Does Belle of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ have Stockholm Syndrome? Emma Watson weighs in

“Beauty and the Beast” is not a tale of Stockholm Syndrome, argues the upcoming movie’s star, Emma Watson.
“Beauty and the Beast” is not a tale of Stockholm Syndrome, argues the upcoming movie’s star, Emma Watson.

This isn’t the first time people have debated whether Belle, the heroine of “Beauty and the Beast,” has Stockholm Syndrome. Google it to see how many words have been spilled on the topic.

But this is the first time Emma Watson has weighed in.

The “Harry Potter” alum plays Belle in the live-action remake of the French fairy tale hitting theaters March 17.

A tale about a young woman held captive by a beast in his castle certainly begs the question. Stockholm Syndrome is a condition where the victim of a kidnapping or hostage situation develops affection or even sympathy for their captor.

But in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly Watson rejected the notion that Belle is thus afflicted.

“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,” she told EW just days before she demonstrated in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., with her mother.

“That’s where a prisoner will take on the characteristics of and fall in love with the captor. Belle actively argues and disagrees with (the Beast) constantly. She has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm Syndrome because she keeps her independence, she keeps that freedom of thought.”

Jezebel contributor Megan Reynolds suggests that “part of that ‘independence’ and ‘freedom of thought’ Watson is referring to is the ‘feminist backstory’ the new version touts — Belle invents a donkey-powered washing machine; the villagers don’t like it very much and they destroy it.

“This is the catalyst for her escape that lands her in the Beast’s moldering pile of stones and talking household appliances.”

Much like Watson, writer Veronica Poirier made the case in The Federalist last year that “Beauty and the Beast” is not a tale of Stockholm Syndrome.

Belle is not taken hostage — she chooses to remain in the Beast’s castle, Poirier argued.

And Belle does not change her negative feelings toward the Beast until he stops intimidating her and treats her better, she wrote.

 ‘Beauty and the Beast’ has endured the test of time, social justice warriors, and political correctness to remain a beloved family movie,” Poirier wrote. “Stockholm Syndrome is a terrifying occurrence, and should garner scrutiny if placed in a positive light in a children’s film.

 ‘But Beauty and the Beast’ is not a tale of Stockholm Syndrome: it is a tale as old as time that continues to charm, delight, and entertain us with magic, hope, and how much love can change us if we let it.”

Watson, too, argues that Belle is a fighter who initially rebuffs the Beast’s offer of a dinner date.

“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,’ ” she told EW.

“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.’ 

Instead of some twisted, captor-captive relationship, Belle and the Beast become friends before they fall in love, “which in many ways I actually think is more meaningful than a lot of love stories, where it was love at first sight,” Watson said.

All of that sounds great, Reynolds writes, but a lot of the fairy tale’s original storyline still remains intact.

“Belle is still trapped by the Beast,” she writes. “She’s still his prisoner, though Watson sees it a little bit differently … this Belle can take it and dish it out at the same time?”

“I see her point, I guess, but I’m also pretty sure that what she describes is the literal definition of Stockholm Syndrome. Just saying.”