There's Been A Change In Her: Is Belle Now Only Skin Deep?
by Teresa Martin (@Teresa__Martin)
Yes, there has been a change in Belle. A change indeed, a “kind of moving on” but certainly not the one fans saw coming, if only for the assurance given during the hiatus that Rumbelle wasn’t over.
The shock that fans received was well-earned when they saw that Belle is now only true to the “sharing possessions” part of her wedding vows and joyfully tossing out the “fidelity” part. It was a double hit since said infidelity is happening in the very place that houses all her husband’s riches.
Well, arguably Rumple had it coming.
But did Belle have this plot coming?
The writers confirmed that she did. In an apparent contrast with previous statements, an interview was published after the bombshell. Adam and Eddy defended Belle and Will’s affair because it is Belle “strong… moving on...” and “she hasn’t really lived.”
Wow! Just wow!
Did I miss something over the past three years?
I wasn’t supposed to like Belle? She really was not living?
And then it hit me.
The answer is “yes.”
I shouldn’t have liked her. At least not since “Broken.” I was as blind to her flaws as she recently was to Rumplestiltskin’s.
How did I miss what was omitted in all those articles telling us about Rumbelle coming up?
For it’s not Rumbelle that’s over.
It is Belle as we know her.
What follows is a look at Belle since her escape from the asylum to her “Unforgiven” revelation (an episode title full of more meanings than I can enumerate).
Please do not misunderstand. It is not my intention to Belle- bash. Quite the contrary.
I am putting her on the couch—no pun intended—to analyze how she got to this point from what the show has so far shown us.
I am aware that many have interpreted the latest development differently, with very solid points.
This is me throwing my hat into the ring.
Because deep down, I like Belle. If I didn’t, I would ignore her on the show and use her scenes as an opportunity to leave the television so I can refill my gin and tonic.
I just don’t like her right now. The same way I didn’t like Rumple when he backslid in 4a.
For I see clearly that she has “moved on”, she’s gone “stronger” and found “something to smile about”.
But is she moving on, stronger and smiling about the right things?
I “moved on” once when heart-broken . . . even changed from something weaker to stronger: a thimble-full of sherry to tequila shots.
And it sure made me smile!
Until the next morning when the effects proved I had been ingesting poison.
This is a strange moment for me, likely the first time, when I simply part ways with Adam and Eddy on a plot. I clash with their interpretation of what makes a woman live, what makes her strong. We are all products of our life experiences, and my personal experiences are informing my contrary opinion. That said, I cannot, nor will I, judge their right to interpret their definition of “living” as applied to Belle. It is theirs, their story, and likely as personal.
Yet I do respectfully dissent because I believe rather emphatically that Belle’s affair does not prove anything about her except that she has chosen to get a boyfriend quickly after a marital separation. The reasons for such do not change that conscious decision. It will certainly lead to changes in her life, likely even changes for the better, but it does not in itself make her strong. It does not make her live.
It is what it is.
And that is all.
Now, Belle’s actions both in 4a and in this affair should not really be a shock. Her foundations have been on shifting sand since Season Two when she decided to stay with Rumple to change him.
He warned her to leave him: “Despite what you hope, I’m still a monster.”
But she wouldn’t go.
She said at the Town Line she lost her way to help him find himself. And she did.
Belle lost herself long ago in that “Broken” moment.
Without him ever asking her to.
We’ve seen years of him telling her to leave him because of who he is.
A glaring omission from Belle’s thought process has happened since Season One, what she knew so well in “Skin Deep”: Rumple is under a curse. He will always be a villain until that curse is broken, and it can only be undone with magic.
To Belle’s great credit, after their first break-up in “The Crocodile,” she really grew. She got a bestie in Ruby, was seen out having fun with friends at Granny’s, and integrated into the community. We saw a woman in her own right, living independently, and beginning a dream career as a librarian. She took things slowly with Rumple; got to know him on moments like the hamburger date.
“The Outsider” flashback also showed her doing the same with Mulan, kicking butt with her wits and ending with a defiant shout to Regina: “I’ll never stop fighting for him!”
Belle will always fight!
But events happened after which altered her. During her imprisonment she got punched into next week by Hook, and later was inflicted with twenty-eight years of psychological trauma in the asylum.
Then she entered too quickly into a sexual relationship with Rumple when she should have been healing before taking that step. Next, she was kidnapped by her father who tried to erase everything that made her “Belle”.
And was shot in the back, followed by being cursed into a drunken, promiscuous, cruel personality known as “Lacey”.
This is all in her psyche now.
Using “We Are Both,” Lacey is still in her. Maybe the shock of trying to hold onto a fantasy—that she can change a man with the power of her will, followed by the horrible banishment of self-realization in “Heroes and Villains”—has made her lean towards her cursed part.
Lacey was boy-crazy.
Lacey liked material things.
Lacey switched partners easily.
Lacey was gluttonous (the size of that chocolate cake at Granny’s!!!!!!).
She wouldn’t care that the man she’s with is married or in love with another.
She’d care rather for what he gave her.
She’d be attracted to that man because he is younger, better-looking and funnier than her husband.
And from what fans have seen, this is a mutual “using”. Belle is Will’s replacement for the whiskey he drank to soothe his Anastasia heart-break. Both are to be pitied in their melancholy and for putting hope in easy, surface solutions.
When Beauty becomes Skin Deep, she becomes the Beast.
But this is not necessarily a bad thing since in the fairy tale the Beast changed Belle as much as she changed him.
And it appears this is a plot device more for Rumple, than for Belle. For if Belle is the Beast then Rumple has to become the Beauty.
As I have written previously, the premier of Season Four set the thesis that defines Belle and Rumple this year: we are seeing “Beauty and the Beast” again.
Both of them.
Rumplestiltskin will have to change, truly. Change so much that he will finally receive the gift in which he can become a good person: magic breaking his curse.
His transformation, if it happens, has to be as supernatural as the Beast’s in the Disney cartoon.
So to return to the question: is Beauty only Skin Deep?
For now, Belle is. And like the trinkets she organized in artificial light before she kissed Will, it cannot last. Putting cotton candy on a deep wound will not bring healing.
It will take a very short time to realize that something stronger is required: an antibiotic to kill the germs that caused the injury.
A true “moving on” for Belle will need to come from the mind and spirit of a grown-up.
Just as any change for Rumple must come by magic.
Seen in this context, I believe Rumbelle isn’t being killed by Belle’s infidelity, and the writers were right by asserting that Rumbelle isn’t over.
It’s really just beginning.