Film: Belle

My greatest misfortune would be to marry into a family who would carry me as their shame.
Society has a habit of disregarding even one of its own when opportunity provides.

Belle is a 2013 film very loosely based on the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay, a mixed-race woman who was raised by her white father's family as neither a servant nor a full member of polite society. This carefully constructed system of rules begins to collapse when her guardian, Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice, deliberates a case that could either weaken the institution of slavery or codify it in law permanently.


This film provides examples of:

  • Almost Kiss: Happens several times between Dido and Mr. Davinier, particularly when they meet at Vauxhall Gardens.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: John blurts out that he loves Dido during an argument with Lord Mansfield.
  • Big Damn Kiss: After Lord Mansfield finally allows a match between Dido and Mr. Davinier.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Played straight with Dido's parents. Fear of this trope is what leads Dido's guardians to Take a Third Option and simply not have her on the marriage market at all.
  • But Not Too Black: Invoked. How "black" a character sees Dido is directly proportionate to how well she's treated by them.
  • Casting Gag: Why else would they cast Tom Felton as a violent, racist, rich fop?
  • Cool Old Lady: Lady Mary, the girls' Maiden Aunt.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dido.
    Elizabeth: Visiters? Whoever bothers to visit us here?
    Dido: Or leave, except the dead?
  • First Guy Wins: Technically Dido meets Mr. Davinier before she meets Mr. Oliver Ashford, even though the circumstances are not exactly ideal.
  • Gold Digger: The Ashfords. Justified for the time period: Oliver Ashford would have been essentially penniless (short of his naval commission) without Dido's inheritance.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Played with. Dido is portrayed as smarter while Elizabeth is (at least to Georgian society) more beautiful, but they truly care for each other and are more like sisters than the cousins they actually are.
  • Happily Adopted: Dido and Elizabeth, who call their aunt and uncle "Mama" and "Papa" and are treated more like daughters than nieces.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Coming out" in Georgian society meant "looking for a husband," not "revealing one's sexuality" as it does today.
  • Held Gaze: Between Belle and Mr Davinier at Vauxhall Gardens. This is used to establish that she has a deeper connection with him instead of Oliver, the man her family is trying to make a match of her with.
  • Heroic Bastard: Dido. Her father's acknowledgement of her and later willing her his fortune is what prevents her from living in the slums.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Whatever word you expected Elizabeth to insult Dido with, "illegitimate" certainly wasn't it.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Mr. James Ashford. He's racist, sexist, an implied rapist, and a snob who drops his courtship of Elizabeth the second he finds out she has no dowry. His behavior is unacceptable even for the time.
  • Race Fetish: Mr. Oliver Ashford. His attraction to Dido is solely because she's "exotic" and therefore more interesting.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Dido's guardians.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Elizabeth is the red oni, being more emotional and romantic. Dido is the blue oni: less given to sentiment and more intellectual. Inverted in their outfits: Dido wears pink, Bette wears blue.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: A variation. Dido wants to marry, but her only options are to marry Mr. Oliver Ashford (who is of her rank but doesn't respect her) or Mr. John Davinier (who respects her but is not of her rank). Technically they are both poor, as Mr. Ashford is a second son and unlikely to inherit, but because his family has a title, he is ranked over Mr. Davinier, the son of a vicar. Important in that Lord and Lady Mansfield try to prevent this scenario from happening by simply forbidding Dido from "coming out" at all, knowing that Dido's race prevents her from marrying someone of equal rank.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Dido finally makes the decision to break off her engagement with Mr. Ashford, knowing this will likely leave her an old maid... and ends up married to Mr. Davinier, as Lord Mansfield sees to it that he is raised to a rank worthy of Belle.
  • Take a Third Option: Happens three times, all to circumvent the Morton's Fork of Dido's essential issue with marriage; marriage to a person of rank is almost impossible due to her race and marriage below her station would reduce her.
    • The first attempt is by Belle's guardians to simply not have her come out at all, instead granting her the running of the estate but keeping her from getting married.
    • The second is to form an alliance with an eligible bachelor: he would raise her socially and she would support him financially.
    • The third is for Dido to marry the man she loves, and for her guardians to provide her husband the financial and social means to rise in rank to be worthy of her.
  • Triang Relations: Type 7. Dido is publicly in a relationship with Mr. Ashford even though her true feelings lie with Mr. Davinier.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Dido was not so great an heiress, nor was Elizabeth penniless, nor was Mr. Davinier a law student, or even English.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Elizabeth's. Her father remarries and her new stepmother's child inherits, leaving her penniless and without a dowry to attract suitors.
  • Wrong Guy First: Mr. Oliver Ashford.