Is “Beauty and the Beast” just a sweetly animated telling of an 18th-century French author’s fairytale about realizing beauty isn’t skin-deep? Or is it, as people have suggested on the internet for years, a perfectly Disney-fied story about one woman’s descent into Stockholm syndrome at the hands of an abusive partner?
Emma Watson, who stars in the upcoming live-action remake, has now weighed in.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actress explained how the question was one she specifically examined as she decided whether to take on the role of Belle. (We’d expect nothing less from our Hermione, who’s turned into a strong advocate for women’s rights and voices off-screen.)
Since the film is set to come out with Watson front and center, you can guess at the conclusion she drew. She doesn’t think the story quite fits with Stockholm syndrome, named after the psychology theory that hostages can be made to sympathize with violent captors, or that it sends girls the message that sticking by an abusive partner might change him for the better.
The actress believes the love that develops between Belle and the Beast is untainted because Belle retains much of her autonomy after willingly sacrificing herself for her father to go live with the Beast. In other words, she “gives him hell.”
“Belle actively argues and disagrees with [Beast] constantly. She has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm syndrome because she keeps her independence, she keeps that freedom of thought,” Watson told EW.
The “Harry Potter” actress believes her character knows she deserves to be treated well, and fights back to prove it.
“She gives as good as she gets. He bangs on the door, she bangs back. There’s this defiance that ‘You think I’m going to come and eat dinner with you and I’m your prisoner — absolutely not,’” Watson said. The relationship between Belle and the Beast seemed to particularly strike the actress for the gap “where there is this genuine sharing” between the two as they move from disliking to eventually liking one another.
Watson has made sure to advertise the fact that this rendition of the Disney classic is rooted in less dusty old values than other fairytales. Her Belle is given a neat feminist twist ― she’s the inventor, not her father. The actress told EW late last year that the character has a new backstory, “which was that she had invented a kind of washing machine, so that, instead of doing laundry, she could sit and use that time to read instead.”
Obviously. Hogwarts: A History doesn’t read itself.
“Beauty and the Beast” is set for release March 17.