Hermione and Belle may have both been written to be lovely, literary ladies, but Emma Watson is able to bring this to life through an authentic rendition of the characters that extends just as much off-screen as it does on. While the two ladies are great characters in their own rights, Emma has brought personality, purpose, and promise to Hermione and Belle cinematically. She has taken them from their original forms and reimagined them for today’s audiences, making their plights relatable to the girls and women sitting in the theaters watching her performances. Even outside her acting career, Emma Watson has shown the gumption and grit it takes to develop a sense of self and pursue the passions that set one’s soul alight. An inspiration on screen and off, Emma Watson manages to time and time again reignite her fans’ adoration for her because of the many heroines (herself included) she creates for them to behold.

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Hermione first struck our literary heart strings in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with the quote,

“Oh, honestly, don’t you two read?”

She continued to set our hearts ablaze as she dedicated herself to the cause of keeping Harry alive, come hell or high chance of expulsion. Throughout the series’ seven installments, Hermione didn’t just use books to gather knowledge, furnish the intellectual recesses of her brain, and make snarky comments to Ron; books symbolized Hermione’s worth in the wizarding world because they were the way in which she managed to assert herself in the world of magic when she was born and bred in the Muggle world. (It’s the muggle struggle).

While Emma Watson never had to become a dedicated accessory in the Hogwarts library to make her mark in the world, she did have to prove herself to JK Rowling in order to be cast as the quippy character of Hermione. In the filmed conversation between JK Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe released in 2013, Rowling said, “It was really lucky I spoke to Emma first on the phone before I met her. Because I fell absolutely in love with her… And then when I met her, and she was this very beautiful – which she still is, of course – girl, I just kind of had to go, ‘Oh, okay…’ I’m going to still see my gawky, geeky, ugly duckling Hermione in my mind.” Thankfully, the interview between Rowling and Watson was over the phone, and Emma was able to dazzle the author with her talent and charm rather than with her good looks.

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Another argument for the interconnectedness between the two lies in the compassion and sympathy both have for equality. In Goblet of Fire, Hermione makes her first attempt at philanthropy by founding the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (SPEW). Upon seeing the atrocious treatment of the house-elf Winky by her master Barty Crouch at the 1994 Quidditch World Cup, Hermione takes the call to action and tries to make a difference in the wizarding world.

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Hermione begins questioning Wizarding Law and Elf Legislation within the world of magic, asking why house elves were neither paid nor given the chance to take holidays. Through making badges, petitioning, charging member fees when she could coerce people into joining SPEW, and knitting hats and socks for house elves to pick up and free themselves with, Hermione showed her tireless passion for equality.

While her efforts went mostly unappreciated – except for Dobby’s fervent collection of the knitted goods – Hermione stood up for a cause she believed in that would bring equality to a race that didn’t see any. While it is never clearly stated what happened to SPEW, there were house elves fighting in the 1998 Battle of Hogwarts, which may have led to a better view on their character within the wizarding world. (Ron certainly appreciated them more as the Battle raged on, at one point saying, “We should tell them to get out. We don’t want any more Dobbies, do we? We can’t order them to die for us,” in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). Plus, Hermione did go on to work for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures at the Ministry of Magic where, regardless of if SPEW was continued or not, she was able to advocate for the equal treatment of magical creatures.

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Ironically enough, before Hermione’s SPEW was a thing, another organization with the same acronym existed, this time in the Muggle world. SPEW on our side of the world stood for the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women. Established in 1859 by Ayscoghe Boucherett, the organization promoted the training and employment of women. Boucherett once wrote about her organization,

“At once [she] resolved to make it the business of her life to remedy or at least to alleviate the evil by helping self-dependent women, not with gifts of money but with encouragement and training for employments suited to their capabilities.”

Today, SPEW exists as the Futures for Women (FFW) with the same purpose as its founding organization, but with the added mission of advocating for women to pursue economic independence.

Rowling may not have meant for the two organizations to overlap when she wrote one into reality for Hermione, but the female empowerment of the Muggle version of SPEW and Hermione’s passion for equality did invariably become reality in Emma Watson’s life. In July 2014, Emma Watson became a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. As an ambassador, Watson has traveled to Bangladesh and Zambia to promote the right to education for girls and launched the campaign HeForShe, which encourages men to advocate for gender equality. For Watson, feminism is “the belief men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” and that “the perception of man hating has to stop.”

Like Hermione, Watson is attempting to bring necessary change upon the world, calling for justice where none is seen and helping to forge a path to where it could one day become a reality.


Did you know Emma Watson was born in Paris on April 15, 1990? I sure didn’t and was quite pleased when I found out this little tidbit of information about the actress. It makes her portrayal of Belle that much more authentic! (As if Emma Watson wasn’t already perfect for the role.)

