During its initial release in 1991, the film grossed $145.9 million in revenues in North America and $351.9 million worldwide. It ranked as the third-most successful film of 1991 in North America. The first animated film to reach $100 million in the United States and Canada in its initial run. In its IMAX re-release, it earned $25.5 million in North America and $5.5 million in other territories, $9.8 million from its 3D re-release overseas, and during the opening weekend of its North American 3D re-release in 2012, Beauty and the Beast grossed .
8 million, coming in at the No. 2 spot, and achieved the highest opening weekend for an animated film in January. The re-release ended its run on May 3, 2012, and earned $47.6 million, which brought the film’s total gross in North America to $219 million and an approximated $206 million in other nations, for a worldwide total of $425 million, as reported by, Best Animated Film, Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture,and the list goes on. And yet, all these awards and accomplishments are not even the top ten reasons why Beauty and the Beast is my favorite movie.
First, I would like to unwrap a well-known criticism of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, namely that it glorifies abusive relationships, telling impressionable young girls that it’s okay if their boyfriends shout at them and get physically violent because they can “fix them with their love.” While it’s easy to only view the movie’s reputation in pop culture and make a judgment based only on that, if you look a little closer you’ll see that this conclusion is complete hogwash.
Let me explain why. When critically analyzed, the movie suggests that it is actually about the various ways people are outed from society. The Beast is exiled for his looks, which only feed his anger issues. Belle is the quintessential booklover who defies the townspeople’s expectations of her which makes society think she is off in the head. Her father, to make matters worse for Belle, is on the eccentric side and almost gets hauled off to an insane asylum (although, this kind of has to do with Gaston manipulating Belle into marrying him).
The movie is about two people that have been completely and utterly shunned by their society and finding solace in each other. There is another underlying theme in the movie, which is the Beast’s entire character arc being about learning the rules of liberality and hospitality. He rudely turned away a guest who turned out to be a powerful sorceress and curse him until he was 21. Subsequently, he then had issues with anger and proportionate emotional response. When you keep in mind that this is a man that has no idea how to treat his guests, his reactions toward Belle are a little bit more understandable, if not excusable. There’s the additional fact that their relationship is not romantic from the beginning, unlike a real life abusive relationship. Belle willingly agrees to be the Beast’s prisoner in place of her father, which provides a fundamental context to Beast’s initial treatment of her in the beginning that many people just simply ignore.
It isn’t like Beast just came up to Belle and was like, “ wanna live with me and be my girlfriend,” and then deceived her. Belle knew exactly what she was getting into when she agreed. And she is a downright unruly prisoner, too. Add the fact that Beast still approaches conflicts from the viewpoint of an eleven-year-old boy who was cursed for turning down a creepy stranger, him throwing stuff and yelling in reaction to her defiance makes a lot more sense. The Beast originally buys into the servants’ idea that Belle is the one to break the spell but is paralyzed by self-doubt, questioning how she could ever love somebody like him. Moreover, she is not immediately enchanted with the beast as pounding on doors and telling girls to starve is not exactly Prince Charming material.
Their relationship does not actually get romantic until the Beast accepts and comes to terms with the fact that he has been a terrible person, and he makes up for his behavior through grand gestures; giving her a library and taking her dancing. Now, here is where I must consider that going on a rampage and then making up for it with a series of grand gestures is definitely a tactic used by abusers to keep their victims trapped. However, in the context of what the Beast is trying to accomplish, that is clearly not his goal. The key factor here is that he makes the attempt to change. It has absolutely nothing with the Belle thinking that if she loves him just a little bit more, he will magically get better and change. Belle is under no illusions of her situation. Every single attempt made by Belle to improve the Beast’s mood comes from her being a naturally compassionate person. And to reemphasize, all of this happens before they even hint at a romance.