Is Once Upon a Time’s Belle the worst feminist ever?

belle once upon a time Emilie de Ravin

Is Belle REALLY a good role model for little girls? Storybrooke’s Belle’s increased forgiveness of Rumpel’s lies rubs me the wrong way as an adult woman. If this weren’t a fairy tale, would you REALLY want your best friend or daughter dating this guy?


Is Once Upon a Time’s Belle the most anti-feminist character ever? Last season she walked out on Rumpel when he wouldn’t declare his love. But, this season, she keeps forgiving Rumpelstiltskin‘s inconceivably hugeass whoppers. She is clearly a woman who loves too much. First off, if I’ve been separated from my lover for twenty-plus years while incarcerated in an old school loony bin and then freed during a local Armageddon, I’d hope my lover would move me to safety, not say “hey, nice to see you, but do you mind if I loot the town and do a major power grab?” After that, Rumpel continued on his lie-blazing, truth-withholding, promise-breaking path by attempting to murder Regina, snapping at Belle (a woman recovering from schizophrenia), continuing to practice black magic and pretending he’s a changed man while holding Smee hostage in his basement.

Belle needs to sit down and watch every single made for TV movie shown on Lifetime starting with the Burning Bed.

Belle needs to sit down and watch every single made for TV movie shown on Lifetime starting with the Burning Bed. Would I have fallen for Robert Carlyle’s gentle accent, his gray streaked chestnut colored hair and his sincere, sentimental eyes? Maybe once or thrice. But, considering Rumpel’s blatant lies come within DAYS — or HOURS — of each other, after the third or fourth lie I might re-think hanging out with him. Does Storybrooke Belle do that? Temporarily. Does she ever stick her guns? No.

Clearly, Belle has a father complex. Rumpel’s biggest problem didn’t surround his cowardice, but his refusal to listen to his loved ones. His wife clearly voiced her unhappiness multiple times, but he consistently refused to move or explore other alternatives. And, call me crazy, but killing the mother of your child while looking for your son to show him you’ve changed, doesn’t exactly line up. Likewise, Belle’s father refused to listen to her needs in Storybrooke and let her sacrifice her body for his kingdom back in Fairy Tale Land. At this point, Belle’s showing all the classic abused woman symptoms. Woman, if he keeps promising to change, but doesn’t; refuses to seek help; continues committing violent acts against those around you; cares more about power than love; has a past history of violence and consistently lies yet apologizes ONLY when caught, it’s time to go.

Rumpel … could only find baby doll skirts and three-inch heels for [his] girlfriend who NEVER wore heels before?

Although Belle joked she was a kept woman, in a way she is considering her current relationship with Rumpel which revolves around his jewelry and gifts. Don’t get me started on Belle’s clothes. Seriously, Rumpel, you could only find baby doll skirts and three-inch heels for your girlfriend who NEVER wore heels before? REALLY? Those shoes are NOT made for Nancy Sinatra style walking.

While the little girl in me wants to see Beauty and the Beast together, the adult woman in me feels squeamish at how frequently Belle forgives Rumpel for his continuing infractions. If I had a daughter, I might want to explain Belle’s actions and not make her think “well, Belle forgave Mr. Gold for lying and he seemed so sincere, so when I grow up, I’ll always forgive MY boyfriend if he seems sad.” Am I blowing things out of proportion? Possibly. But, did anyone get the squeamish feeling that I did this season and wonder what happened Belle’s Fairy Tale Land spunk?

Photo Credit: David Gray/ABC

28 Comments on “Is Once Upon a Time’s Belle the worst feminist ever?

  1. Not all men are the same. Not all women are the same. Snow and Emma and the Evil Queen and her mother are all already strong women. Henry is the only strong male lead, unless you count Charming’s father. Charming, Mr. Gold, Shmee, Hook, the Madhatter, Henry’s namesake, that reporter, Jimminy Cricket – all weak men.

    Please don’t assume that all people have to be the same in order for their to be equality and quality portrayals of characteristics. In fact, what Once Upon a Time gets right is that each character has flaws and merits and is dynamic.

    • Hey Trade,

      I’m not calling for Belle to become a warrior, we have enough of those on the show. But last season she left Rumpel for far less. But, at this point, he is clearly partaking in activities detrimental to himself and her.

