WELL THAT’S ONE TALL ORDER BUT OKAY.
It is so damn subversive, in different ways depending on what era it’s being retold in and what angle/culture is telling it.
-Men having body image issues (and, connected to that, men dealing with depression and anxiety)!
-Women doing the rescuing! Women being warriors with wit! While there may be minor instances of Beast rescuing Beauty (the wolves in the Disney version, Belle falling from the ladder in OUAT), the major rescues are performed by Beauty
-Women in nearly every version CALLING OUT SOCIETY’S BULLSHIT (‘There are men far more monstrous than you, though they conceal it well.’, ‘There aren’t many opportunities for women in this land’, ‘Oh, he’s handsome all right. And rude, and conceited’—these gals know what’s up with the patriarchy) while still being super feminine and refusing to give that up for society to take them seriously as intelligent, independent beings and INSISTING they be taken seriously as they are.
-Women GIVING THEMSELVES INSTEAD OF BEING GIVEN BY THEIR FATHERS. While there are a few retellings that have the merchant explictly trading Beauty to the Beast, in almost every version, he protests and insists he be the one to be killed because he’s old etc and Beauty goes ‘no, you took the rose/did this thing for me, I should be the one to go’. WOMEN HAVING HONOR THAT IS NOT BOUND IN THEIR VALUE AS A VIRGIN BUT JUST AS A PERSON.
-The Beast NEVER forces himself on her, or presumes she will want him (okay Disney!Beast does for all of two minutes before he gets his act together). While many versions have him asking for her hand every night, he is usually apologetic about this (I have always assumed the curse forces him to) and tells her she has every right to say no and he will not hurt her for doing so and that she has full run of the grounds etc.
-The emphasis so many versions place on BLOOD DOES NOT MAKE FAMILY. In most, Beauty has siblings who are assholes and treat her like dirt, and when she goes home to visit she sees the Beast treated her much better than they ever did, and even her father’s love can’t change that, so she chooses HERSELF over those douchefucks.
-The fact that, while she comes into her confidence and strength through living with the Beast, HE is the one who changes for her if anyone does (he isn’t a selfish douche in all versions, though he has often become very animalistic due to the length of the curse). She simply finds who she has always been under all the sacrifice made for family, he finds the man he WANTS to be and pretty much learns by HER example.
-The fact it is one of the few fairytales where we see falling in love as a PROCESS. In many, there’s love at first sight and the ‘process’ is the man (usually) going on a journey to rescue his love. In BatB, the journey is more internal as these two people get to know each other, and if there is a journey to rescue, it is BEAUTY going to save him (East of the Sun, West of the Moonand Cupid and Psyche, etc are really good about showing this variant), but this only happens AFTER she has gotten to know him and is not the main/only focus of the tale.
-THEY’RE BOTH OUTSIDERS. Beauty is an outsider, at the very least, within her family—her sisters are vain and vapid, while she, ‘the most beautiful’, cares more for knowledge and love than materials—and the Beast is, well, THE BEAST. And they love each other FOR being unusual, not IN SPITE of. He’s charmed by her wit and bravery, and she sees his tender soul that marks him apart from most men who seek to possess women.
-HE. LETS. HER. GO. She is his only means to breaking his curse, but he loves her so much that he can’t watch her suffer even if it may mean his own death (this is one realm where I prefer Disney—other versions have him telling her ‘if you don’t come back, your poor Beast will die’ but Disney!Beast just lets her go, no strings). And while she is full of guilt when she comes back finding him dying, he holds no grudge.
-HE INSISTS SHE COME OF HER OWN FREE WILL. Even in Disney, he ignores what Maurice says and listens only to Belle, and in other versions he more explicitly says to the merchant that she must come of her own free will and ALWAYS doublechecks. He will not take a girl who has been sold, she must be making her own choice (The Tiger’s Bride subverts this a little, but it’s a tiny thing).
-If/when he changes back, in most cases, Beauty is confused and a little sad, because while she’s glad he’s not cursed anymore, she didn’t KNOW he was cursed and wasn’t looking to break that, she loved him as he was, and doesn’t know this ‘handsome stranger’. She didn’t need him pretty, she just needed HIM.
-TL;DR: BatB is up in your heteronormative tropes, breakin’ them since..idk, whenever Cupid and Psyche showed up since that’s the earliest version.