Scene from the Disney film "Beauty and the Beast"
Tags: children/youth, gender, violence, femininity,  types of domestic abuse, socialization, 00 to 05 mins 
Year: 2002
Length: 3:41
Access: YouTube

Summary: Although it may happen behind closed doors, domestic violence is a public issue that has serious psychological, social, and physical consequences. This short clip (start 0:00; end 3:41) from the documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly (2002) is useful for illustrating how pop cultural messages in children's media socialize girls (and boys) to accept and overlook intimate partner violence. This clip brings to light the normalization and romanticization of partner abuse in Beauty and the Beast. As scholars in the documentary argue, the film teaches girls that a woman should be patient and supportive of her abusive partner in order to help him change his behavior (i.e., transform into a prince). Such messages are harmful when, in reality, women and girls should be encouraged to leave abusive relationships and seek help if their partner is mean, violent, and coercive. After screening the clip, instructors might ask some of the following questions: What are the types of partner abuse we see in this clip? How does Disney sugarcoat the Beast’s abuse as “just a short temper?” How might these messages about the normalization and romanticization of partner abuse be dangerous to children? The clip is a great segue into a broader discussion of how femininity is represented in Disney films. What desirable feminine qualities are associated with princesses (e.g., beauty, helplessness, passivity, etc)? What kinds of undesirable qualities are associated with female villains in Disney films (e.g., independent, single, agentic, powerful, ugly, etc.)? For additional teaching resources, check out this study guide for Mickey Mouse Monopoly, complete with assignment ideas and additional discussion questions.

Submitted By: Patricia Louie

Robert B.Pettit
12/24/2012 10:32am

Thanks for including a reference to my study guide prepared for "Mickey Mouse Monopoly." You might note from the Point/Counterpoint section that a critical sociological perspective does not automatically yield the interpretation given above. A proper respect for Weber's Verstehen should always caution us from substituting our own interpretations for those of other social actors.

03/20/2013 1:21pm

"What are the types of partner abuse we see in this clip? "

There is no partner abuse in Beauty and the Beast because Belle is the Beast's prisoner, not his partner. Things only change between them when Belle escapes from the castle and the Beast chases after her to protect her, and risks his life to save her. After that, he is no longer abusive and makes a concerted effort to control his temper. That is a defining moment of the movie - when he starts to do things unselfishly for her and commits to changing himself. And no, the message there isn't 'if you love a man you can change him from an abuser to a good person'. There are two reasons the Beast starts to change and neither of them are 'Belle's constant unwavering caring attitude and faith in him despite his abuse': First, because Belle is the only person in his life whose opinion has ever mattered to him (since she is the only one who can break the spell), he is forced to reflect on the way he behaves and try to modify it. Second, Belle is literally running away to escape him and get away from him forever (ie, NOT hanging round changing him) when he decides he is willing to fight wild wolves and possibly die to save her. His motives are clearly mixed, but that's the moment you know that he's starting to care for her and that something is changing about him - right as Belle is LEAVING. In other words, it's HIS developing love for HER that changes him. Also, when he starts to love her he stops being possessive and controlling as a direct consequence of his love, telling her that she may leave the castle. There is no indication in the film that if a man loves a woman he will try to control or possess her; in fact, the opposite message is clearly conveyed by juxtaposing the reformed Beast with Gaston, the villain who wants to force Belle to be his trophy wife. This isn't Twilight: the whole point of the movie is that the Beast is doomed to be alone, to be physically a beast forever, unless he stops being an abuser. I don't know how that can be seen to 'normalise partner abuse'.

Robert B. Pettit
03/20/2013 1:42pm

Very well said, Sophie. Thank you.

10/07/2013 10:40pm

Thank you!!!! I agree 100%

02/19/2014 7:51pm

Now, on the real world, an abuser never changes. It's a cycle of abuse and forgiveness. If the beauty and the beast story were based on reality, there will be a next chapter where the prince is abusing belle, again.

Not Sophie
02/26/2014 6:03pm

That's the most ridiculous excuse I've ever heard. A victim in an abusive relationship is absolutely a prisoner. You're so ignorant.

Not Not Sophie
03/06/2014 3:19pm

I'll never understand why people think it's a ok to be rude just because it's the internet. Oh wait, it's because we can't see your face. While it's true that people in abusive relationships are prisoners, they can and do escape sometimes. Sophie makes a valid point: Belle does leave with no intention of coming back. She almost leaves him to die in the forest after he saves her, but decides to help him instead. Another good lesson to be taken from the story, but I digress. Your statement implies that victims are unable to help themselves and I'm here to tell you, it's rough, but they most certainly can. Also, as Sophie points out, they are not a couple. In fact, they are never a couple until the very end of the movie, after he's changed. I think the thing to remember here is that children can take things a lot of different ways. I personally never took anything away from Disney movies other than people like to sing a lot. Parents need to have discussions about things like this with their children to explain that, yes, sometimes people do change, but more often than not they don't. It's the parents' job to recognize the issues and make sure their children learn the right lesson.

Steve S
07/19/2013 12:22pm

Many Disney animations were of stories that have been told to children for centuries. Disney also toned down the true violence in these tales.Go to the original Grimm tales, and learn how brutal they really were. But they were and are yet children's stories.

These learned pronouncements and warnings express a fear (for others) that some folks - certainly not themselves - might, just might have difficulty in separating fantasy from reality. They are very worried about this, and are spreading the alerts and warnings accordingly.

Around the blogs this is know as "concern trolling".

03/26/2014 4:38pm

I like all the points you guys have made I asked a few adults and know day what they think of beauty and the the beast. I heard that everyone thinks it is a.movie saying that you should not judge people on how they look and sometimes love can change a person. I love disney movies and each one has a beautiful message and if you believe that's beauty and the beast is a perfect. Example of domestic violence relationship s then you should watched.tangled because it shows a young girl going off with a stranger to a place she has never been and he puts her in all kinds of danger. But very good points guys


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