Belle Gets A New, Feminist Backstory In ‘Beauty And The Beast’

beauty and the beast
Entertainment Weekly

We’re all familiar with the beautiful, classic love story that Beauty And The Beast. The animated film was one of the most successful movies of 1991 and inspired a 13-year-running Broadway musical. It’s a tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme — but this tale just got a huge feminist makeover.

Beauty And The Beast’s much-anticipated, live-action remake has given Belle a brand new backstory, and it actually kind of makes more sense than the original.

In the original, Belle is a bookworm. She’s the brainy daughter of local bookseller and inventor Maurice. Maurice winds up imprisoned in the Beast’s castle while he’s travelling to sell his latest invention, a wood-chopping machine. Belle goes to look for him, and so begins one of the most epic love stories of all time.

Emma Watson, who plays Belle, and the screenwriters all agreed that the original backstory was kind of weak. Belle is supposed to be misunderstood, but you never really get that feeling. She’s beautiful and smart. All you see is that she likes books. Is that really all that isolating?

Instead, the writers flipped the story and made Belle the inventor. Maurice, played by Kevin Kline, is now a music box craftsman.

Watson spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the change, and how she helped create the new feminist backstory.

“In the animated movie, it’s her father who is the inventor, and we actually co-opted that for Belle,” she said. “I was like, ‘Well, there was never very much information or detail at the beginning of the story as to why Belle didn’t fit in, other than she liked books. Also what is she doing with her time?’ So, we created a backstory for her, which was that she had invented a kind of washing machine, so that, instead of doing laundry, she could sit and use that time to read instead. So, yeah, we made Belle an inventor.”

The music boxes also help add dimension to Belle’s character. Maurice makes music boxes to represent countries all over the world which show Belle exactly what she’s missing by being stuck in her hometown.

Do you like Belle’s new backstory?

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