While Beauty and the Beast is undoubtedly one of Disney’s most winning stories, it’s also – like most fairy tales – pretty problematic upon closer inspection.
For many, the tale as old as time’s main issue is the nature of the relationship that arises between the Belle and the Beast. Held against her will in an isolated castle, Belle ultimately falls in love with her captor, the Beast, discovering that, hey, he’s just seriously misunderstood. It’s a case which smacks heavily of Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological condition that leads hostages to feel affection and even love for their kidnappers.
Given that Emma Watson is arguably as well known for championing feminist causes as for her work on screen, it would be surprising if such thoughts hadn’t arisen for the actress before taking on the role of Belle. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Emma has revealed that it is something she had to think long and hard about prior to embarking on the project.
‘It’s a good question and it’s something I really grappled with at the beginning; the kind of Stockholm Syndrome question about this story,’ she said. ‘That’s where a prisoner will take on the characteristics of and fall in love with the captor.’
‘Belle actively argues and disagrees with [the Beast] constantly. She has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm Syndrome because she keeps her independence, she keeps her independence of mind, she keeps that freedom of thought.’ In Emma’s view, then, Belle’s strength of mind and independent spirit means she never loses her free will.
The actress goes on to explain that the way in which Belle and the Beast’s relationship develops is actually one of her favourite parts of the story.
‘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,”’ she adds.
‘I think that’s the other beautiful thing about the love story. They form a friendship first and that gap in the middle where there is this genuine sharing, the love builds out of that, which in many ways I actually think is more meaningful than a lot of love stories, where it was love at first sight.’
‘Beast and Belle begin their love story really irritating each other and really not liking each other very much. They build a friendship, slowly, slowly, slowly, and very slowly that builds to them falling in love.’
The actress also revealed the extensive preparation required before she could slip into the shoes of a Disney princess. 'I had never danced for a movie before,' she told Entertainment Weekly. 'I kind of went into this boot camp for three months before we started shooting, which was singing four times a week, dancing five times a week, riding [horses] three times a week. Yeah, I did Belle boot camp!'
Where do we sign up?
Beauty and the Beast arrives in cinemas on March 17th.