The much-anticipated live action musical remake of Beauty and the Beast is finally here and not a moment too soon – I’ve been repeat-watching the trailer for weeks. But my excitement isn’t just nostalgic; it has also been fuelled by the fact that finally, Disney has given us a thoroughly modern, stereo-type smashing feminist heroine. And not just in Belle, but the actress who plays her – Emma Watson.
The 26 year-old actress has come a long way since she sky-rocketed to fame as Hermione in the Harry Potter film franchise 15 years ago. Admittedly, Hermione was an unashamedly clever, confident and compassionate female character, so, it makes sense that Emma has sought similar adult roles. In fact, she only accepted the role of Belle (after rejecting the role of Cinderella for not being empowered enough) on the proviso that she could modernise her. Thus, she made Belle an inventor who is clever, confident and compassionate (sound familiar?).
“Young girls are told that they have to be a princess and fragile. It’s bullshit. I identify much more with being a warrior – a fighter. If I was going to be a princess, I’d be a warrior princess.” – emma watson
There are distinct parallels between Emma and Belle; the actress describes Belle as having: “this kind of outsider quality… this really empowering defiance of what was expected of her.” Familiar sentiments for a young woman who herself stepped out of the spotlight, graduated from Brown University with a degree in English Literature, then added political ambassador for gender equality to her bulging CV. (nb: check out the brilliant youtube video of her beat-boxing with Hamilton genius Lin Manuel Miranda on International Women’s Day last week).
To further spread the feminist message, Emma has also launched a book club called ‘Our Shared Shelf’, where she selects an array of feminist works – everything from Gloria Steinem to Amy Schumer – and encourages members to read and discuss women’s rights.
Like brainy, book-lover Belle, Emma is exactly the kind of role model I want for my 5 year-old daughter. Long may this beauty tackle the sexism beast – both here and in Hollywood.
3 powerful Emma Watson quotes to share with our kids:
1. “The saddest thing for a girl to do is dumb herself down for a guy.”
2. “There’s nothing wrong with being afraid. It’s not the absence of fear, it’s overcoming it. Sometimes you’ve got to blast through and have faith.”
3. “Young girls are told that they have to be a princess and fragile. It’s bullshit. I identify much more with being a warrior – a fighter. If I was going to be a princess, I’d be a warrior princess.”