University of Wisconsin–Madison

Beauty and Culture

Belle from the recently revamped movie Beauty and the Beast and Claudia within The Bluest Eye focus on beauty standards and representations that arise from their local “cultures.” These two characters show their different ideals of culture through their interactions with their surrounding community, including their actions and their wishes. Both Belle and Claudia oppose fitting into the popular culture around them and they show this rejection through their spoken words and their direct actions.

Beauty standards are often brought up in discussion with culture and whether someone is beautiful or not relies on the community standards. Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, challenges this belief. She is deemed one of the most beautiful in the community but rather “odd” because she reads books and is curious about the world around her, rather than the guy who tries to capture her attention. She sticks to her own ways, seeks adventure, and she rejects Gaston, a man obsessed with both his and her beauty, multiple times. The actions she takes to become an intelligent, single woman who wants to travel and adventure, go against the culture of her community and because she challenges their widely-held beliefs, she is cast out from her neighborhood. In The Bluest Eye, Claudia vehemently oppose the cultural view that whiteness is superior. The reader witnesses this idea multiple times throughout the book, the pinnacle of the idea is when Claudia tears apart her doll that her mom had gotten her for Christmas. This doll had blonde hair, blue eyes, and pink skin and the adults around Claudia praised it for being pretty and beautiful. Claudia does not want anything to do with the doll because she does not want to be a mother and she does not understand why it is so loveable to others. She tore the doll apart to find out why others found it so beautiful and so tantalizing and all she found was the voice box. She challenged the cultural view because she had not grown to recognize that whiteness was linked with cleanliness and beauty, she could not see why she had to trust this idea if it was not what she thought. These two different characters both challenged their community’s views and because of this challenged the culture they grew up within.

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