What kind of message does Beauty and the Beast truly hold for impressionable minds?

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Beauty and the Beast is a fairytale romance story that never should have happened

Beauty and the Beast sells the message, to young girls especially, that an abusive man can change and become a dream husband — that, given enough time, a loving girl can change a dangerous man.

That is fantasy, not reality, and it’s time to call foul: Beauty and the Beast is a romanticized abuse story.

I’m willing to give creators the benefit of the doubt, as the whole concept was based on a book from 1740. The thought process behind creating movies for it was likely innocent and I don’t want to torch them for it.

But the fact that the original Beauty and the Beast book was published in 1740 should only serve to strengthen the argument that abuse, and even legal abuse — which was a normal occurrence in ancient times and still is today in some parts of the world — should not be recycled to our television screens today in a “positive” light.

Our society today is still struggling to combat domestic violence as it is, so why normalize it, and worse, romanticize it for children?

Children soak up information like a sponge. Their minds are malleable as they draw upon their surroundings to establish a sense of what is normal and acceptable, and what is not. And the biggest message of this movie, arguably, is that true love overlooks wrongs… oh and that it works out in the end as well.

It literally depicts a man (a beast, actually) who ceases all abusive behavior to become everything Belle could hope for, simply based on the fact that he has feelings for her.

Farce. This just doesn’t happen, and the concept should be kept far from impressionable minds. What Beauty and the Beast really portrays, if we’re being honest, is Stockholm Syndrome.

An understanding of Stockholm Syndrome is essential to the understanding of domestic abuse. It is, essentially, a feeling of attachment a hostage holds toward their captor.

The term originated after a bank robbery in Sweden in which hostages bonded with their captors and ended up strongly sympathizing with them due to the fact that the robbers showed them some “signs of kindness.”

Those “signs of kindness,” however, included allowing a hostage to walk outside the confined space they were imprisoned in attached to a leash.

The craziest part about this whole ordeal was that those hostages ended up truly siding with their captors upon being freed. When the day of their rescue came, they wanted little to do with the police and insisted that their captors not be harmed.

They even ended up visiting their captors in prison in the aftermath of the situation. Strange? It’s actually not very uncommon, as instances of Stockholm syndrome have continued to pop up throughout history.

This has specific relevance to the conversation about domestic violence, as many abuse victims are prisoners in their own homes and decide not to leave when the chance arises. Fear likely does most of the work, but so does the manipulative cycle of abuse.

The cycle of abuse, notably absent in the fairytale Beauty and the Beast where everything works out, is an ongoing three-step cycle in a domestic violence situation.

It includes the tension-building phase, where the abuser threatens violence and blames the victim, the physical abuse phase, where the abuser acts on the tension he’s built and commits an episode of violence, and the honeymoon phase, where the abuser says he’s sorry and swears it’ll never happen again. Repeat.

In essence, many abusers actually play the part of the victim — the victim of their own “inability” to be the men they want to be, though it is most the time just a game they play. This, in turn, causes the woman to sympathize with them and oftentimes stay in the relationship.

It can go the other way, too. But the stats show men abuse more than women do. In any type of relationship, heterosexual or otherwise, domestic violence has the potential to happen. So at the end of the day, it is important to note that domestic violence, simply defined, is manipulation and violence at the highest level and that it is terrible no matter what form it takes.

Bringing this full circle — In Beauty and the Beast, you do see what could be perceived as Stockholm Syndrome. Belle becomes romantically involved with her captor. The fact that this part is romanticized is bad enough — but the fact that you do not see a realistic cycle of violence (because the violence stops) makes the story even worse and even more dangerous to young minds who are learning that true love wins.

Can abusive men change? Can abusive women change? Yes. But so rarely that it is something that should never be counted on. Abuse, at its earliest signs, needs to be recognized and the relationship must end.

According to the NCADV, “A study of intimate partner homicides found that 20% of victims were not the intimate partners themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders” They also state that “72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female.”

We can’t take these matters lightly. And the fact that kids are being taught this fantasy is concerning. I mean, looking back at Beauty and the Beast, the whole story is about a woman who offered to imprison herself in her father’s stead.

She then slowly grows accustomed to the Beast and gives in to his advances, which culminates in a romantic, fairytale ending. But along the way? On top of being imprisoned, she was threatened with starvation, she was regularly yelled at, and she was treated as a slave.

Let’s not forget that “Be Our Guest” took place after he told her she wouldn’t eat unless it was with him.

We can’t lie to our children and say that things end happily if the abuser is loved unconditionally. Love doesn’t change a man. In fact, many men enjoy the power of dragging a girl through the dirt emotionally — and as awful as it is, physically as well.

This story should have never left the 1700s where it belongs — a dark time in the history of male/female relationships. If you think I’m taking all of this too seriously, I respect your opinion.

Just know that YOU WILL JOIN ME FOR DINNER!!!! is not a pickup line.



Ryan Mekkes is the editor and founder of Commyounicate Magazine. He is an avid martial artist, a musician, and a fitness enthusiast, certified through ACE as a personal trainer.