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Belle may have been born in a “small, provincial” town rather than Paris, but, nonetheless, this fact acts as a doorway to unearthing several parallels between Belle and Emma. Known for her tendency to have “her head stuck in a book,” Belle is an intelligent, fierce, and independent Disney princess.

In her town’s culture, though, those particular attributes are not suitable for a young lady to possess. Within the animated movie’s opening song, it is quickly made clear that women are judged based on their beauty instead of their intellect. Belle goes against the culture she was raised in, donning a blue dress, a book, and wanderlust stronger than the prejudice that plagued her image in society. As the movie progresses, there is further evidence that Belle marches to the beat of her own drum; through choosing to take her father’s place in Beast’s castle to coming to care for a host of animated inanimate objects to falling in love with a “beast,” Belle embraces who she is and what she wants openly. As one of the girls who grew up watching BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, I can attest to her being a role model that stimulated my own literary journey, self-acceptance, and wanderlust at a young age.

Now, while Belle may be a relatively dynamic character in the realm of Disney, she still required a few tweaks here and there to emphasize the literary badass she is. Enter Emma Watson. With the making of the live action movie, Watson stepped up to the plate and helped engineer Belle’s new image. “Belle is absolutely a Disney princess, but she’s not a passive character – she’s in charge of her own destiny,” Watson said in an interview with Vanity Fair. In being charge of that destiny (and bringing it to life), Watson worked with several crew members to highlight and reinvigorate Belle’s character: her ballet flats were traded for riding boots, bloomers were placed under her skirt so she could kick her legs over Felipe, and big pockets were sewn into her dresses for easy book storage.

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Fashion wasn’t the only innovation in Belle’s development for the live-action movie, though; the movie has several scenes that show Belle utilizing her intellectual mind and caring heart to her own and others’ benefit. In the same interview with Vanity Fair, Watson confessed to Belle being an inventor herself in the live-action movie instead of acting as her father’s assistant as she did in the original animated movie. (She invented a washing machine so she could read more!) Another aspect of the film Watson was excited about is a scene wherein Belle is teaching a little girl to read.

As the Emma Watson Vanity Fair interview states in its title, Belle has been reframed as a rebel. And Watson, in her own right, has been able to authentically present this not only through her acting in the live-action movie but in her personal life as well. As part of her dedication to literacy education, the Vanity Fair article began with Watson and the interviewer scattering hard copies of Maya Angelou’s Mom & Me & Mom on New York street platforms as part of her work for Books on the Underground.

Like with Hermione, Watson is able to represent Belle so well because aspects of her life parallel with the character’s. Having graduated from Brown University with a degree in Literary Studies, Emma herself has found solace in books. Emma Watson said in her interview with Vanity Fair, “Books gave me a way to connect with my father. Some of my most precious and treasured moments…I just remember him reading to me before bed and how he used to do all the different voices. I grew up on film sets and books were my escape to the outside world…Later in life, they became an escape, a means of empowerment, a friend I could rely on.” With that statement, Emma Watson appears to be making a modern, less lyrical translation of the song “Belle,” which further indicates her allegiance to the character and her motives.


Like both Hermione and Belle, Emma Watson has more to offer the world than looks. As a child she proved this, showing the vitality and energy it takes to have conviction through Hermione Granger. As a young woman, Emma Watson became a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and exercised her own feminist convictions in order to create a more equal world. As Belle in the live-action Disney remake of the classic BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Watson gives further life to a character by expressing herself in both style and strength. As herself, Emma Watson has fought against the connotations of the word “actress,” earned a degree from Brown University, and rebelled against societal institutions she does not agree with.

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Emma Watson is continuously chosen by filmmakers to bring to life lovely, literary characters because she is the embodiment of what it is to not only find yourself through the written word, but to become your own heroine. It’s all well and good to read about great literary heroines but to blaze one’s own path, to manufacture the seemingly fantastic into reality, to find strength in a world made to deteriorate such an entity is an inspiring spectacle to behold. When Emma Watson lives as an authentic lovely, literary lady offscreen, it only makes sense for directors and casting agents to choose her to bring to life fictitious characters who share the same attributes. Audiences can only align themselves with a character so much; however, when the actor or actress chosen to animate them lives just as the character does, the inspiration one finds in the character can exist through an entirely new medium that lasts longer than two hours. They have real life proof that it is possible to bring to life what they read about because it exists just as much off-screen as on. Emma Watson is the perfect example of this.

After wrapping up the live-action BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Watson said, “When I finished the film, it kind of felt like I had made the transition into being a woman on-screen.” As a girl who looked to Belle, a teenager who looked to Hermione, and now a woman, I can say with utter confidence that Emma Watson is someone I can look to now, on and off-screen.

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