One of the biggest changes audiences will notice in Disney's upcoming live-action remake of animated classic "Beauty and the Beast" is that the film spends much more time developing Belle's backstory than the 1991 original did. And according to star Emma Watson, that was an important part of the reason why she wanted to play the role.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Watson explained how much it meant to her to imbue Belle with more of a personality, delving deeper into the origins of her awkward relationship with the people in her provincial village. The new version of "Beauty" turns Belle into a quirky inventor, assuming some of the traits that her father, Maurice (played by Kevin Kline in the new movie), displayed in the first film. Part of the motivation behind her inventions -- like devising a rough prototype for a washing machine, powered by a donkey walking in a circle -- is so she can spend less time doing chores, and has more free time to read.
But when Belle dares to use her machine to help other little girls in the village, and starts teaching them to read, too, the townsfolk react by smashing her invention to bits. It's a jarring scene, Watson told EW, because it can easily be applied to women today.
"They don't think women should read, and it goes further than that," the actress explained. " ... They're deeply suspicious of intelligence ... and they don't like anything that's foreign and unknown that might be beyond their realm of experience. Breaking the washing machine is symbolic of not just them breaking something she spent hours working on, but them really trying to break her spirit, and trying to kind of push her and mold her into a more acceptable version of herself. I think that happens a lot with women, and a lot with young girls."
For more from Watson, check out her interview with Entertainment Weekly. "Beauty and the Beast" opens on March 17.