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Neurodiversity Through Film – Belle

Belle will be screened in the Stone Hall Coffee House on Monday September 25th from 8 – 10 p.m.

Belle is about a mousy nobody that becomes a singing superstar virtually overnight and later a selfless hero. The film was inspired by, and shares many similarities with, the classic Disney tale of Beauty and the Beast.

The main character is a young, Japanese girl named Suzu with a talent for music and singing and who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the tragic death of her mother. There is a neurodivergent difference that occurs when someone experiences or witnesses terrifying and/or highly emotionally negative events. Furthermore, it is a difference that is acquired rather something one is born with. It has a wide array of effects that can last for years, or even for entirety of one’s life.

When Suzu was very little, she witnessed her mother rescue another child from a flooding river at the cost of her own life. This left her emotionally scarred, timid, and withdrawn; coming to resent her mother, as she was unable to understand her actions that day and believing that she had abandoned her.

Suzu had been shown to have a difficult time functioning in school and other social situations. Even worse, is that the event had rendered her unable/unwilling to sing. Suzu would also for the most part close herself off from many people in her life, many of whom wish to help her, such as her father and several of her friends. All this can be related to her PTSD: negative states of mind, withdrawal from activities (i.e., singing), and pushing loved ones away.

With a little nudging from her best friend, Hiro, Suzu signs into a popular online community and virtual world, known as U, and gains a beautiful avatar which she names Bell, the English translation of her name. Upon arriving in U, Suzu miraculously discovers that she is now able to sing again as Bell.

With the help of Hiro, who appoints herself and Suzu’s manager and producer, Bell becomes ultra famous in U, with her songs becoming best sellers. Many other users in U then start to refer to her as “Belle,” which means beautiful in French.

For a while, things start to look up for Suzu/Belle in the world of U. However, the film takes a dynamic turn when she has an encounter with an infamous user known as the Beast and gets wrapped up in the schemes of a self-righteous vigilante group known as the Justices, who pursue the Beast and aim to end him. Suzu/Belle becomes intrigued with the Beast and tries to learn all she can about him. She eventually finds the Beast and the two grow close. Suzu then works alongside her friends to save the Beast from the Justices.

The Beast’s real identity is eventually revealed in a boy named Kei who, along with his little brother, are mentally and physically abused by their father. One or both may also possess PTSD–as they too, lost their mother. However, for them it is worse since they have no one to help them. Kei is often shown to be very aggressive, distrustful, and always on guard to protect his brother. This too, can be a part of PTSD.

The movie ends with Suzu facing her fears and her being willing to sacrifice everything she had achieved for someone she did not really know. Through all this, Suzu is finally able to understand her mother’s selfless actions and comes to terms with her death. As for Kei and Tomo, they are rescued from their abusive father, with the latter learning to open and trust people once more.

Suzu and Kei going into the world of U appears to be a form of a psychological concept known as escapism, which is a trait that can be seen in many neurodivergent people, including those with PTSD. Growth is another part of PTSD and that too plays a large role with Suzu and Kei, who were both able to do so in their own ways, becoming better through it. Overall, this movie involves one of many forms of neurodivergence along with its many effects on all sorts of people, as well as how they can overcome and/or make themselves stronger from it.


Belle will be screened in the Stone Hall Coffee House on Monday September 25th from 8 – 10 p.m.

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