In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Emma Watson defended Belle against the argument. She acknowledged that it's a fair point, but said she doesn't believe Belle actually suffered from Stockholm syndrome.
"Stockholm syndrome is where a prisoner will take on the characteristics of, and fall in love with, in this really strange way, their captor," Watson told EW. "Belle actively argues and disagrees with [the Beast] constantly. She has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm syndrome. Because she keeps her independence. She keeps her independence of mind." The actress added that Belle is "no sheep" and that she's the one who made the decision to stay with the Beast.
She also believes that the pair's "real friendship," which they formed before pursuing romance, makes their relationship a strong one. Watson called the development "more meaningful" than love at first sight stories, suggesting it's more realistic than other fairytales in that regard.