Emma Watson isn’t blind to the way in which the favorite stories of the past can come to have darker meanings, as we grow older and wiser. The actress says that’s just the case with Beauty and the Beast and Emma says she struggled with the deeper meanings of the Disney tale, before agreeing to play the part of Belle in the live-action version of the Disney film. Taking it a step further, Watson says the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast sets Belle up as an early feminist, fighting for the rights of women in her society to the chagrin of the misogynistic leaders of her community.
Emma Watson Says Beauty And The Beast Promotes Unhealthy Relationship Goals
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Heading off her own critics, Emma Watson is addressing her own concerns over Belle and her relationship with The Beast, played by Dan Stevens, something she considered before she ever agreed to play the film’s heroine, reports ABC News. Emma says the relationship between Belle and The Beast reminds her of Stockholm Syndrome in the way that Belle starts out as an unwilling prisoner and eventually falls for her captor.
On the surface, that may be a fair assessment, but Watson says that, as one examines the story a little deeper, it becomes apparent that the Belle/Beast love story is quite differently told in Beauty and the Beast. While Belle does submit to living with The Beast to save her father’s life, Emma says the character never really gives in or lets herself be defeated by the situation.
“Belle actively argues and disagrees with [the Beast] constantly,” says the Beauty and the Beast star. “She has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm Syndrome because she keeps her independence. She keeps that freedom of thought.”
Watson says she loves that Belle is defiant from the very beginning, establishing herself as a strong female character, which later allows her to build mutual respect between herself and The Beast.
Emma Watson’s Belle Is An Early Feminist In Beauty And The Beast
Belle isn’t just any village girl in Beauty and the Beast. Entertainment Weekly reveals that the live action version has many of Emma Watson’s real-life qualities, particularly in the way she uses her talents to fight for the rights of the other women in the village. Even as Beauty and the Beast begins, Belle is seen to be creating a washing machine. Surely a great invention, but, for Belle, there was a secret motive in creating the machine. The time women saved by using the washing machine could be better spent learning how to read.
“They don’t think women should read and it goes further than that,” Watson says. “They are deeply suspicious of intelligence. Breaking the washing machine is symbolic of not just them breaking something she spent hours working on, but them really trying to break her spirit and trying to push her and mold her into a more ‘acceptable’ version of herself.”
It’s just this kind of thing that creates animosity toward Belle, even before The Beast becomes a threat to the entire village. By that point in Beauty and the Beast, everyone else in the community is all too eager to offer up Belle’s father to save their own skins, blaming him for raising such a rebellious daughter in the first place.
Belle has dangerous ideas. Ideas that women should be learning, just as the boys learn, and not stuck at home to do chores day and night. Watson plays a strong-willed character, whose independence lands her in a position where she must ultimately give herself up to save her father, but, in so doing, Emma Watson says Belle finds something greater.
“They build a friendship, slowly, slowly, slowly, and very slowly that builds to them falling in love,” adds Ms. Watson of the Beauty and the Beast love story. “They are having no illusions about who the other one is. They have seen the worst of one another, and they also bring out the best.”
Beauty and the Beast, starring Dan Stevens, Emma Watson, and Luke Evans, hits theaters on March 17.
[Featured Image by Walt Disney Studios]