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Emma Watson Cast in Disney’s Live Action ‘Beauty and the Beast’: A Tale As Old As The Next Time Hollywood Uses It

Andrea Velazquez ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Sometimes the universe likes to extend an extra dose of kindness to humanity. The perfect example of such rare, grand occasions is taking one of Disney’s most beloved animated movies of all time, Beauty and the Beast, and one of the most adored young actresses in the world, Emma Watson, to combine the two for a live-action recreation of the classical tale. The news, which Watson enthusiastically has confirmed herself, sparks an immediate reaction of mild hyperventilation and euphoria; that is until reality kicks in.

A few questions, loaded with doubt and speculation, suddenly come into view. Firstly, one must wonder whether a new interpretation can even remotely compare to the magic and success of the animated version. A simple shrug followed by, “sure” will not do to answer the question; remember that 1991’s Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. So far, re-recreating previous animated movies in live action has worked well for Disney, with Maleficent grossing around $240 million and having a new Cinderella around the corner. The box office statistics and buzz surrounding the next production show audiences feel excitement at the idea of films like these coming out. However, the concept of matching one of the films from Disney Renaissance is bold, ambitious, and perilous.

Modern viewers also have to consider the recent significant evolution of Disney, and more specifically, Disney princesses. With new iconic, empowered, and revolutionary princesses such as Elsa and Ana from Frozen or Rapunzel from Tangled, even the girls who grew up with previous princesses would agree that the perception of women in Disney movies has changed. With the introduction of the strong female came the revising of previous princesses and their psychological impact on young girls. Despite the universal praise for Beauty and the Beast and for Belle, its protagonist, some could argue that the story nonetheless subtly presents dark undertones like Stockholm syndrome or domestic violence. All of the atrocities are directed towards the most important woman of the movie, yet Belle not only accepts them but also rejoices in them when she gets her happily-ever-after ending. The re-watching of the classic after newer Disney princess movies has put some perspective into what modern audiences would prefer from Disney princesses. Therefore, will recycling a story that has now become flawed in the eyes of the viewers turn out to be a good idea?

The fact that Emma Watson was casted as Belle might give the world some hope on the matter of the representation of women in film. Last year, Watson became the official spokesperson for UN Women and has engaged in speeches, conferences, and trips to promote her campaign for gender equality throughout the globe. With her newly acquired interest in women’s rights, it’s hard to image that Watson would accept a role that would promote anything other than a strong, compelling female lead. She has displayed interest in characters living in fantastical worlds before, as seen with her work in the Harry Potter films, but also characters with depth, such as Sam from The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Those same complex qualities displayed when playing Sam may arise again considering Stephen Chbosky, who directed and wrote Perks, will be writing the screenplay for Beauty and the Beast (the film is being directed by Bill Condon, of Dreamgirls and the last two Twilight movies). The duo managed to create a movie that captivated younger audiences once; hopefully they can repeat the feat a second time with a refreshing and multidimensional twist to the disputed folktale.

With all these things taken into consideration, there is no way of knowing whether Disney will bring the next big thing or a box office flop with their new project. All that loyal Disney fans can do is wait for the release date to be announced and go judge for themselves when the time comes.

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