Emma Watson, star of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, made headlines when she posed semi-topless for a Vanity Fair photoshoot. Many were quick to criticize the famous Harry Potter actress for exposing so much skin, saying it made her a bad feminist. Others, however, have since defended the actress’ right to be both a feminist and show her body how she wants.
Watson covered the March 2017 issue of Vanity Fair to promote her role as Belle in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. In a photoshoot inside the magazine shot by photographer Tim Walker, she appeared in one image wearing a Burberry knit bolero and nothing underneath.
Maturing from Hermione to Belle in @beautyandthebeast is a true coming-of-age story for @EmmaWatson: "I couldn't care less if I won an Oscar or not if the movie didn’t say something that I felt was important for people to hear." Read the full cover story at the link in bio. Photograph by Tim Walker.
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The accompanying article in the magazine discusses Watson’s position as a feminist and how she brought that perspective to the revamped Disney princess tale. She brought Gloria Steinem along to a screening of the new Beauty and the Beast to see if the feminist icon approved of the film. In the article, Steinem and Watson’s Beauty and the Beast co-stars praise her for her commitment to women’s issues. Watson is also a U.N. Women’s Goodwill Ambassador and fronted the HeForShe campaign.
But most have focused on the images in the magazine rather than the words. One particularly harsh critic of Watson’s photoshoot was Julia Hartley-Brewer. The British journalist tweeted out disparaging remarks about the actress alongside a tabloid image that paired the photo with the headline “Beauty & the breasts.”
Emma Watson: "Feminism, feminism… gender wage gap… why oh why am I not taken seriously… feminism… oh, and here are my tits!" pic.twitter.com/gb7OvxzRH9
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) March 1, 2017
But just as many writers and pundits have taken to the internet to defend Watson. Writing for the Huffington Post, Hannah Cranston says the uproar proves “why we still need feminism.” There, Cranston writes that feminism is fundamentally about choice, not about women conforming to one certain ideal.
“Women can be smart and sexual and sassy and sophisticated and still want to make the same amount of money as their male counterparts, ALL AT THE SAME TIME.”
Jennifer Wright took a similar tune writing for Harper’s Bazaar. Wright compared the criticism of Watson’s topless shoot to criticism of Democratic congresswomen for wearing white to Donald Trump’s recent speech. She noted that a male Republican senator had criticized the women for dressing poorly.
“If there’s a takeaway from all of this, it’s that there is no wrong way for men to present their bodies, and there is no right way for women to present theirs.”
But Emma Watson isn’t the only one creating conversation around the movie. The live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast also made headlines for featuring Disney’s first gay character, played by Josh Gad, which has already led one Alabama theater to cancel screenings of the film, according to Entertainment Weekly. Gad plays LeFou, henchman to villain Gaston, and is shown to slow dance with another man in one scene of the film. In a statement, the Alabama theater said it “will continue to show family oriented films.”
Beauty and the Beast will be released in theaters on March 17, but the movie has already produced plenty of buzz and controversy thanks to its stars Emma Watson and Josh Gad.
[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]