Beauty and the Beast is one of those classic tales that transcends time. The story’s existed for centuries, and for as long as film has existed, there’s been adaptations that bring those beloved characters to life. Perhaps the most well known version of this story comes in the form of the Disney animated film of the same name. The movie was a gorgeous display of storytelling, and a heartwarming tale of the triumph of love in the face of unconventional beauty. It was a “tale as old as time,” as they say. But while it may have been a beautiful little fairy tale, there’s no denying that the story is, on some level, pretty creepy.
We have this smart, capable woman who trades herself to this Beast for the release of her father. Over the course of what feels like a short period of time, she grows to understand him and fall in love with him. Many jokingly attribute her as a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, which is generally understood as a condition where prisoners start to feel sympathy for their captors.
Speaking with EW while promoting the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, actress Emma Watson is asked about how this new versions compares to others in terms of this criticism. Does it still retain that mildly eery parallel to an abusive relationship where a woman thinks she could save some guy?
“It’s such a good question and it’s something I really grappled with at the beginning; the kind of Stockholm Syndrome question about this story. That’s where a prisoner will take on the characteristics of and fall in love with the captor. 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.”
More than her simply retaining her freedom of thought, however, is the very active role she takes in deciding her own fate with the Beast. As the Belle in the 1993 Beauty and the Beast film was defiant, Watson’s own interpretation will also be as, if not more, defiant.
“I 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.’
“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.’”
One of the strengths of this premise is also the unique perspective on love. Unlike many Disney movies — especially those in the classic era — there is no love at first sight here. Like many strong relationships in real life, theirs doesn’t start from love.
“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. 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.”
Now all we need is a version where the Beast doesn’t transform into a hot dude at the end, and we’ll see where that goes. I’d line up to see that on day one.
Beauty and the Beast hits theaters on March 17, 2017.
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