hostage then. Sure she is being held captive, but it’s not like he went and kidnapped her. During that time the Beast and her barely spend any time together, and when he does act angrily and throws a tantrum, she stands up to him. She doesn’t back down, and while she doesn’t leave, she does move about doing whatever she wants. He yells a lot but all his threats are empty considering she doesn’t stay locked away and she does eat well. And she actually does try to escape, during which the Beast saves her life and when it’s clear she could make a run for it, she once more chooses to stay in order to find out what the curse is all about and to try to help the servants more than she is trying to help the Beast. More so, when the Beast gives Belle the opportunity to leave she does so. She doesn’t wish to remain there, and she doesn’t turn on the townspeople thinking they’re the bad guys. Besides she doesn’t even have rescuers of any sort to think badly of. The townspeople instead ignore her father’s plight and try to have him locked away instead of ever really asking what happened to Belle, and only go to the castle to murder the Beast, because even though they never knew he existed and he’s given them no trouble they’re suddenly afraid of him and decide to hunt him down and kill him in the castle he’s locked himself away in. So not much of her turning on any sort of rescuer, as it is trying to stop them from hurting people who are under a curse. In the end the only reason she shows any softening towards him, is because he finally stops acting so cruel and begins to try and be a decent human being. She also doesn’t fall in love with him until after he’s given her her freedom. In fact if he hadn’t been attacked it’s questionable if she would’ve returned or declared her feelings in time to even save him.
Now, much of this also answers why it’s not about an abusive relationship. Firstly, if you’re building your relationship ideals off Disney then you clearly don’t have any good ones to look upon in real life. Instead of blaming TV maybe we should question why they don’t have people in real life to look up to. Regardless, this isn’t the tale of someone who thinks they can save this cruel man if they just love him enough. Instead, she stands up to him repeatedly showing she isn’t going to bow to his will to just because he yells and demands it of her. While he does tear up a lot of stuff, the Beast never harms Belle or his servants. He clearly isn’t someone who they even fear because they disobey him readily. Showing he’s more bark than bite. Yet, the main thing to note is that it isn’t until he acts better, and shows that he cares, and that he’s trying to be a better man that she actually begins to love him. She isn’t loving him to make him better, she loves him as he becomes better. Once more, only upon him undoing all the wrongs he’d committed against her does she love him. Once he frees her to help save her father, who is only in trouble because of the Beast, and gives up his chance of breaking the curse does she finally let herself fall in love with him. Only once he’s completely turned from all the things that led him to becoming the Beast does Belle actually see him as someone worthy of her love. That is not the description of an abusive relationship. Belle wasn’t trying to save him, instead the Beast was working to become worthy of Belle.