Updated: Jun 18, 2022
By Jamie Li
May 16, 2022
UPDATED 12:00 PM EST
[Photo credit: IMD]
How have the movies you’ve seen influenced your idea of love? Beauty and the Beast was released in 1991 and is a classic Disney animated film. However, have you ever considered that the film enables domestic abuse?
First of all, what is a red flag in a relationship? Red flags are behaviors or actions that make the one question the relationship. Red flags can range from uncomfortable situations to signs of abuse. The power and control wheel is a tool that is helpful to identify the pattern of abusive behavior. Some components are isolation, and intimidation, which the Beast displays.
[Photo credit: UN]
Isolation is when a person controls who someone talks to, where they go or what they do. Belle chooses to take her father’s place as a prisoner and the Beast agrees, saying, “you must promise to stay here forever” (Beauty & Beast 24:00-03). The Beast isolates Belle because she has no option of leaving and is away from her friends and family. Isolation is a red flag and example of domestic abuse as it limits people who may influence the victim's decisions. It gives the abuser more control over someone’s life, as they do not have support from others.
Furthermore, intimidation is when someone makes another person afraid with actions, looks, or gestures. The Beast invites Belle to dinner but becomes extremely angry when Belle declines. The Beast says, “You’ll come out or I’ll break down the door!” (Beauty & Beast 35:03-07). When Belle refuses, he shouts “If she doesn’t eat with me, she doesn’t eat at all!” (Beauty & Beast 35:46-52). Here, the Beast is intimidating as he is using aggressive behavior to make Belle follow his commands. Another example is when Belle goes into the forbidden west wing. When the Beast sees her, he yells, “Do you realize what you could have done!?” (Beauty & Beast 46:31-36) and rips apart furniture. He verbally abuses her by shouting and physically intimidates her by destroying the furniture.
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Belle ends up falling in love with the Beast as her warmth and kindness draw out a more compassionate version of him. Eventually, Belle's sacrifice and kindness are rewarded, as the Beast becomes a beautiful prince who no longer has anger issues. This perpetuates the myth that as long as someone is kind enough or sacrifices enough, the abuser will change. In reality, this is not true. The only way for abusive people to change is for them to seek help. The movie normalizes the Beast’s actions by showing that he still gets the girl at the end. By showing the Beast intimidate Belle, then having Belle’s love change him, it perpetuates a dangerous myth around relationships.
While Beauty and the Beast is a classic animated movie, the relationship between Belle and the Beast reinforces problematic ideas about love and abuse. Although Beauty and the Beast cannot be blamed for abusive behavior, it's time we think about its, and other movies, impact on our view of love.
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“What Is Domestic Abuse?” United Nations, United Nations,