There’s often a lot of criticism over Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. People, mostly “princess culture” haters, say it’s misogynist and glorifies Stockholm syndrome. I’ve personally never seen the harm, and it continues to be one of my all-time favorite “princess” movies.
Maybe it’s because Belle is a brown eyed brunette–indeed, the ONLY princess that looks like me. And she loves books, just like me. She was raised by her dad, again like me. And best of all, she knew her own mind. She was not impressed by the town hunk, because he was an arrogant ass with a pea sized brain. And okay, he’s a hunter, which is slightly disconcerting now because that’s one of Ty’s hobbies. But hey, royalty used to hunt all the time and I’m sure Prince Adam would have been a hunter had he not been cursed. You know, because he was a little too young to start hunting when he was transformed into a beast.
But I’m not here to talk about Belle or even Gaston. I’m here to talk about the beast/Prince Adam. Because really, in watching the movie again I noticed that his story is barely touched upon at all, and he kinda gets thrown under the bus in the anti-princess debates unfairly.
See, this is what we know. Ten years before Belle shows up, he gets cursed by this enchantress to “teach him to love”. And it sounds like a pretty good way to get him to open his heart, right? He needs to learn that beauty is found within.
Except the rose only blooms until his 21st birthday.
Uh, so that would make him 11. He is an 11 year old boy being cursed for turning away a creepy old woman. And he is expected to learn how to love another, and earn her love in return before he turns 21 years old.
Okay, so aside from the fact that we’re expecting a child to live as a monster with his enchanted servants, we now expect that same child to grow up enough to be worthy of love and companionship. Remember, this is a pre-teen boy who has probably never talked to a girl, let alone knows how to woo her.
Also WHERE ARE THE KING AND QUEEN?????
There is NO mention of this child’s family. He is under the complete care of his servants. Presumably, Mrs. Potts is his nanny and Lumiere and Cogsworth are his advisers, right? So his parents are dead? Probably. This IS a Disney movie. Parents usually get a raw deal.
So we have an orphan prince surrounded by people in service to him. His parents have been dead for who knows how long and so he has no one to show him how to love. Not only that, we can’t presume his parents were in love at all. Marriages of royalty simply didn’t work like that, so maybe this kid NEVER saw his parents being overly affectionate. Entirely possible, right?
So, you have a kid sitting on the throne who has no idea how to truly show affection or compassion. He probably was betrothed at some point so maybe having girls around to talk to wouldn’t have been a priority. And then this creepy old woman shows up at Christmas (see B & B 2: Enchanted Christmas) and asks him to let her in. And this kid doesn’t know her and he’s 11 years old! Of course he sends her away! So she curses the poor child and the only family he’s ever known for ten years! He didn’t stand a chance at dating because his entire teenage existence he’s a beast! Wait…is that a metaphor? I think it is.
Preteen boy becomes surly, hairy beast who constantly missteps in trying to woo a woman? Yep, that sounds like a lot of teenage boys I went to high school with.
But metaphor aside, the kid is now a grown man of 20, which isn’t really that grown up if you think about it. I mean, I remember being 20. There is no way I would ever want to date a 20 year old; they are still man-boys at that age. They are idiots at that age (no offense to my cousins, but yes, one day you will look back on your 20s and say “man, I didn’t have a clue back then!”). If this fairy tale happened in modern times the beast would be doing keg stands and playing beer pong. He’d be spending money in the royal treasury on fancy cars. He would be all ” hey babe, thanks for making me human again. Now let’s party!” Forget knowing how to truly treat a lady right or even understand the basic concept of what it means to be an equal partner in a relationship. It’s actually quite impressive that Prince Adam came as far as he did in the romance department, and I suspect that his servants should get more credit for that.
Okay, maybe I’m overgeneralizing. I’m sure there are plenty of 21 year old males who would be gallant princes and not frat boys… … …I think? I don’t know. I haven’t met one yet. Hell, even MY prince was an idiot when he was 21, based on the stories he tells me. And he wasn’t that much more mature at 25 either. Now, at 31, he’s sort of starting to get his priorities straight, but that’s still a far cry from 21!
So we have a man-boy prince/king who hasn’t had human contact since he was 11. He has a bunch of people/enchanted objects in service to him as his only companions for ten years (or more, if his parents had been dead for some time before the curse) and they are PAID to like him. I mean, tell me, do nannies and butlers of the rich kids EVER tell the little prince or princess to suck it up and stop being a spoiled brat? I doubt it. They’d be fired pretty fast, or in the case of royalty, they’d probably be thrown in the dungeon. Really, when you think about it, the odds are totally stacked against the prince ever learning to be a decent human being.
Enter the girl. Man-boy-beast is sitting in his bachelor pad, used to everyone saying yes to him about everything, and then Belle comes into his life. And the beast is all thinking to himself “hey, maybe this girl can break the spell” and his servants are telling him “hey, be a little sweeter to her. Invite her to dinner.” But our beast has probably never had to ask anyone to dinner or to do anything. I mean, he’s a PRINCE! Royals don’t ask nicely, they command. They are obeyed because they’re freaking royalty. So he says “you will join me for dinner” and thinks that’s perfectly acceptable because he’s technically not a prince if his parents are dead; he’s a KING! He has power and when the king tells you to join him for dinner you are supposed to consider that an honor and f***ing DO it!
