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Film / Belle (2013)
aka: Belle

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"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 (Gugu Mbatha Raw), 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.

Unrelated to the anime film Belle.


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.
  • The 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 put her on the marriage market at all.
  • But Not Too Black: Invoked. How "black" a character sees Dido as is directly proportionate to how well she's treated by them.
  • Cool Old Lady: Lady Mary, the girls' Maiden Aunt.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dido.
    Elizabeth: Visitors? Whoever bothers to visit us here?
    Dido: Or leave, except the dead?
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  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Words like "negro" and "mulatto" are thrown about quite freely, Dido isn't allowed to dine with guests on account of her skin color, and slavery is still very much a reality (Dido's own mother was an African slave). Additionally, love is barely factored into marriage, and Dido finds Elizabeth's fixation on it silly.
  • Discriminate and Switch: When Dido and Elizabeth are arguing at one scene in the movie Dido's not being allowed to dine with her family comes up and Elizabeth blurts out that it's because Dido is illegitimate. This may overlap with Deliberate Values Dissonance as this would've been a huge deal back then.
  • First Girl Wins: A male version: Technically Dido meets Mr. Davinier before she meets Mr. Oliver Ashford, even though the circumstances are not exactly ideal.
  • 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. One man even calls them "sister-cousin[s]".
  • Gold Digger: The Ashfords. Justified in the time period: Oliver Ashford would have been essentially penniless (aside from his naval commission, which might well not suffice) without Dido's inheritance.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Dido has an African mother and English father. It's Played for Drama as she's not only legally a slave due to her mother being one, but faces frequent racism as a "mulatto" even when her father's family treats her fairly well.
  • 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 Dido and Mr. Davinier at Vauxhall Gardens. This is used to establish that she has a deeper connection with him than with 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Politically Incorrect Villain James Ashford suffers no punishment beyond a brief You Monster! speech that bounces off him and goes on to marry a wealthy heiress.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Whatever word you (or Dido, apparently) expected Elizabeth to insult Dido with, "illegitimate" certainly wasn't it.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Many are seen throughout the movie.
  • Parental Abandonment: Dido's mother dies of unknown causes in her childhood. Then her father, who she'd never seen before, delivers Dido to his family in England. He never appears again; she is raised solely by them.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Mr. James Ashford. He's racist, sexist, implied to be a rapist, and a snob who drops his courtship of Elizabeth the second he finds out she has no dowry. His behavior is unacceptable even by the standards of 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. Lord Mansfield sees to the part about Davinier's rank.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Elizabeth, which is arguably her Fatal Flaw. While obliviousness to evils like prejudice makes her Spoiled Sweet and a devoted friend of Dido, it also makes her an overly trusting Horrible Judge of Character.
  • 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 idea 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. However, the larger social themes of the story are true to history.
  • 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.
  • You're Just Jealous: Elizabeth plays this trope to textbook perfection when Dido tries to tell her about James assaulting her.

Alternative Title(s): Belle