I went through an internal struggle while watching Beauty and the Beast.
As much as I love the show and how the newest remake consciously incorporated more feminist tendencies, I couldn’t shake off the discomfort watching the relationship dynamics between Belle and the Beast. Say whatever you want – she chose to take her father’s place as prisoner, she promised to escape, she’s fiercely independent – it doesn’t change the fundamental fact that Beast imprisoned her and took away her freedom. It was an unequal relationship, even when their friendship blossomed and subsequently became romantic.
The scene that shook me (and the commentary that Emma Watson made about it) was when Belle had the chance to escape but didn’t because she chose to save the Beast who was attacked by wolves. I quote Watson, “there was an intentional switch in Belle’s head” to stay and nurse the Beast to health. Mind you, this was after Beast assaulted her when she went to check out the rose. One can say that he didn’t physically wound her, but assault is assault and the physical threat stands.
It shook me because she intentionally chose to stay, and in a parallel universe, I chose to leave.
I chose to leave despite knowing that my own beast was wounded, and I’d entered that relationship willingly. I chose to leave because I couldn’t stay in a situation that was clearly infringing on my basic rights. I chose to leave because I knew it wasn’t healthy for the long run, for both of us, mentally or emotionally. And because I chose to leave, my beast closed the gates shut tight and there’s no turning back, proven once again to him that nothing’s changed and he remains a beast.
Then all I’m left with is a bitter taste of guilt in the very core of my being.
Until someone told me, “You know God saved you right?”
Got me thinking about the guilt. Many other women who leave toxic relationships carry this guilt as well. Maybe in the case of this Disney fairytale ending, the Prince changes and everything becomes all fine and dandy. The truth is, more often than not, constant show of kindness and loyalty when the other party doesn’t deserve it feeds a sense of entitlement that just makes things more toxic.
I guess my consolation is this: You cannot save those who don’t want to be saved. All you can do is leave and pray for the best. And to know that God always knows best, and always has your back.
Sigh. A part of me wished Disney just stuck to the original – one that doesn’t require too much thinking. Just a tale as old as time.