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Emma Watson convinced Disney to give Beauty and the Beast a feminist makeover

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Kayleigh Dray
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When we first learned that Emma Watson was set to play Belle in Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, we couldn’t think of anyone better.

After all, the bookish princess is one of the most feminist in the Disney canon, thanks to her independent streak, her refusal to conform and her bravery.

Watson, meanwhile, has made a name for herself as an intelligent and compassionate actor, striving to better the lives of women all over the world as UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women.

In short, it’s a match made in heaven. However, the character of Belle wasn’t quite #girlpower enough for Watson when she first took on the role and she insisted on creating an interesting backstory for her.



Speaking with EW, the actress said she requested that Disney make a few changes to their female protagonist. And, thankfully, the company was all too happy to oblige.

She explained: “In the animated movie, it's her father who is the inventor, and we actually co-opted that for Belle.

“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. Also what is she doing with her time?'”

She continued: “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.”

Incredible.



In the original animated Beauty and the Beast film, which came out in 1991, the mere thought of Belle loving literature was enough to turn the entire town against her (though of course, she had the redeeming feature of good looks, according to them). “A beauty, but a funny girl,” they sang, as she walked by them. “She really is a funny girl, that Belle.”

Now, in the new movie, Watson’s Belle will be seen putting all the knowledge she’s gleaned from her love of reading to good use. Rather than conform to the gender-prescribed roles of 1740s France, she will be seen turning her back on the housework – and, even better, designing inventions to help women everywhere escape from their time-consuming chores.

Belle’s father, Maurice (played by Kevin Kline) will still be a tinkerer himself, however it seems as if, in the new version of the film, his creations are designed to keep his daughter from wandering too far from home.

Think intricate music boxes playing tunes from faraway places, in a bid to sate her thirst for exploration. As we all know, though, Belle still craves adventure in the great wide somewhere – and she’s bound to get it when she ventures out of that poor provincial town and stumbles across an enchanted castle…



However, while some changes have been made, it seems as if the Tale As Old As Time will weave the same magical tale it did all those years ago, and Watson, for one, is extremely happy about this.

“I can’t even think how many times I watched it as a child," the former Harry Potter star said. “I knew all the words by heart. I knew all the songs by heart.”

Watson will star opposite Dan Stevens in the film, which is due to hit cinemas 17 March 2017.

The movie will also star Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts (the teapot), Ian McKellan as Cogsworth (the clock), Ewan McGregor as Lumière (the candelabra), Luke Evans as Gaston, and Josh Gad as LeFou.

Images: Disney / EW

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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