There are a lot of really horrible and sad moments in classic Disney animated films. Snow White literally begins with an attempted murder, Simba watches his father die in front of him, and I'll never forget that heartbreaking Bambi moment. Looking at Beauty and the Beast , which celebrates its 25th anniversary on Nov. 22, most people point to the obvious Stockholm syndrome plot, wherein Belle falls in love with her kidnapper, the Beast. But that's not the only thing that makes Beauty and the Beast a potentially dark kids' movie. Beauty and the Beast is the darkest kids movie because every character's freedom depends on the beast.
In Beauty and the Beast , Belle has no control over her life. Like Aurora, Cinderella, and Snow White, she is trapped by her gender. As a woman, she is expected to reject education and intelligence (i.e. books) and is destined to be dependent on a man. She manages to ditch Gaston, despite his very aggressive advances, and chooses to be with a man who allows her intellect to flourish. However, the fact that Belle returns to the Beast to find acceptance could also be seen as tragic. To escape the expectations her town puts on her because of her beauty and gender, she finds herself in the arms of another man (aka The Beast).
Belle isn't the only main character whose freedom (relatively speaking) relies on the Beast. As I have gotten older, one aspect of Beauty and the Beast that has become particularly painful is that of the servants in the castle. Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Chip, and Cogsworth were all changed into objects (and supposedly trapped in time) because a witch wanted to get back at a bratty child. They, too, were bound by the curse that transformed the Beast, which means their humanity, and thus their freedom, lay in his hands.
It is actually very disturbing once you think about it: the servants who were just doing their jobs, working for the royal family, were cursed along with him because of...proximity? Why would a witch who wants to get back at a privileged, young, white Prince, decide to also punish his entire staff of servants? One assumes they don't have particularly comfortable jobs, nor do they live extravagant lives. They are not responsible for the Prince's actions, and yet they are punished anyways. Moreover, it's not as if time stopped outside the castle walls. What about their loved ones and their families? Did Mrs. Potts have a Mr. Potts who just wasn't inside the castle at the time of the curse? They must have had some friends outside of the castle who wondered where they went and what became of them.
Need more evidence that Beauty and the Beast is secretly the most dark Disney movie? Well, how about that absolutely terrifying mental hospital plot? Gaston is so dead-set on marrying Belle, he's willing to blackmail the most evil-looking man to take Maurice away to an insane asylum. Talk about dark. It's not that Gaston's attempt to lock Maurice away and throw away the key is particularly offensive, but it is a good example of the smaller, darker details of Beauty and the Beast.
So, now that we've established just how dark Beauty and the Beast really is, I only have one last question. Was Beauty and the Beast written by Ryan Murphy and we all just didn't know?
Images: Walt Disney Pictures; Giphy