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Does Disney’s Beauty and the Beast promote domestic abuse?

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Kayleigh Dray
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Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast – starring Emma Watson as bookworm Belle – isn’t due to hit cinemas until 2017, but fans are already very excited about the ‘feminist’ re-imagining of the 1991 animated film.

The moral ambiguity of the original film has often been a point of contention for many viewers, with some citing Stockholm Syndrome as the true source of Belle’s affections for the Beast.

Now one teacher has attempted to take the discussion further, producing a lesson plan which encourages students to see the 1991 film as promoting domestic violence.



“The Beast does not attack Belle but the threat of physical violence is present,” the lesson plan reads, as detailed by Metro. “The movie says if a woman is pretty and sweet natured she can change an abusive man into a kind and gentle man.

“In other words, it is the woman's fault if her man abuses her. And of course, the beast turns into a handsome prince because ugly people cannot be happy.”

The plan goes on to explain that Belle’s “only asset is her sexuality” – and adds that she sets a very bad example to children, feeding into Disney’s ‘sexist’ narrative that “young women are naturally happy homemakers” who spend their lives waiting for a man to come along and “give them life”.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast has been accused of promoting domestic abuse

Disney's Beauty and the Beast has been accused of promoting domestic abuse

The lesson plan called Racism/Sexism in Disney, which is aimed at 11 to 16-year-old students, was put online by a teacher in England for lessons such as RE and Citizenship. It has been viewed over 11,000 times – and downloaded over 600.

However, despite proving popular with fellow teachers, it has sparked outrage amongst others.



Chris McGovern, Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, told The Sun: “These lesson plans represent an ignorant, insidious and covert attack on family values and on the ancient wisdom of fairytales.

“They are part of a deliberate strategy to pull apart the ties that bind our society together.

“Fairytales, including Disney versions, allow children to make sense of the world whilst alerting them to its dangers.”

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He added: “Like much literature and art, they use stereotypical characters to demonstrate the battle between love and hatred, goodness and evil, honesty and deceit.

“By undermining and subverting that support and tradition these model lessons are cruel to children and they are, also, dangerous to their well-being and to their mental health.

“Many parents will be appalled at the way children are being brain-washed by the promotion of politically correct fanaticism in the classroom.

“They are right to be fearful of the brave new world being created by our so-called ‘education’ system.”



A Disney spokesperson, meanwhile, has released a statement refuting the claims made about Beauty and the Beast.

It reads: “For more than 90 years, Disney’s timeless stories and beloved characters, including Disney Princesses, have been universal, relatable and relevant for everyone.

“They are loved by millions of children and adults across gender because it is their inner qualities such as determination, kindness, loyalty, humour, courage and wit that shine through and define them.”

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It was recently confirmed that Belle has been given a feminist backstory in the life-action remake, with Watson’s character refusing to don a corset, and using the knowledge gleaned from reading to invent a series of useful household devices.

This was echoed in the trailer, in which Belle is shown to be confident, brave, and unafraid of anything… even when confronted by the Beast (Dan Stevens) himself.



The enchanted prince, meanwhile, has also been given a character makeover; unlike the frightening and grave Beast of the animated version, he will be very witty, warm, and friendly.

It is hoped that this will make his budding romance with independent Belle feel more believable.

Beauty and the Beast is due to hit cinemas 17 March 2017.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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