I'm pretty sure I was supposed to get off several stops ago on the "freaking out that Emma Watson is playing Belle in a live-action Beauty And The Beast" train, but I am enjoying the ride and probably will be rolling along until long after the movie comes out. It's no secret among Belle fangirls—any kind of Disney princess fangirl, actually—that Emma Watson is genuinely perfect for the role, both in demeanor and looks. I have no doubt that she will bring Belle's passion and inner beauty to the big screen for the second movie in what seems to be a new live-action Disney princess trend (which I aggressively and wholeheartedly support).
This year marks the 24th anniversary of the original animated version of Beauty and the Beast, and the Disney version of Belle has stood the test of time unlike any of her princess counterparts, launching a successful Broadway production, sequels and spin-off shows, and even the brave and steadfast Belle from Once Upon A Time . There is a reason why Belle has endured and become the favorite of so many Disney fans, and it is because of all the princesses we have come to know and love, she was by far the most relatable. Here's why:
She’s passionate about reading
Not to knock the passions of other Disney princesses, but being obsessed with forks, your hair, and even fighting in a war against the Huns were all a little less relatable to us growing up. Watching Belle pursue something we genuinely loved, on the other hand, made her that much more real when we were kids.
She’s not-so-secretly a total fangirl, too
Long before there were Tumblr fandoms, there was Belle re-reading the same book over and over again. (SHE WON'T DISCOVER THAT IT'S HIM TIL CHAPTER THREE!!!)
She cares for her family above all else
Belle wasn't the only Disney princess at odds to protect her family, but she was the first. Her loyalty to her father reflected the way we all felt about our family members, even the especially weird ones.
She had trouble fitting in, too
Guys, the whole freaking town was stalking her down and singing about what a weirdo she was right behind her back. Nobody understood your middle school struggles more than Belle.
Her hair wasn’t insanely unachievable
Yes, it is voluminous and lovely, but it isn't cry-yourself-to-sleep-after-you-burn-all-your-hair-off-with-a-curling-iron lovely. She looked more like us than the other princesses whose liberal hairspray use probably opened another hole in the ozone.
She is open-minded
Raving inventor for a father? Typical. Talking teacups? No biggie. Man transformed into a giant wilderbeest? Must be Tuesday again. Belle had that same open-mindedness that the generation who grew up with her also had, and seeing her acceptance of what wouldn't quite be considered "normal" in society only further instilled that sense in us.
She is just as happy single as she is with a man (and she won't settle for just any man)
Her love story is a beautiful one, not just because she found true love, but because she doesn't need it. She is well-rounded and satisfied with her life long before the Beast comes along. When we were kids, we were almost conditioned to think that a story wasn't happy unless it ended in true love, but Belle reflected the independence and passion that we felt on our own, without a relationship to "validate" it.
She doesn’t rely on magic to save herself
Belle uses her cleverness and her open heart to solve her problems, which gave us a much more realistic framework for our own problems than lifting a spell. Sure, there is magic involved in her story, but she is never reliant on it herself.
She isn’t the one who needs saving
In this movie, it's really Belle who is saving everyone around her: her father, the Beast, and all of the servants in the castle. She knocked the "damsel in distress" trope out of our brains at an age when we most needed to see strong characters who fought for people they loved.
She prefers a night in to a night on the town
You know that if she had to choose between sitting at home re-reading a Harry Potter book and tearing it up in a club that she probably wouldn't even bother trying to remember where that iconic yellow dress is before planting on the couch for the night. Belle just gets you.
Her priorities were clearly the same as ours
Uh, YUM. Even the threat of an 8-foot tall beast-man imprisoning you does not detract from good noms.
She has no trouble speaking her mind
We occasionally struggle with our brain-to-mouth filter, but Belle sure as hell never did. Other princesses were demure and sweet, especially with men, but Belle has always been the princess who spoke her mind the way you did (or really wanted to) growing up.
She never backs down from what she believes in
Your parents and teachers probably told you while you were growing up to fight for what you believe in, and Belle was the first princess who showed us that that kind of courage could be quiet and steady and still triumph.
She daydreamed liberally
Throughout her story, Belle yearns for an exciting world beyond her own with the same imagination and passion that we had as little kids. Yes, occasionally it meant that we were off in outer space, but ultimately we saw that the ability to visualize ourselves having adventures was the first step to making them happen.
She loved unconditionally
It seems like a lot of Disney movies feature characters who are inherently flawless. Every princess was beyond fault, and her prince had a heart of gold. Belle was the first princess who fell in love the way that we fell in love in real life: messily, unexpectedly, and in full acceptance of each other's flaws.
She never let the haters get her down
The most relatable part of Belle was that even though she was considered "weird," she totally embraced and owned her uniqueness. Growing up, every single one of us felt like the odd one out at some point (or every point), and watching Belle deal with it like a total badass made us feel a lot less alone.