Belle is beautiful, but just a little too perfect to be completely relatable

Published: March 18, 2017
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The exquisite costumes, breath-taking views and enchanting music in the movie transport you back to 18th century France. PHOTO: IMDb.

“My dear Belle, you’re so ahead of your time. This is a small village, and it’s small-minded, as well. But small also means safe”.

Emma Watson radiates positivity as Belle in her new movie Beauty and the Beast. This 2017 remake of an 18th century French folk-tale manages to maintain the familiarity of the story while also paying attention to modern progressive thought.

Due to her strong feminist values and natural elegance, Watson is an effortlessly perfect Belle. As a Brown University graduate, Watson is an intellectual with a passion for reading and learning and is known for her work in fighting for gender equality through the United Nations (UN).

Bill Condon and Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Photo: IMDb

In the movie, Belle is first seen scurrying around the village with her books, headed off to the library. She is one of the only literate people in her village and is the only one who has a fondness for books. She is seen making literary references throughout the movie, and even attempts to share her education with another young girl but is punished for it by the head of the village.

In addition to this, Belle refuses to settle for the handsome but brain-dead Gaston (Luke Evans) who every woman in the village is pinning after. She sees nothing in him beyond his looks, and remains calm and strong despite his abusive pushiness and intrusion into her private space. Perhaps the director (Bill Condon) adds this scene to make a statement about the importance of consent.

Emma Watson and Luke Evans in Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Photo: IMDb

Belle also sacrifices her freedom for her father’s (Kevin Kline), which is both an indication of her bravery and a hint towards the struggle for freedom almost all women go through. She’s imprisoned in the Beast’s (Dan Stevens) castle just as women are imprisoned by patriarchy in society.

Later on in the movie, Belle falls in love with the Beast but this love is only solidified once he gives her the freedom of choice and sets her free. This points towards relationships between controlling men and submissive women, which is seen in many forms in our society, where men feel they have a right over what their significant other wears, who she meets, and where she goes to the extent that the women are convinced that their lives aren’t even their own.

Kevin Kline and Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Photo: IMDb

Belle takes the more difficult path of standing up for herself and saying that love cannot exist without freedom. This sets an example for women everywhere, who are suffering and blaming themselves. Belle is a young woman who has traditional female qualities which complement her progressive, powerful qualities. She is nurturing towards her father and the Beast, a romantic at heart and simultaneously rides through a dangerous, dark forest during a storm, fights off wolves and is the only character who isn’t afraid of the Beast.

Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Photo: IMDb

The exquisite costumes, breath-taking views and enchanting music in the movie transport you back to 18th century France. Although the movie is in English, the characters constantly drop simple French phrases and present to you the slightly horrifying makeup of the French monarchy, which adds some culture to the film. The graphics of the movie are very well displayed; with flying saucers, sparkling chandeliers, twisted endless vines and gliding ballroom dancers that make one feel as though they are immersed in the movie itself. Although not sufficient, there is representation of people of colour in the movie. All the main characters are Caucasian, but there are a significant amount of secondary characters who are African American. This may not be ideal, but is a step in the right direction as far as casting is concerned.

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Photo: IMDb

Overall, the movie slightly drags due to the fact that it is a musical, but is very entertaining to watch and has strong feminist connotations in it. Belle is a symbol of the simple everyday woman, who is supposed to be relatable. She is an example as she stands for what she believes in and gets back up no matter how many times she is pushed down. We could even connect the creation of the character of Belle to influential women like Malala Yousafzai, who fought for her education.

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Photo: IMDb

However, Belle is too perfect to be completely relatable for the ordinary woman. She may be mocked for her education but essentially, she is perfect as far as inner and outer beauty is concerned, and is never seen doing anything that can be considered wrong. And let’s be honest, every real woman has done her fair share of wrong.

Fatima Khayam

Fatima Khayam

The author studies Global Liberal Studies at New York University.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.