‘Beauty and the Beast’: Emma Watson Says Belle and Beast’s Relationship Isn’t Abusive

Some critics have questioned whether Belle suffers from Stockholm Syndrome.
Beauty And The Beast
"Beauty and the Beast"
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Beauty and the Beast” is a live-action adaptation of one of Disney’s most famous animated features. However, the central narrative of the film, opening March 17, has reignited a debate over whether Belle is trapped in an abusive relationship with Beast.

Early in the film, Beast imprisons Belle’s father and then captures her. The heroine fights back and tries to escape. Once the monster apologizes and shows some level of kindness, Belle begins to change her mind about the monster, eventually falling in love with him.

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Some critics have raised the question of whether Belle running back to her captor may be a case of Stockholm Syndrome, a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological bond with their captors, developing feelings of trust or affection. However, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Emma Watson, who plays Belle, refuted this theory and highlighted her character’s independence.

“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,” the actress told EW. “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.”

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Watson added, “I think that’s the other beautiful thing about the love story. They form a friendship first and that gap in the middle where there is this genuine sharing, the love builds out of that, which in many ways I actually think is more meaningful than a lot of love stories, where it was love at first sight. 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.”

“Beauty and the Beast” opens in theaters March 17.

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