So… I’m thinking of a popular animated Disney movie. Let’s see if you can figure out which one I mean!
Main character passes through a scary night in a strange unknown place, having lost someone. Then main character, upon being discovered by those who live in said strange unknown place, who in real life are inanimate objects but for the movie’s sake they can talk, is now being held prisoner there! Sure, they try to make friends with this imprisoned visitor otherwise, but still, the main character is trapped, unable to leave, forbidden from contacting the outside world.
Those in this strange place are also under some hard times, have been for a while, and are always waiting for a miracle to save them.
Main character does finally escape and gets away faster and faster… only to get caught and returned, imprisoned again.
The main captor offers the main character better place to spend the night than the original prison-like conditions, a move the main character sees as a great kindness despite still being just as senselessly trapped there.
In fact, the main character even begins to fall in love with the captor! Despite still being, you know, a prisoner.
When at long last the main character is liberated… just turns right back around and returns to the place of imprisonment, having fallen in love with the main captor and befriended the former jailers. And in doing so fulfills the miracle they long awaited.
OMG! Did you see that? Fell in love with the captor and returned even when finally freed? Stockholm Syndrome much, Disney?
So… what movie am I describing?
Yup, you know which one.
The movie I’m describing is…
Wait, that can’t be right… I had to have been talking about a different one.
Nope, I mean Cars. Let’s review.
Race car Lightning McQueen gets lost one night, and is looking for his truck friend, when he winds up in Radiator Springs late at night and accidentally damages some property. Sally the Porsche sentences him to remain in the town trapped in order to fix the damaged street, and he is physically chained to the street fixing machine, unable to escape. Well, except when Mater unhooks his boot before chaining him and he bolts… only to discover they’d drained his gas to prevent his escape. And he has a big race he needs to get to, but no one in the little town cares since they just want their street fixed (yet apparently Lightning is the “selfish” one throughout all this). Okay, yeah, he did damage the street, but later in the movie it’s revealed they do have a phone in the town, and they could have called any of Lightning’s friends at any time to at least let someone know where he was, but they did not. Or did not at least until later when Doc did exactly that… which pissed off everyone else in town, because apparently Lightning could only be their friend as long as he was being held there against his will. Hell, they could have just let him go to his race and maybe court-ordered him to come right back afterward and fix the street. Not that it mattered since it was a mostly empty town, as the miracle they awaited was any passers through, as it was an old Route 66 town that was no longer along a main stretch once newer roads were built nearby. But then Lightning falls in love with Sally, and she offers him one of her hotel rooms to stay in rather than the impound lot, and then even though they ease up on security, he is no longer trying to escape, though he’s still imprisoned there since he still needs to fix the street. And soon after he finally does, a crapload of trucks and helicopters and press show up, after Doc finally let it be known he was there, and Lightning is taken to the race at last. Only to… want to go back to Radiator Springs. Oh, but it’s okay, they came to the race, too! And after that… he returns to Radiator Springs, to the vehicles that imprisoned him for several days and told him that he was the selfish one for wanting to leave and get back to his life, but at least him being a famous race car living there revitalized the little town, so they got their miracle at last.
Yup. That’s the Disney movie in which the main character succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome.
Wait, what’s that? You thought I was talking about Beauty and the Beast?
I don’t think so.
In Beauty and the Beast, sure, Belle is Beast’s prisoner, and he treats her like crap and they fall in love later. Sure. But let’s review.
Belle happens upon Beast’s castle when looking for her dad, who is actually imprisoned there, locked up. Belle’s subsequent imprisonment is as a trade, that he go free while she stay and be the prisoner. So she’s not so much imprisoned as she, well, just agreed to stay there. Especially since she’s allowed to just stay in a normal bedroom instead of being locked in the tower. In fact, shortly after this, when Beast roars at her for touching the magic rose, she promptly leaves the castle, and no one or thing actually stops her from doing this. She only returns since some wolves attacked her and then wounded Beast when he showed up and saved her from them, and in gratitude for that she helps him back to the castle and helps him heal and from then on they get along okay. But before that, sure, he’s roaring at her and making demands… for like a couple of hours. Really, she is put in the bedroom, stays for a while, he roars at her through the door when she refuses to dine with him, and he goes away, and she comes out a little later and they do the “Be Our Guest” thing, then she’s on a tour of the castle with Lumiere and Cogsworth when she sneaks away from them to the Beast’s west wing, goes into his room, he catches her and roars at her, and she says “fuck this shit, I’m out of here!” Seriously, pay attention to this movie, this all happened in the same night! At that point, she’d maybe been his “prisoner” for about six hours tops. And it was from this point on they were nice to each other. Yeah, technically still “prisoner” after this, right up until after the ballroom dance (which is, what, the next night?) when he “frees” her. Which pisses off Lumiere and the others, since they’re just as sociopathic as the Radiator Springs citizens, admittedly. But, yeah, is that really enough for Stockholm Syndrome? Yeah, she afterwards defends the magic mirror’s angry Beast image to the villagers, saying he’s actually sweet, which is seen as some proof of her being mentally ill. Because apparently a whopping 36 hours, consisting of dancing silverware, encounter with wolves, a snowball fight, and some ballroom dancing while an anthropomorphic teapot sings will just turn you to masochistic madness! So after Gaston goes splat in the canyon, Beast is dying from a stab wound and Belle says she loves him right before that last rose petal falls, and this magically revives him and turns him and everyone else in the castle human, and then they get married like the next day or something. The end.
Now, I’m not saying that relationship is healthy, though par for the course for Disney. Simba and Nala were in love, what, ten minutes after their reunion? Ariel was eyeing Eric for a while, but upon when they actually met and up to when they married, just three days. At least Aladdin and Jasmine were engaged for a little while (they didn’t actually get married until the third movie), but the engagement was after, what, some incognito chemistry in the marketplace and a magic carpet ride?
Yeah, if Belle were a friend of mine, I wouldn’t advise that relationship. I’d be like “Belle, you met him two days ago, and he obviously has temper issues. What, you thought that’d just go away because you two are in love? Yeah, maybe for a month or so. I mean, that whole enchantment happened because he was a dick! I mean, sure, he was ten years old at the time and the spell also affected everyone else in the castle for some reason, so the enchantress is no prize herself, but shit, there’s issues there!”
But if we’re going to complain that a Disney movie is displaying a Stockholm Syndrome romance, Beauty and the Beast isn’t the one to be looking at. Yet I’ve never once heard this stale old “complaint” about Cars. Is it because it just hasn’t been around long enough and that not that many people have seen it yet (I myself only just saw it for the first time this past weekend)? Is it that Lightning McQueen is male (why do cars have sexes?) and his captor/love object is female, so the dynamic is less noticed? Is it just fun to pick on Disney princesses? Is Lightning McQueen made out to seem like such a jerk that he probably deserves his imprisonment while Belle is painted as sweet and innocent?
I don’t know what it is, but aside from my often mentioned tiredness of stale overused jokes like the “LOL Beauty and the Beast is about Stockholm Syndrome!”, it’s just such a blatant double standard. I mean, hell, by the end, you could sort of say Beast learns something from the whole thing, but in Cars, only Lightning McQueen learns some kind of moral about “selfishness” and thinking of others, while the Radiator Springs vehicles who held him captive, including the lovely Sally, didn’t learn jack shit! And, in fact, they totally benefitted from the imprisonment. Seriously, what the fuck?