“Beauty and the Beast”: character development or Stockholm syndrome? 

“Beauty and the Beast,” 1991, directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise tells the story of Belle (Paige O’Hara), an intelligent but lonely village girl, who takes her father, Maurice’s (Rex Everhart), place as the prisoner in the castle of a Beast (Robby Benson). As the film goes on and the two grow closer, Belle begins to fall for the human trapped inside the monster. While on the surface the film’s plot is extremely problematic, underneath “Beauty and the Beast” is an amazing film about love, redemption and finding the beauty within. Since the film’s release, many have argued that Belle develops Stockholm syndrome during the film, but I personally do not believe that is the case. 

It is clear very much in the film that the Beast and Gaston are supposed to be narrative foils of each other. In the beginning of the film, they are both rude and short tempered people who disregard Belle’s feelings, which is represented by the fact that they both start out wearing the color red. However, by the end, the two characters develop in completely different directions. 

Gaston, after Belle refused his marriage proposal, vows that he will marry her and begins to show his possessive and manipulative nature. When Belle returns to her village with a very sick Maurice, Gaston tries to trap her into marriage by throwing her father in an asylum. When Belle proves that her father is not crazy and that the Beast is real, Gaston goes into a jealous rage and leads a mob to the castle to kill him. 

The Beast on the other hand, develops into a gentle and caring person. After he is injured while protecting Belle from a pack of wolves, Belle takes him back to the castle and tends to his wounds. When he yells at her for going into the forbidden West Wing and running away, she stands her ground, telling him that if he hadn’t lost his temper she would not character arc is represented by the fact that during the ballroom scene, he loses his red cloak and wears a blue suit instead. 

In my opinion, Belle from “Beauty in the Beast” does not have Stockholm syndrome. It is the Beast that begins to fall in love with her first and changes his ways for the better. Belle does not admit her love for the Beast until the very end, after she is freed and when the Beast’s character arc is complete. Gaston is meant to be a foil for the Beast. They two start out as very similar people, but as the Beast continues to grow into a better person, Gaston spirals into a jealous and manipulative monster. “Hawkeye” (2021) did and properly showcase her growth and maturity.