Emma Watson Discusses Belle and Beast’s Relationship
Feb 17, 2017
Emma Watson knew there would be questions about the nature of Belle and Beast’s relationship in the upcoming remake of Beauty and the Beast. She initially had the same concerns herself–that Belle be portrayed not as a victim, but as a woman who is deeply aware of the Beast’s flaws and chooses, of her own accord, to look past them to the good beneath.
As an ardent feminist, it’s understandable that Watson was interested in how the love story would develop, how it would come across to young fans, and what it would say about Belle’s independent spirit.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly that comes out in its Feb. 24/Mar. 3 issue, Watson admits that she wrestled over the Stockholm Syndrome question. Is Belle a prisoner who becomes irrationally attached to her captor, or does she fall in love with him freely? She came to the following conclusion:
“[Belle] has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm syndrome because she keeps her independence; she keeps that freedom of thought…I also think there is a very intentional switch where, in my mind, Belle decides to stay. She’s giving him hell. There is no sense of ‘I need to kill this guy with kindness.’ Or any sense that she deserves this. In fact, 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.'”
Once Watson decided that Belle never participates in an imbalanced relationship, she was able build on Belle’s strengths and allow that to inform the role. That required her to collaborate with Bill Condon to do some reimagining of Belle’s character.
A previous Leaky article revealed that Watson pushed for Belle to be an inventor like her father. This establishes Belle’s ingenuity and better explains why she struggles to relate to the townsfolk. The article quotes:
“There’s this kind of outsider quality that Belle had, and the fact she had this really empowering defiance of what was expected of her. In a strange way, she challenges the status quo of the place she lives in, and I found that really inspiring. She manages to keep her integrity and have a completely independent point of view. She’s not easily swayed by other people’s perspective, not swayed by fear-mongering or scapegoating.”
This laid the foundation for the friendship that would develop between Belle and the Beast, based not on fear but on mutual interests and an honest appraisal.
Watson said what she finds most beautiful about their love is that it’s not like other fairy tales; it has to go through a period of growth. Watson explained:
“There is this genuine sharing, and the love builds out of that, which in many ways is more meaningful than a lot of love stories, where it was love at first sight. 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.”
Seeing the worst enables Belle to understand the Beast, to realize that his harshness stems from his feelings about himself. That puts her in a position to offer empathy and hope, whereas, with Gaston, there would be no such dynamic. Watson observed:
“I think she can see in Beast that there’s someone who has been fundamentally good who has been damaged and who just needs rehabilitating. He is just in need of love, whereas Gaston is someone who has had nothing but love and admiration and easiness, and because he’s never suffered, he doesn’t have any empathy. He’s essentially a narcissist, and it’s very difficult to intervene in that.”
With such a well-thought out approach to the role, it’s clear why Watson won Bill Condon over. She brings an intelligence and compassion to Belle that can only improve on the character. Harry Potter fans have long since loved how she imbues her parts with these qualities, and she will no doubt win over other viewers wholesale when the film opens one month from now on March 17th.
To read E Online’s full coverage of the Entertainment Weekly interview, click here.