17/02/2017 15:32 SAST | Updated 17/02/2017 15:37 SAST

Is 'Beauty And The Beast' About Stockholm Syndrome? No, Says Emma Watson

Being locked up, infantilised and eventually developing a positive relationship with her kidnapper doesn't quite count, she says.

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Emma Watson.

On the face of it, Disney's "The Beauty and the Beast" is a story about a young girl trapped in a strange house with a - let's face it - monstrous beast. She must love it, in order to free the handsome young, presumably good-hearted prince trapped inside. The allegory for domestic abuse is quite on the nose, especially in the original animated version.

The live-action version of the story is in cinemas from March 17, and Emma Watson who plays the Beauty, has been fielding questions about this super awkward aspect of the story.

"It's something I really grappled with at the beginning; the kind of Stockholm Syndrome question about this story...Belle actively argues and disagrees with [Beast] constantly. She has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm Syndrome because she keeps her independence, she keeps that freedom of thought."

What's different in this version is that Belle (Watson's character) invents a new kind of washing machine that infuriates the villagers, who banish her to the forest, where she lands up in the Beast's house. This girl-power angle is apparently enough to rescue the otherwise damsel in distress, who must 'rescue a monster from himself' storyline.

"In fact, she gives as good as she gets. He bangs on the door, she bangs back. There's this defiance that 'You think I'm going to come and eat dinner with you and I'm your prisoner — absolutely not,' I think that's the other beautiful thing about the love story. They form a friendship first and that gap in the middle where there is this genuine sharing, the love builds out of that, which in many ways I actually think is more meaningful than a lot of love stories, where it was love at first sight."

Um, yeah... She's still his prisoner though...

The term was coined 40 years ago after a bank robbery turned hostage situation in Stockholm, where after the six-day standoff it became clear that the victims had developed some kind of a positive relationship with the captors. According to the BBC, Psychiatrist Dr Frank Ochberg helped the FBI and Scotland Yard define the syndrome in the 1970s.

He said: "First people would experience something terrifying that just comes at them out of the blue. They are certain they are going to die. Then they experience a type of infantilisation - where, like a child, they are unable to eat, speak or go to the toilet without permission."

"Small acts of kindness - such as being given food - prompts a primitive gratitude for the gift of life. The hostages experience a powerful, primitive positive feeling towards their captor. They are in denial that this is the person who put them in that situation. In their mind, they think this is the person who is going to let them live."