Growing up, I worshipped Disney princesses. As an adult, I wouldn’t say that I still #bowdown but I had no doubt that I would relate to Emma Watson’s Belle in the new Beauty and the Beast remake, especially given her pledge to update the character into a modern-day feminist heroine. Like me, Belle is an only child, willfully independent and adamant in her search for greatness in the “great wide somewhere.” Singing voice aside, we have a lot in common.
To my surprise, however, as a 27-year-old single woman, the Beast’s search for love hit far closer to home than Watson’s easy, breezy, beautiful character.
Let me explain.
Things started out promising for the prince (soon to be Beast). In his early years, he danced with a whole range of prospective hotties, sashaying from partner to partner, not settling to tango for too long. I mean, we’ve all been there. That’s what your early 20s are for.
But after a wild night of dancing, the prince, unwilling to take a rose from a rando stranger (who is essentially one of those pushy flower street vendors) winds up cursed to be alone, forever awaiting true love’s kiss. Granted, he was a bit of an a-hole at the time, but hey, we all go through phases that we’re not proud of.
The transition from prince to Beast is basically what I’ve felt as a single lady going from my early 20s to my late 20s. Let me be clear, I’m not equating aging or single status to being a beast in any way. But I think most of us can relate to what it’s like to see your friends pair up into happy couples—as you stop shaving your legs and start *occasionally* talking to your appliances while feeling mounting pressure to find the one before your “rose” completely withers and dies. (Let’s be real, that enchanted rose seems like a pretty heavy-handed metaphor for wilting ovaries. Thanks for that, Walt.) Whether you’re the Beast or just a single, aging woman, time is the real villain here.
And like the Beast, I know anyone who crosses my path with the potential to “break the curse” of single life will be immediately dissected by my friends and family. “Maybe she is the one!” says Lumière, as soon as he sees Belle. Or maybe, she’s just a nice lady wandering into a castle, Lumière, chill.
Seeing Lumière, Mrs. Pots and Cogsworth coach the Beast into charming Belle, telling him to smile, but not too much, and to be bold, but not too pushy, felt similar to how we carefully craft messages on dating apps. You’ve got to woo them without scaring them away. If/when you *actually* catch a case of the feels, the Beast’s insecurities about whether or not Belle would fall for him are far more relatable than Belle’s #IWokeUpLikeThis ease.
Belle never questions whether the Beast will fall in love with her, but it is work for him, and finding love at this stage takes concerted effort. “There’s no such thing as the one,” says the Beast before the famous ballroom scene, and tbh, I get where this guy is coming from.
While I realize this is not the message Disney is trying to send, there is something about the Beast’s self-conscious singledom that resonated with me, especially seeing the remake as an adult when I do sometimes feel like I’m fighting against the clock to find the happy ending to my fairy tale. After seeing the new version of Beauty and the Beast, I left the theatre thinking that the struggle of being single truly is a tale as old as time.
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