  2. I’m hoping to see a character arc for Belle that will be similar to Red’s. I was so irritated with Red at first, an obviously adult woman in a simpery smile and come-hither heels, but I love the arc she’s come thru and the woman she’s become (total props to Ory). It’s also similar to David’s arc of recovering from severe illness. Now that Belle is out in public, it would be nice to see her slowly lose the porno-librarian look and find herself again, and cleaning up a disused library is a great way to start.

    • B, I love the porno librarian comment! Yes, Red’s Goth-Lolita look annoyed me as well. But I’ve noticed this year they’ve started putting her in better clothea. And it makes sense. If Red was a major army figure in FTL, why not make her the opposite in the curse?

  3. To the first commenter- Charming is NOT a weak man. You’re getting Charming confused with his cursed-self David. David was weak. Charming on the other hand- there is nothing weak about him.
    Back to Belle ~ I think you’re title for the article ‘Is Belle the worst feminist ever’ is a bit of an exageration. When she was at Granny’s the first time- her being a kept woman was about her time in captivity thanks to Regina. And at that point she was even telling Red she thinks she’s a a break-up-point. She tells Red she has no one and is on her own. She didn’t just take his lying. She’s not stupid- and she calls Rumple out on all his bullshit upfront. When he saved her in the mines she thanked him and still pushed him back and told him straight-up that he should have listened and been honest with her. She wasn’t going to just take him back. When they are in the library- Rumple DID take a huge leap. It was the most genuine and honest he’d ever been with her. He finally opened up to her and was honest. No it doesn’t undo all the wrong he has done, but it showed he really is trying to take a real step towards making things right with him and Belle. Belle still loves Rumple very much, and she could see that he was being honest. That is all she wanted from him at this point. He finally let her in. You didn’t see her automatically swoon and kiss him right after did u? No. She simply invited him to sit down to a meal with her. She let the door stay open between them, and showed Rumple that she appreciates him making this step and she’s willing to sit down and see if they can move on from here. It doesn’t mean they are instantly back together. Belle is still going to make Rumple work to show he’s going to stay on this path of being truly honest with her.

  4. The problem you have is calling her a feminist. She’s not a feminist. There, problem solved.

  5. Hey, I trust the writers’ decisions on Rumbelle’s relationship. Besides every character has their vulnerability, which can the direct the storyline in so many ways.

  6. This article sounds like a raging fan who just hates the character in general. You got a lot of points wrong, and honestly it seems as though you have never watched the show since your information is wrong, and only judging ia character based off of a Disney version. Also, you’re reaching with what she wears. It is possible to be a strong woman and dress feminine with heels. Please do more research.

    • Agreed. I can’t this article seriously when she’s hating on a woman for her outfits.

  7. Wow. The bias and manipulation of this article is worthy of the Evil queen herself. I’m not sure what show you’re watching, but I’m pretty sure it’s not Once Upon a Time.

    “let her sacrifice her body for his kingdom back in Fairy Tale Land” First of all, ‘let’s her?’ Did you even watch the scene where Maurice said ‘no’ ‘you cannot’ ‘you can’t’ and Belle said ‘it’s decided.’ The whole point is that it wasn’t Maurice’s decision, it was Belle’s. Secondly ‘sacrifice her body?” She didn’t go there to be his whore. She was his maid. Watch the scene where he catches her when she falls; that much human contact throws him; they’re not having sex.

    My biggest problem with this article is the way you’re tossing around psychological conditions with a complete lack of understanding. It’s an insult to people who really have these conditions, as well as insulting the writers of the show and the characters. “a woman recovering from schizophrenia” Belle does not, and has never had, schizophrenia. And if she did she wouldn’t just ‘recover’ and she would have had it before. Point out one time on the show where it’s suggested that Belle hallucinates, or has delusions. Show one time where she is paranoid, or has a lack of emotion. i laughed when someone said Belle was bipolar, and this is ten times as wrong. You are insulting every person who has schizophrenia or a family member with schizophrenia.

    You’re also tossing around the claim that Belle is abused. Your link, by the way, goes to a list of signs that a man is abusive which is not the same thing. You are, again, insulting people who honestly trapped in abusive relationships. Explain to me where you’re getting that Belle fears Gold. That he yells at her. Hurts her. That she fears for her safety at his hands. You can not say “all the classic signs of an abused woman” without backup, and there isn’t any.

    As for that ‘clearly has a father complex’ again you’re tossing out phrases with no support and no logic behind them. There is nothing to back that up.

