Remember in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, when Belle is practically besieged by that ‘boorish, brainless’ Gaston? Remember how he’s the handsomest, manliest, most desirable man in the village? And remember how Belle refused him and fell in love with the gentle, kind, caring, yet ugly Beast?
Whatever happened to Beauty and the Beast ideals in Young Adult fiction – particularly paranormal romances?
Passive, Romantic Heroines
Nowadays, heroines like Bella, Luce and Nora choose to be with men far too similar to Gaston (drop dead gorgeous, way too controlling, and no outside interests besides their woman!). All we ever read about is how they’re so in love with their boys for no reason other than their looks. Their romance scenes are so charged up with sexual tension, and neither has any outside interests apart from each other. There is never any mention of the boys being sensitive, patient, kind, caring, gentle, a good listener and a million other attributes girls should fall in love with boys for. It’s only ever about their looks. Their personalities are never desirable either: Edward terrifies Bella with his mood swings and controls her every movement; Daniel constantly keeps Luce in the dark and swings violently between hating her and kissing her in unfulfilled passion; and Patch is a psychopath stalker who wants to murder Nora. And the thing is, these girls are more than happy to fall into the role of ‘damsel in distress’.
The girls I mentioned above aren’t in control of their own stories and are too often a victim of circumstance. They would never choose the same things Belle chose. Belle chose not the marry Gaston, to go after her father, to enter the castle and take his place; and then she chose not to go to dinner with the Beast which led to her choosing to leave the castle when he bellowed “Get out!” and ended up being attacked by wolves. Can you see Bella Swan making any of these brave choices?
She fell for the hottest guy in the village school before she even knew anything about his personality – and also, when she already had whiplash from his mood swings and his “Let’s be friends/actually you need to stay away from me.” Would Bella/Luce/Nora fall for Gaston?
And then there’s Gaston, who, once refused, tries to force Belle to marry him by putting Maurice in an insane asylum to force her hand. Gaston is just like the boys of YA paranormal romance I despise, trying to control the girl he wants, even if it impacts on her negatively. He doesn’t care beyond making Belle ‘his’ and he’ll do the most despicable thing to earn her: including eliminating the competition.
Now, while the love triangles in YA paranormal romance don’t often go to this extreme (the boys don’t often want to kill each other), they do play dirty. Edward gets his sister to kidnap Bella to keep her away from Jacob, and Daniel actually fights Cam, if my memory serves me right (I don’t remember it very well, because I’ve tried to wipe Fallen from my memory). Patch even sexually assaults Nora, and plots to kill her. What kind of a role model is this, who goes back to him after being mentally and emotionally abused? What kind of role models are Daniel and Patch and Edward to aspire to – men who tell their women what to do, emotionally abuse them, and control them as if they have no will and autonomy of their own?
Let me reiterate this to you, ladies of the 21st century: Assholes are not sexy.
Where are all the boys who are more like the Beast? Someone who is gentle and caring and will let you go if you need to. Someone who waits for you. Someone who won’t abandon you no matter what, and has no interest in anyone else (romantically) besides you? A boy who will not try to control you (he let her go, didn’t he?) and after Belle ran away from the castle, I’m pretty sure (as in, I know) she came back of her own free will and chose to stay there. Even though the Beast says, “You’re no longer my prisoner,” she hadn’t been his prisoner for a long time. Sure, at first she was a prisoner, but even so, the Beast treated Belle with a lot more respect than a lot of YA boys do their own women. And what happens when Bella meets Jacob and Luce meets randomly-created-love-triangle-guy (had to look up his name, it’s Miles)? They’re both sweet, caring, lovable guys. In fact, Bella ends up falling in love with Jacob. She just loves Edward more. Because he’s shiny. And she’s a twit. Luce feels the need to kiss Miles even though she’s so sure she’s in love with Daniel – because he’s shiny. And she’s a twit. Are you seeing the pattern here?
Inevitable Love Triangles
Where is the beauty in falling for a gorgeous hunk of manliness who wants nothing more than claim you for his own? So he’s hot: does that give him the right to be a chauvinistic narcissistic prick? Some girls would love this: some girls aspire to be trophy wives. That’s fine, if it’s your thing. But I don’t want to see millions of girls reading these types of stories and thinking that the only thing they need to aspire to is to be in a relationship with some really hot guy with no personality.
You know why these girls always end up in love triangles and genuinely can’t seem to choose for a while which guy they want? Because the ZOMGSHINYTRUELOVE4EVA guy isn’t really that great. That’s why Bella kisses Jacob, and Luce kisses randomly-created-love-triangle-guy (Miles). If Belle was as stupid as these YA heroines, she’d make out with Gaston for a while because ZOMG HE’S SO HOT!!!
Actually you know what? If you wanna be stupid and go fall in shallow, materialistic, looks-based love, go for it! You can take Gaston and become his baby factory to his ‘six or seven strapping boys’ and massage his stinky feet. I’ll live with a gentle, kind, caring man who turns out to be the prince that learned to love.
Ladies of YA paranormal romance, for the sake of my sanity, please find a real man that isn’t afraid to show you he cares, to open himself up, and can be a weathered rock in a storm. Give me a Beast any day and let the Gastons, Edwards, Daniels and Patchs go back to being an annoyance.
- Pondering The Paranormal YA Couple (kaitnolan.com)
- Why are there so many love triangles in paranormal YA? (yahighway.com)