Of course WE know that’s not how it works, but HE doesn’t. And then he tries to be nicer about it (with the coaching of his servants) and he fails again because hey, this girl is stubborn and isn’t doing what he thinks she should. I mean, he asked NICELY. Isn’t that enough? It’s kind of like how a toddler or preschooler will ask for something, be told “no” and assume that they just have to ask nicer (or louder). “Please” isn’t simply a word we use to be polite, it’s a “magic” word. Aren’t we always telling our kids the “magic words” to get what we want? Well, he SAID “please” and she still said no. What’s up with that?
Okay, yeah, in our adult minds we’re thinking “dude, you just aren’t getting it”. But remember, this man-boy-beast hasn’t had a chance to learn proper ways of dealing with people. It’s not like the enchantress threw in a rehabilitation program or had him attend a Former-Prince-turned-Beast Support group as part of his punishment. I mean, did she even want him to break the curse AT ALL? There’s way too much stacked against him of ever being able to find love in the first place. Belle showing up was all just a lucky break (or divine intervention, but then why cut it so close?).
Anyway, he gets understandably frustrated that Belle isn’t coming out of her room, so he storms off. And then he goes to his room, sees in the mirror that she wants nothing to do with him, and thinks “well so much for being nice; she’s not even going to TRY to get to know me.”
Cut to a few hours later, and he’s still pouting in his room. You know, the one he said was off-limits to Belle, but she could go anywhere else? Personally I totally get it. Look at that bedroom a minute the next time you’re watching and try to think of what a typical bedroom of a teenage boy or college man-boy looks like. I mean, sure, the paintings are shredded, the curtains in tatters, the bed is broken and furniture is smashed. That’s a little extreme, except he IS a beast. And he trashed his room, shattered the mirrors (so he doesn’t have to look at himself), ripped his portrait (so he doesn’t have to see what he once was) and overall it is a room of someone who is just a frustrated child. Don’t agree? Have you never witnessed a kid trashing their room before? Hell, I still do it sometimes when I’m frustrated I can’t find what I’m looking for.
If she had brothers she would not have been shocked by this.
Anyway, the West Wing is really just the prince’s bedroom, and I totally understand him not wanting Belle in there. What male would willingly want a woman to see his messy room (or messy apartment, for that matter)? I guarantee that unless the guy is totally anal about dust and clutter, he cleaned for HOURS before having his girl in his space. So Belle being in there uninvited and seeing that mess, and then touching the ONE THING that was super valuable, well, I’d be upset too. She could have destroyed that rose by accident of simply touching the petals, and yeah, he overreacted by a lot, but that’s again not his intentions. If you look at how he is moments after she runs off, he is in despair. He’s all “shit, I shouldn’t have flipped out like that”. But did he know any other way to express himself? NO! NOBODY WAS AROUND TO SHOW HIM!!! You could argue that his servants could have helped him, but would YOU listen to your maid (if you had a maid) about how to behave? I doubt it.
So he makes it up to Belle by saving her life and then wakes up surprised to find she didn’t run off after all. And things get better. He learns. She helps him find a better way to express himself and then it’s all “Tale as old as time” and super romantic. And totally a metaphor. Because even if our men aren’t abusive jerks like Gaston, or like some people insist the beast is, they are still in need of guidance. And to be sure that you don’t think I’m just picking on men, I will admit that women need guidance too. I am not ashamed to admit that my husband has helped me be a better person than I was. I’m not as immature, for one thing. My point being that love is supposed to benefit BOTH halves of the couple. We all have things we need to work on, people, let’s not pretend we’re all perfect.
Besides, I really don’t think the fairytale ending is as happily ever after as it looks. I’m sure that Adam and Belle had their fair share of problems after the credits rolled. For one thing, that kiss they shared near the end? That couldn’t have been the most perfect kiss of all. I don’t know about Belle, but Adam has most definitely never kissed a girl before that moment. How could he? He was 11! So he has NO practice in kissing, but then maybe Belle didn’t either. Also, while we’re talking about a Disney movie and Disney characters don’t have sex (no matter what the fan art would have you believe), if they did, that would be awkward. First of all, Adam has NO clue what he’s doing. Belle is obviously a virgin too. So we have a very, very awkward wedding night ahead of us. Plus, there’s no guarantee that they’ll even do it right. In fact, Marie Antoinette didn’t get knocked up for YEARS because no one had explained to her husband the actual mechanics. Seriously, it was on the History channel. Apparently he just climbed on top of her, entered her, and then just lay there for a few minutes. He didn’t even know you were supposed to “get off” in order to make a baby. I remember laughing hysterically when I heard about that, but when you get married at 15 and never get a proper sex education, well, what do you expect?
Adam: So, uh, are you pregnant now?
Belle: I dunno, there aren’t many books written about this sort of thing.
Belle may have been well-read and more intelligent than the average woman of her era, but I doubt she was reading sexy books. Did they even HAVE sexy books for women to read back then? I doubt it. And being that she is a woman of her time she likely hasn’t been told what to expect on her wedding day, or what to do, or anything at all, really. She also doesn’t have a mother to explain things and fathers typically did NOT talk to their daughters about their wedding nights. So who’s going to tell her? Mrs Potts? The lady who was once a wardrobe? Again, one has to wonder at what instruction she even received IF one of the servants bothered to let her in on anything.
And in Adam’s case, what would he have needed to learn about sex for? He was 11 years old, then a beast for 10 years with no hope of ever seeing a human female who would sleep with him. So yeah, unless there’s a copy of the Kama Sutra in that library of theirs Belle and Adam are going to have a very disappointing sex life.
One year later and not even a sign of a baby bump.
So to recap: 21 year old virgin prince marries equally clueless beauty and neither one of them knows what the hell they’re doing.
And all because some enchantress got her panties in a twist when a child wouldn’t let a creepy old woman into the castle.