Emma Watson, playing the protagonist role, ‘Belle’, in the live action movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to be released in early March, has recently dismissed the widely acknowledged beliefs that her character suffers from Stockholm syndrome, and is not, in fact, in love with the Beast at all.
Stockholm syndrome is a mental condition whereby a victim of abduction establishes feelings of fondness towards their custodian. However, in an interview with ‘Entertainment Weekly’, Watson stated that “she (Belle) has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm syndrome because she keeps her independence, she keeps that freedom of thought.”
In the original Disney movie, Belle is made captive by the Beast in return for her imprisoned father to be set free. At this time befriending the Beast, who is aggressive and ill-mannered, is clearly the last thing that she plans to do, “I can't stay here another minute!”. In fact, throughout the whole first half of the movie, Belle is completely adamant with her feelings of loathing for the character, and refuses to be manipulated by him, portrayed when she denies the Beast’s rude offer to eat dinner with him. Sufferers of Stockholm syndrome, however, act completely opposite to this, developing characteristics such as dependency on their captor and a lack of initiative.
Whilst Belle may not suffer from Stockholm syndrome, however, she certainly appears to show symptoms of schizoid personality disorder. This is a disorder which is characterised by disinterest or avoidance of social relationships. A person who suffers from this disorder may also favour an isolated or ‘sheltered’ lifestyle, and endure emotional detachment and apathy; there is no doubt that Belle possesses these attributes in the original movie.
Throughout Beauty and the Beast, Belle epitomises the consummate responses of someone who has no interest of attentiveness to social relationships at all, much less those which include sexual intimacy. This is evident as Gaston, the sexist and narcissistic antagonist of the movie, strives to attain Belle’s hand in marriage. Whilst her resolute refusal of his offer appears to be because he believes a woman’s place should be caring solely for her husband, she also portrays these mannerisms that characterise schizoid personality disorder. In addition to this, someone with this disorder may also favour and achieve relations with animals far easier than those with humans, and so it is no revelation that Belle and the Beast’s relationship flourishes far more quickly and naturally than any that may have existed between Belle and Gaston.
Furthermore, individuals that are affected by schizoid personality disorder ‘may simultaneously demonstrate a rich, elaborate and exclusively internal fantasy world.’ This could suggest that the anthropomorphised household objects, such as the vintage china teacups and the lavish golden candlestick, may just be a figment of Belle’s imagination, as she creates a ‘fantasy world’ in able to assist her to subsist in the unfamiliar and daunting situation, especially for someone with this disorder, that she has found herself in. Overall, Belle’s newfound position in the solitary castle, living aside friendly, inhuman residents and adopting a non-sexual relationship with a beast, is an ideal situation for any sufferer of schizoid personality disorder.
There is often a paradox of eagerly awaited films which appear hugely entertaining, yet in this case, like many others, entertainment is built on the misery of a potentially mentally disturbed young girl. Ultimately, the question to ask is whether children witnessing this behaviour, and being inspired by Belle herself, will come to adopt the qualities that she possesses and come to believe that they are normal.