I've always loved Beauty and the Beast. Like me, Belle loved to read and I loved that she was an active part in the story rather than waiting for a prince to save her. However, one of my friends' hates Beauty and the Beast. She feels that Belle is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, something which has been widely circulated and is a common Internet belief about Belle.
And I can see where she is coming from. Belle is effectively kept hostage and after the Beast starts treating her with kindness she falls in love and sympathises with him. Something, which is classic of Stockholm Syndrome.
Stockholm syndrome as defined by The Free Dictionary by Farlex, is characterised by three central characteristics:
- The hostages have negative feelings about the police or other authorities.
- The hostages have positive feelings toward their captor(s).
- The captors develop positive feelings toward the hostages.
All of which could easily by said to apply to Beauty and the Beast. However, The Free Dictionary by Farlex when describing what causes Stockholm Syndrome to take place refers to a FBI study where researchers interviewed flight attendants who had been taken hostage during aeroplane hijackings, and determined that three factors must occur for the syndrome to develop:
- The crisis situation lasts for several days or longer (Beauty and the Beast presumably takes place over a lengthy period of time).
- The hostage takers remain in contact with the hostages; that is, the hostages are not placed in a separate room (although the Beast and Belle within the animated film at least, do remain in frequent contact, they are not constantly together, and Belle still has her own room and space).
- The hostage takers show some kindness towards the hostages or at least refrain from harming them. Hostages abused by captors typically feel anger towards them and do not usually develop the syndrome (Although, it is very true that Belle certainly feels anger towards the Beast, if refusing to go eat with him at the start of her capture is any indication, the Beast however does not ever physically harm and even goes out of his way to protect her).
So as you can see I've always been pretty torn on whether Belle is a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, or not, a concern that Emma Watson who is playing Belle in the upcoming Live Action remake also shared. Especially since as a feminist Emma Watson has been pretty vocal about the ways in which princesses in fairy tales in the past have been repeatedly denied any agency. It is also reportedly why she turned down the role to play Cinderella in the Live Action remake, before being offered the part of Belle.
It was also a concern that she shared in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly.
In the video Emma Watson is asked by the interviewer, Anthony Breznican, whether she thinks Belle is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and she reveals that: "It's something I really grappled with".
Consequently, she, "did some reading about Stockholm Syndrome" (of course she did!) and gives her reasons why she doesn't think Belle is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome:
1. "Belle actively argues and disagrees with him, constantly."
As I've already mentioned in the animated film this is certainly the case. Emma Watson as well mentions that when the Beast is banging on her door- she is there banging right back! Therefore, unlike Stockholm Syndrome suffers she does not attempt to sympathise with her attacker in order to survive. Belle certainly is not interested in survival- she is ready to fight every step of the way.
2. "She keeps her independence."
Certainly, I can see the argument for this. The Belle that I see would still not hesitate to have her own dreams, or do things by herself. It always felt like to me that the Beast had to accommodate to her rather than the other way around.
3. "There is a very intentional switch...where Belle decides to stay."
In the animated film, Belle when attempting to escape, stays when the Beast saves her from a pack of wolves. Although, you could argue that she stays because she has developed sympathy for him, at the same time you could argue she stays because it is wrong to leave him to die (regardless of whether he saved her or not).
4. "That's a beautiful thing about the love story, they form a friendship first."
We all have to attempt that Beauty and the Beast was refreshing in that you actually see Belle and the Beast fall in love, rather than having an instant attraction and then getting married soon after (in my mind Disney must have a high divorce rate).
5. "He's a bit of an afterthought- she's much more interested about getting out there and travelling."
From the start of the film, it's always made clear that Belle just wants to go out and see the world- "there must be more than this provincial life", even though everyone around her is content and complacent with what they have. She refuses to be Gaston's wife and the future that offers her. Although, she reads stories of romance, she does not seem that interested in romance herself, and in the castle with the Beast for the most part she is more interested in the books that his library has than the Beast himself.
Overall, I remain on the side that believes Belle is not suffering from Stockholm syndrome; but, like Emma Watson, I think that we should keep researching and talking about the subject. A discussion as important as this one should not be dismissed.
This post was originally published at Germ Magazine, and has been reposted here with permission.