Elaina Hundley
June 14, 2015 6:30 am

When I was five, I thought that Beauty and the Beast was the best Disney film on VHS. It was especially relevant for my young brunette self who loved pretending she could read by making up stories based on the pictures in her books. The reason this film had such a strong influence on me? The film’s leading lady, Belle, was the role model I needed.

The lessons I learned from Belle have stayed with me from my days in kindergarten eating glue, all the way up until now as a stronger and more capable young adult. Even today, I still think about Belle and her imagination. The story of an intelligent young woman unlocking a beastly, selfish prince from a magical spell by teaching him to love influenced my childhood; I wouldn’t be the same without the bookish and brown haired Disney princess, Belle. Here are some of the things Belle taught me.

Smart and bookish = beautiful.

Ever since I was little, I’ve had an affinity for books and stories. This wasn’t always the cool way to be. I remember getting teased often for wanting to read books during recess instead of participating in sports or playing on the swing set. Sometimes I felt like I was a little strange.

In Beauty and the Beast, Belle is picked on for being different and for always having her nose stuck in a book. But ultimately, what makes Belle different also makes her beautiful. Belle was definitely one of the first female leads I saw in a film whose intelligence eventually paid off. It made her unique and interesting, and without her bookish romanticism she may not have had the ability to see the good in the beast.

A woman can be a hero just as much as a man can be

Belle saves the day in more ways than one, and she does it in a smart skirt and heels. It was inspiring for me to watch a woman who also took charge, made sacrifices (taking her father’s place in the Beast’s castle), and finally lifting the beast’s spell through the power of love and seeing past physical appearance. This aspect of the story encouraged me and taught me the value of kindness and its impact on others. It also proved that a young woman is perfectly capable of saving the day with courage, kindness, and compassion.

A big heart and strong character will take you far

Part of why Belle was able to save the day? Her huge heart, her willingness to put others before herself, and her strength of character.

Never be afraid to be yourself

Belle managed to maintain a sense of self despite being held captive in the Beast’s castle. Even before that, she resisted the town’s rejection of her interest in reading, and didn’t allow the opinions of others to influence the way she felt about herself or her actions or her family. So long, Gaston.

Seeing the best in people is never a mistake

Though in everyday life, people are not often captured by beasts who are really humans in disguise only to fall in love with them, the metaphor holds. Appearance isn’t everything: The Beast might have looked like a beast but inside he was just as lost, afraid, and confused as the next person. Deep down inside everyone has something good to offer. Belle’s gentleness drew out his kinder and side. Your belief in other people is sometimes capable of bringing out their most beautiful qualities.

Stand by your family

Finally, the most important lesson of all, is Belle’s loyalty to her father. Whether you realize it or not, your loyalty and respect for your family means a lot to them. Belle’s steadfast support of her father despite the whole town’s mockery and skepticism is truly an act of admirable courage and the ultimate show of respect for her poor and widowed father. I think Belle shows that no matter how goofy, weird, or out there family is, it’s important to stand by them because  you only get one family (and you don’t get to pick them) and also because they will always stand by you.

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