In the Disney fandom, it’s cliché to say your favorite Disney movie is “Beauty and the Beast” and your favorite princess is Belle.
But for a girl who is the the human incarnation of Belle, it’s impossible for my favorite princess to be anyone else.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “I cannot live without books.” I can’t, either, and all of my classmates knew it. Most toddlers carry around a stuffed animal as a “lovey;” I brought a book everywhere. Instead of playing with the other kids at recess, I would opt to sit on the bench and dive into yet another thrilling tale.
It got to the point where my teachers, who were supposed to encourage my reading, would rather I play than read (except for my second grade teacher, Ms. Robinson, who realized I was on a higher reading level than my classmates and started me on the “Little House” novels, a favorite to this day.)
And I was teased mercilessly for it. I was the nerd, the loner. I was the four-eyed dork who the other kids didn’t understand, because how on earth could someone actually enjoy a lame thing like reading?
I wasn’t allowed to read “Harry Potter” until I was 10, despite the first book being released two months before my sixth birthday. I didn’t discover Hermione Granger until fifth grade.
I wouldn’t be introduced to Rory Gilmore, the other character who is literally me, until middle school. I wouldn’t find friends who loved reading as much as I did until high school.
But there was a Disney princess with my spirit and hair color, treated the exact same way by her peers. I wasn’t alone.
“Beauty and the Beast” premiered in theaters four months after I was born. We grew up together. It’s as much a part of me as any real thing, as is its featured heroine.
Belle was ridiculed by her entire village for constantly having her nose in a book. They found her peculiar, rather odd, a beauty but a funny girl who was very different from the rest of them.
But she didn’t care.
She read a novel (clearly based on William Goldman’s “The Princess Bride”) out loud – to sheep. She read books that didn’t have any pictures because they let her use her imagination. The bookshop owner knew her by name, just like the childrens’ librarians of the place I frequented.
She was a voracious reader. She was witty, clever, bold, vivacious. She was a feminist before I ever knew I would become one. She had spunk, gumption, courage and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She wanted adventure. She was charming and sweet and never let others’ opinions drag her down. She was everything I was and everything I wanted to be.
Most importantly, she showed me that it was OK for me to prefer listening to classical music as I read “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” while other girls my age rocked out to Britney Spears, NSync or Backstreet Boys and only read when the Reading Log required it.
And I wanted the Beast’s library.
Then I found Hermione, the live action version of Belle. And then Emma Watson, who is literally the personification of both Belle and Hermione, and one of the most inspirational twenty-something women there has ever been as she becomes more of a powerhouse with every passing day.
Who will be starring as Belle, my childhood heroine and forever favorite Disney princess, in the live action “Beauty and the Beast” released tomorrow.
So of course I’ll be in the theater to watch my childhood play out in live action format as soon as I can.
I can’t wait.
Perhaps in this version, there may be something there that wasn’t there before.