    “you could only find baby doll skirts and three-inch heels” That first night he had whatever he could find in his shop. It’s a pawn shop and antique store, not a clothing store. After that we as the audience have no idea how clothes get picked. It could be that Belle likes the freedom of short skirts, and that the petite woman find three inch heels more her liking then the kitten heels she wore. Feminists can wear heels. Feminists can be full time moms if they chose. Belle makes her own choices, and your claim that she’s the worst feminist ever is insulting and shoddily supported.

    ‘Does she ever stick her guns? No.’ i really have to wonder if you watched this weeks episode at all. (The Crocodile) Did you miss her saying she didn’t want to see her father or Rum? Did you miss that her biggest thing with Rum is that be wouldn’t trust her or open up to her? And did you miss that he gave her the library, not as a bribe, but because it would furnish her with independence. And he opened up to her, admitted that he was partially to blame for the curse. Instead of saying he lost his son he said that Bae ‘escaped’ from him. And he did that without any expectation (I don’t want to lose you again without you knowing) and he walked away. He did what she’d asked. And did she say ‘everything’s fixed I’lll move back in? No, she said ‘maybe sometime we can get a burger.’ She left the door open a crack, for them to learn to get to know one another on more equal footing.

    • This is perfect, thank you.

      I feel like this person watched a different show based on all the facts they got wrong.

      • You’re welcome, sweetie. OUaT theory is kind of a hobby of mine, and with a degree in psychology this writer hit quite a few of my buttons.

        Not only a different show, but with their remarks on things like schizophrenia and their disdain of high heels (who feminist is it to judge a woman based on her clothing?) I have to wonder what world they’re living in.

    • you’re response is dead-on perfect. Thank you for taking the time to write all of that. Basically all the thoughts I had on the article, without knowing how to phrase it all. Thank, again. I appreciate you sticking up for Belle :)

  8. I think Belle was at her strongest last episode, taking steps to get her own job/place, standing up to the men in her life to say they can’t dictate how
    she acts or feels. A vague invite for a hamburger doesn’t mean she’s jumping back into the relationship.

    It is worth noting that this show operates under the conceit of “true love,” which Belle and Rumple have via the kiss last season. It’s definitely one
    of the more fairytale elements of the story, but I think the writers are trying to make a point about how love humanizes even the most villainous.

    Also, schizophrenic seems like a bit of a leap from “Regina locked me up.”

  9. I don’t really mind belle but I do concern about rumbelle relationship, I do think they really unhealthy, if rumple trade belle to someone so he can have more power to save his son I won’t be surprise, and that is a really disturbing thought

    • Dearie, learn how to type correctly before calling my favourite couple on TV “unhealthy”. Thanks!

  10. Okay. I guess some of this makes sense, but I really don’t think Belle is a bad feminist or whatever.
    And even if she is, that’s kind of why she’s relatable.
    Not every female character is going to be a independent as Snow or Emma. Belle is allowed to have flaws, and if being in love with Rumpelstiltskin is one of them, then so be it.
    I’m not going to blame her for still believing in him, because if she is that much in love with him, she is going to try and make it work despite everything, and that does not make her a bad person.
    If I were in her shoes, I would be doing the same thing. He is the only person she has truly loved (besides her family), so I think she deserves some forgiveness for not wanting to let that go.
    And it’s a fairytale, even if it is in Maine now. She is still his true love, and they are still supposed to be together. Belle is not just going to walk out on that.
    And, honestly, I don’t think walking out makes her any stronger. I have respect for her because she doesn’t give up on him, even though everyone else always has.
    Maybe I’m just biased because I love Belle, but that’s how I feel about it.

  11. I agree on some points, but I think that we also have to consider Rumpelstiltskin is two beings in one. That is why were given so much back story on him. There is one man who is trying to make up for a past of cowardice by trying to gain power because he lost so much from being weak and afraid. This man loves his long-lost wife and his son and Belle, and would do absolutely anything to keep them safe. But because he did what it took to become less weak, he also has The Dark One inside of him. Every man makes poor choices, but The Dark One is the evil side of him. Belle loves Rumpel but despises The Dark One. And she obviously fears this darker side, as we can see in the nightmare. Maybe she is a woman who loves too much, but is that necessarily anti-feminist or wrong?

    Feminism is about choice, not necessarily about being perfectly strong and independent. Belle made a very conscious choice in The Crocodile to leave Rumpelstiltskin’s home, but to try to continue a relationship by starting over and building off of trust. Just because you think she made the wrong choice doesn’t mean that her choice is anti-feminist. If she were let her lover or father push her around and make her choices for her, THEN she would have been the worst feminist ever. I think you have every right to be annoyed by Belle, but I think you need to reconsider what it means to be a feminist.

