Sometimes when I watch old movies set in centuries past, I often wish I could have witnessed what it was like to live as an aristocrat, wearing fine clothes, sewing and drinking tea all day and going to fancy balls. But there’s always a snag–because there’s no way that I, as a black woman, would have been able to do all of those things. Perhaps being present to tend to the ladies that did, but never a participant.
That’s why the movie, Belle, is so intriguing to me. It tells a story of a half African, half European girl who wasn’t treated as a slave or something to scrap off the bottom of your shoe. She was loved and cherished by her family. A very uncommon occurrence indeed.
Belle is based on a true story, according to a story published in USA Today:
An elegantly rendered costume drama that opened Friday, Belle tells a true story only lately becoming better known in Britain and remarkable in its details: An illegitimate biracial child, Dido Elizabeth Belle, born to a British admiral and a former slave he loved, is brought up as an orphaned, beloved member of her father’s aristocratic family in 1770s Jane Austen-era England. She is so beloved she is painted as an equal with her white sister/cousin, in marked contrast to the usual subservient poses of black people in paintings of the era.
The movie shows how Dido’s close relationship with the great-uncle who raised her, William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield and the Lord Chief Justice of Britain, influences his rulings that later led to the end of slavery in the British Empire.
I find that last sentence quite moving. It displays how, when you HUMANIZE people, and those people live within your sphere, it becomes harder and harder to deny their personhood.
Indeed, Belle is the evidence of rules broken for love.
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