Every Disney princess seems to need a fairy godmother. And for Emma Watson’s new-and-woke Belle in Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, there’s only one godmother fitting enough: Gloria Steinem.
In an interview with Vanity Fair for its March issue, the 26-year-old actress reveals that she took the feminist icon to a screening of Beauty and the Beast to make sure that her portrayal of the Disney character conveyed something meaningful to audiences.
“I couldn’t care less if I won an Oscar or not if the movie didn’t say something that I felt was important for people to hear,” Watson said.
The actress has made significant efforts to introduce an independence and strength to Belle that wasn’t fully developed in the classic 1991 animated film—in everything down to the costuming. For instance, Watson insisted her character’s beloved yellow ball gown ditched the corset. And, as Vanity Fair elaborates, Watson was instrumental in redesigning Belle’s functional fashion, including pockets in her outfits and swapping ballet flats for riding boots.
“The original sketches had her in her ballet shoes, which are lovely—don’t get me wrong—but she’s not going to be able to do anything terribly useful in ballet shoes in the middle of a French provincial village,” Watson explains.
And, of course, she insisted on what is arguably the most important change to the Disney princess’s storyline: Watson’s Belle won’t be an inventor’s daughter, but an inventor herself. In the new film she creates a washing machine so she can spend her chore time reading books—an incredible passion of Watson’s as well. (Remember her book club?)
Belle is “absolutely a Disney princess, but she’s not a passive character—she’s in charge of her own destiny,” Watson tells Vanity Fair.
So did Steinem approve of Watson’s embodiment of Belle? Be our guest and take a guess…
“It was fascinating that her activism could be so well mirrored by the film,” Steinem says, assuring viewers that 2017 Belle is a force to be reckoned with. “Emma is interested in the world, she is caring, and though she is active, she is also joyous and informed,” Steinem adds.
Watson first became one of the faces of twenty-first-century feminism when a speech she made to the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of HeForShe went viral. She was also named a U.N. Women Global Goodwill Ambassador. Most recently she was spotted with her mother at the Women’s March on Washington.
Actor Kevin Kline, who plays Watson’s father in the film, also praised Watson’s activism. “When someone has a feminist point of view, we tend to think she’s no fun at all,” he said. “But a feminist can be feminine, delicate, vulnerable, sweet—and still demand to be taken seriously. Emma fits the bill perfectly.”
Read Watson’s full interview on vanityfair.com, and pick up the new issue on newsstands starting March 7.