If you are a dad whose daughter who was born after 1991, there’s a good chance you know well the storyline of Beauty and the Beast.
And with the movie version just being released, I figured it was a good time to head to the theater to see what all the buzz is about, especially with Disney’s claim that it’s their next billion-dollar hit. Of course the real plot to the movie is about the way that love transforms a beast into a prince and a beauty into a princess, but I am drawn more to the subplot between a daughter and her dad.
But first. Just in case you haven’t seen the movie in awhile, here are the main themes (in the way men prefer information to be translated: bullet points!):
- An entitled, narcissistic prince is transformed into a beast as punishment for being selfish
- To break the spell, he must learn to love another and his love must be returned
- Belle is the daughter of widower, Maurice, an eccentric inventor and music box maker
- Belle is misunderstood by the townspeople for being “odd,” evidenced primarily by her love of reading books
- Maurice is captured by the Beast, but Belle ends up taking her father’s place as prisoner
- The Beast ends up giving Belle his library and over time, their friendship grows
- Meanwhile, another suitor, Gaston, is hell bent on marrying Belle despite her refusals
- Gaston (the truly narcissistic one in the story) tries to kill Maurice, convincing the townspeople that Maurice is a liar and mentally unstable
- The Beast finally frees Belle to go to her father in his time of need
- Gaston captures Maurice, and once he discovers the Belle loves the Beast, he locks them up both up, headed to an asylum
- Belle and her dad escape capture and Belle returns to the castle
- Gaston storms the castle, along with the townspeople, overpowering the Beast
- Gaston kills the Beast, then falls to his death
- Belle weeps over the death of her one true love, confessing her love for the Beast
- The Beast is awakened by her love and turned back into a prince
- They live happily ever after
Now that you’re updated on the plot, I want to highlight more than the obvious premise in this story about a love that transforms a beast into a prince and a beauty into a princess. I am drawn more to the incredible subplot about the relentless, sacrificial, generous love of a dad toward his daughter…and of a daughter for her father. And yes, I realize this is a fairy tale, but the life lessons here bear repeating.
Here are ten things this movie teaches about the power of real love between a father and a daughter that plays out in the way they relate to each other:
1. They respect each other’s differences
Dad is an inventor who tinkers away in his shop and finally creates a music box that he believes will usher in a new life for the two of them if he is able to sell it at a fair. Belle is wired differently than her dad and is inspired by books that allow her to travel the world in her mind. Two different areas of interest; yet both dad and daughter encourage each other to love what they individually love and enjoy what they each enjoy.
2. Dad lets his daughter close to him while he works
There are two times in the movie where Maurice is working on something and Belle hands him the tool he needs to fix the problem. She anticipates the need before he asks, thus revealing that he had previously allowed her up close and personal to him in his work. This dad was willing to accept help from his daughter, thus bonding the two of them and building her confidence.
3. She brings her self-image questions to her dad
The opening song in this musical is about Belle being peculiar and strange in the eyes of her community. She knows she doesn’t fit in with her peers while preferring to learn by reading books rather than pining away for a husband like the other girls. So she brings her questions about her identity to her dad, asking if he thinks she is odd. Dad immediately rejects that theory, and instead builds her up and affirms her.
4. She has freedom to ask dad for what she wants
As Dad leaves to sell his music box at the fair, he asks his daughter what she wants him to bring her upon his return. All she asks for is one thing: a rose. Dad initiated the conversation by asking her what she wanted and she unreservedly uses her voice in response.
5. As a single parent, dad does an awesome job of raising his daughter alone
This single-parent father deserves kudos for raising a daughter who isn’t narcissistic or entitled. When asked what she wanted from him, her simple request of one rose reveals her lack of need for extravagance, but shows that their bond that was deeper than possessions. This also reveals that dad didn’t use things as a substitute for real relating and time spent together in dad-daughter bonding.
6. She is willing to sacrifice out of love for her dad
Belle is a teenager and oftentimes this is a season where girls are self-focused, not other-focused. If this daughter is willing to be taken prisoner so that her dad can be free, it most likely means that dad had been modeling to her this depth of sacrificial love in the way he related to her. When a dad gives of himself in sacrificial love to his daughter, it will come back to him at some point (even if it seems a bit lost during adolescence).
7. She is fearless, confident, assertive, and stands up for herself
There are two places where we see Belle’s inner strength:
1. She declines Gaston’s request for marriage, unwilling to settle for a man who isn’t her type nor whom she wants to marry.
2. When she first meets the Beast, she boldly confronts him and later unabashedly refuses his demand that she dine with him due to his rude tone and behavior. She must have learned to assert herself in her home, giving her confidence to “hold her own” when confronted with a crisis situation that could have caused her to shrink back.
8. They stand up for each other, especially in the heat of battle
When Belle is released by the Beast to go to her father, it is because he is in crisis. Gaston has swayed the townspeople to believe her dad is crazy. So she literally goes the distance to defend her dad against false accusations, and then he does the same for her when everyone believes she has fabricated the story about the Beast. This dad and daughter came to each other’s rescue when the opposition sought to misrepresent the truth of who they individually were.
9. Dad heard his daughter’s heart
When Dad heard Belle speak of her fondness for the Beast, he honored her and encouraged her to follow her heart, all with his full backing. And yes, we all know that love can be blind and this is when a dad must find a way to speak into his daughter’s life when the guy she claims to love may be dangerous or destructive. But when a dad hears his daughter’s heart and confirms that she is loved well, his support and blessing releases her to pursue that love with assurance.
10. Dad protected his daughter against a bad suitor
Though a dad may be called upon to support his daughter’s choice in love, there are times that you as a dad must tell her what you see as red flags. I LOVE that Maurice repeatedly tells Gaston that he can never have his daughter’s hand in marriage. We don’t see that Belle ever told her dad that she didn’t want to marry Gaston, yet dad ran interference against the dud, which protected her heart in the process. Go Dad!
So there you have it: 10 Life Lessons from Beauty and the Beast as modeled by an amazing dad to his daughter. To me, the beautiful aspect to this story comes in seeing a confident, courageous, and empowered woman who didn’t change herself to fit in, fully supported by a dad who believed in her, loved her well, and taught her not to back down from a fight.
I love that subplot as much, if not more, than the love story that transformed a beast into a prince and a common girl into a princess.
Finally, I share two quotes that you as a dad can use to fan into flame the beauty inside your precious daughter:
“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives and the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.” -Audrey Hepburn
“What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in….[where you are] unanxious and unintimidated.” I Peter 3:4-6 MSG
Dad, choose one of the ten things above to put into action with your daughter today. Let’s see the fairy tale come to life today as you, the real hero in the story, release your daughter to be the best version of herself---caring, confident, and courageous, and one who knows her dad is backing her all the way!