What’s not to love about Emma Watson right now.
The Harry Potter star has worked as a UN ambassador, launched a feminist book club, supports sustainable fashion brands and uses her celebrity platform to promote equal rights at every given opportunity. It’s no wonder she’s just gone and vamped up Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast by giving her an independent voice and a career.
Watson has given Belle a backstory after wandering, “What is she’s doing with her time?”
She said the lack of information about Belle’s personal life and background left a huge hole in the plot of the story, as the 1991 animated version of the movie focused on Belle’s hobby, reading, as the focus of the Beast’s story.
The classic version also had Belle’s father as a mad inventor type, ostracized by the village and eventually imprisoned by the Beast.
This new version instead has Belle as the inventor, while her father makes music boxes. “In the animated movie, it’s her father who is the inventor, and we actually co-opted that for Belle,” Watson told Entertainment Weekly.
“I was like, ‘Well, there was never very much information or detail at the beginning of the story as to why Belle didn’t fit in, other than she liked books… So we created a backstory for her, 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.
“So yeah, we made Belle an inventor.”
Disney princesses have quite the reputation of being beauty icons with little to no agency when it comes to their own wishes.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most iconic classic Disney princesses and their roles to date:
The Little Mermaid
Disney sees its heroine with (literally) no voice, without a leg to stand on, and is completely dependent on a prince to speak for her and care for her. A prince she barely knows and judges by his good looks.
This Disney princess relies on multiple men, who admire her for her beauty and purity, waits to be rescued by her prince charming, all while doing household chores and ‘women’s work,’ which she’s apparently quite good at.
Wow, this beautiful princess has absolutely no say at all, to the point where she spends the entirety of the movie sleeping. She is just a sleeping beauty, a prize to be won.
While Disney has made strides with heroines such as Rapunzel and the sisters in Frozen, they always seem to fall back on the old trope ‘hero rescues princess and they all live happily ever after.’ These princesses don’t really have much beyond the movie – backstories, likes and dislikes, opinions, and such.
Disney princesses have literally mostly been voiceless beauties. Even Anna in Frozen, though she saves herself, is wholly obsessed with impressing men and meeting ‘The One’.
The film’s director, Bill Condon, has revealed the changes to the story were inspired by Watson’s work in real life. “In the 1991 film, Belle was a real breakthrough among Disney heroines,” Condon said.
“But obviously a lot has happened in 25 years. We wanted to make sure that she remained a feminist figure and someone who looks to the future.”
Will this be the first time a Disney princess saves the life of a prince?
The live action film, due out in March of next year, is set to star Watson as the iconic Princess Belle, with Dan Stevens as the beastly prince. The supporting cast will include Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, and Sir Ian McKellan.