Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Emma Watson Is Disney's New (Feminist) Belle

You've heard the news: it's been EVERYWHERE (Heidi of SurLaLune was so right - even though I was offline for the better part of three days I still heard about this!) but I thought I should clarify those things that confused me when I heard (so, perhaps other people too) as well as why this is a "to be watched" development.

Emma Watson has been expected to be a Beast's Beauty (of one film or another) for at least four years, since Guillermo del Toro chose her for the lead in his live action adaptation. When things on that production dragged out and schedules got shuffled, the film stalled, with del Toro eventually steeping down from Director and just remaining on as Producer only. I'm guessing this is when Emma Watson started being open to other options to play Beauty (she was fairly vocal about her enthusiasm for the story and the part).

And now it's official. Emma Watson will officially be a Disney princess. (And is no longer attached to the del Toro project - of which there appears to be little-to-no news, unfortunately, other than the lovely note that del Toro gave his blessing for Disney to hire Watson away from his project.)

Which is REALLY interesting because... she's recently been in the headlines for HeForShe, real feminism = real equality campaign, as an ambassador for UN Women.

Why is this interesting? Because, in true equality style, Emma Watson strongly expressed her concerns for men as well as women, which means, you can be sure she's going to be critiquing the script from a true feminist standpoint (ie. equality for all) both how Belle is portrayed and developed, as well as the Beast.

I think this is partly why it's been such big news. Ms. Watson became a social media darling with her outspoken yet diplomatic equality speech, all while looking like the fashion icon she's become. Now she's everybody's favorite feminist and, in many ways, the new American & UK (and the world's!) "sweetheart".

But what will this mean for a Disney live action version of Belle?

Will there be overt changes to the story and character developments, or will it mainly be in the form of shifted nuances? We shall see, but for a story that sits, for most viewers on either one side of the spectrum (empowered female taking charge of her life and learning) or the other ("disguised Stockholm syndrome"), rather than somewhere in between, it's a tough and brave call to take up this role and not compromise yourself. (You know critics as well as both "feminazis" and anti-feminists will be going over this with fine tooth comb!)

I know I will be watching the development of this one because, while I understand how it is the favorite tale of many fellow fairy tale friends, I will admit that I am not completely comfortable reading the story* - any version of it frankly.

The TV show Once Upon A Time ("parented" by Disney) hasn't helped at all with the Disney interpretation either. It has Disney's version of Belle paired with Rumpelstiltskin as her Beast (an fairly fresh twist as a concept) and although, again, I understand the popularity of the couple by the "Rumbelle" fandom, for most of the show, Belle (to me) appears stupid for putting up with what she does and for not seeing the constant negative patterns. Putting a sword in Belle's hand from time to time, or showing her dark bondage-y side* doesn't balance this out. It just makes her seem even more stupid! (I was so very relieved when Belle finally forced Rumpel over the town line, never to return, though it hurt her so - one of the best performances of this "Frozen" season - though we know he will return, because this is OUAT after all...)

Other than that we know... it WILL be a musical! (Singing lessons, dancing... see her Facebook announcement above for the exact wording hints.)

And what of the Beast?

There is no news yet on how the Beast will be portrayed/handled and perhaps that's also due to the part still being written. There are many ways the handling of the Beast could go, though (CG/human hybrid tech, CGI with voice actor, prosthetics plus, animal/hybrid-animal with voice actor, human-behaving badly... the possibilities are only limited to your imagination really), as far as the story goes, we can expect it not to deviate too much from the original Disney classic. At least, not in quite the way Maleficent did from Sleeping Beauty (those two films shouldn't really be considered versions of each other at all - more like distant relations!)

Perks of Being A Wallflower author, Stephen Chbosky is officially on to take up the challenge of the script.

And we will (all) be watching...

In the meantime, it's time to bring this image out of the archives again:

* And this is from someone who views Snow White as being quite empowered in her own historical, seven year old way!
** Yes, Bondage Belle: did you miss that twist in the previous season? That actually seemed to start dealing with more of the issues than the regular sweet Belle ever has, though they backed off from facing anything head on, before Belle turned into sweetness-and-light again.


  1. I don't know. Bell didn't take much from the beast, and until the wolf attack, she doesn't really warm up to him. Belle is one of the best princesses, as she contains the good parts of the old and newer princesses. Just sayin'.

  2. Very disappointed the Del Toro project didn't pan out. This Disney movie could be so amazing or so disappointing. I love Emma Watson's thoughts about gender equality-I agree it should be more than making females into warriors, or basically the stereotypical male. Let's hope the writers of the script are also thinking along the same would be great if they were also looking into the Villeneuve/Beaumont versions or other Animal Bridegroom tales for inspiration!