  12. I just wanted to point out that you are completely ignorant of every topic you addressed, and should feel like an idiot because you’re acting like one. Please, for the love of the internet, grow up just a little bit before even thinking about posting anything out.

  13. Dear, before pulling out topics such as feminism, schizophrenia, and etc. you should get a bit of culture on them (not based on wikipedia) because you don’t even remotely know what you’re talking about. Maybe it will be a shock to you, but feminism is not about being better than a man, not about act like a man, much less about look like a man. Our sisters fought for gender equality (equality means to be equal, not better or worse-in case you didn’t know) independence from the man and the right to decide for their(our) lives.
    What you describe (and seems you want to follow) is not feminism but a kind of female machismo, also known as sexism.

  14. Bahahahahahahaha okay is this person serious? Like, for REAL?
    Are you even watching the same show? I don’t think so. Belle is one of the bravest girl on OUAT. And really? Hating on her clothes?
    Also, if you don’t know how to appreciate something as beautiful as Rumbelle then you have no life.

  15. You’re entitled to your own opinions but Belle is a such a Courageous girl for sacrificing her freedom in order to save her village. She is a kind and forgiving person. Rumple loves her and the feeling is mutual. They have things to work out like in every relationship.

    Last time I checked, women don’t need to learn how to wear heels ok??? It’s in our nature. There is nothing wrong with wearing dresses and skirts either. What do you want her to be a tomboy? Get some fashion sense why don’t you.

    Rumple doesn’t give a damn about anyone except for Bae and Belle. He has clearly shown that. He has made mistakes with Belle but is trying to be honest with her about why he needs power and why he likes to use it.

    No one has ever given a damn about Rumple except for his son and Belle. No one ever treated him like someone worthy. Power lets him have control over his life. Power doesn’t allow people to tell him what to do. Like people telling him he has to fight in war or take his son away from him at age 14. The curse was broken BUT Rumple is STILL CURSED by his powers, which make him the dark one and clouds his judgment when it comes to doing the “right” thing. He has many things to resolve but he DOES CARE for Belle,( if not he wouldn’t be trying to save her in the mines or go looking for her a whole day around town, or give her a library because she loves books), and his son.

    He needs magic and power to find Bae.

  16. Eh….. My favourite part was when you called her anti-feminist for wearing girly clothes. Do you realise how stupid that is?
    Furthermore, did you even watch the episode? We saw time and time again how Belle wasn’t going to put up with the two male influences in her life. “You don’t get to decide what I do, or how I feel, I DO.” At the end of the episode, she offers Rumpel an olive branch. She said that if he was honest with her, they could be together. He WAS honest with her about Bae, so she decides to take it slow. They can have a hamburger sometime. She isn’t MOVING BACK IN with him or anything. They’re on friendly terms.

    I, for one, am so proud of Belle for standing up for herself and making what she wants clear. She isn’t going to be in a relationship with someone who lies to her, and she’s already made some progress. She’s levelling the playing field. I also love that she’s feminine, a gentle and kind character who is also very strong. Shame on you for saying that she can’t have those attributes and be considered strong.

    Furthermore, don’t use terms you clearly don’t understand. There is no evidence of Belle suffering from Schizophrenia, and it offends me you’d use this term without researching first. Good day.

    • Awesome response. You’ve really captured Belle as she really is. She is soft, and girly, but then she’s also brave and tough, and won’t put up with bs.

  17. This is actually the dumbest article I have ever read. I feel less intelligent for having read it. Go find something that’s actually worth complaining about next time.

  18. I agree with this article so much. Belle and Mr Gold’s relationship is incredibly disturbing. Belle makes me so angry because she’s so easily swayed by Mr Gold even though she knows he’s been underhanded and is unlikely to change. It’s sick!

    • Did you even watch the last episode?
      Belle broke up with him BECAUSE he had been concealing the truth from her.
      “It’s sick!” – if you’re saying that because of the age difference, then I suggest you also stay away from classics such as Jane Eyre and Sense and Sensibility.
      Honestly, Belle and Rumplestiltskin are two consenting adults in a fictional drama. Where’s the harm in that?

      • I absolutely love you for the Jane Eyre reference. I don’t understand why age is an issue as long as they’re adults.

        Sometimes I just wonder what show other people are watching.

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