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Emma Watson: On the Brink

Emma Watson

10 Questions with Emma Watson and TIME

Emma Watson
Emma Watson
Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson, born 15 April 1990 rose to prominence playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series. Watson was cast as Hermione at the age of nine, having previously acted only in school plays. She starred in all eight Harry Potter films earning several awards and more than £10 million. | Photo: Getty | Emma Watson, Harry Potter, Actress, Young, Pretty,

A Child Star In Transition

Liz Taylor did it; Shirley Temple didn't. Hayley Mills, Annette Funicello, Lindsey Lohan: the world of acting is filled with those who will forever remain frozen in film in their childhood and teenage states. But there are the successes too: Anna Paquin, Scarlett Johansson, Judy Garland, to name a few. It's a strange industry, Hollywood, where actors feel the pressure of not being discovered young enough, while also dreading burning out too young. From what we see in the press, a layman's understanding of maintaining a career in the film industry only involves staying away from alcohol and drug laced scenes. But making the leap from child stardom to adult Hollywood careers isn't always about avoiding excess. It's just as often about career management, though this makes much fewer headlines than D.U.I.'s and court hearings.

But few thus far have had the pressure to maintain a career in acting to the same magnitude as Emma Watson and her Harry Potter alumni. Will they or won't they seems to be on the question on everyone's mind. And I must apologize for playing right into the same journalistic trope, but I do find it to make a fascinating study. Daniel Radcliffe seems to have found his refuge in the theater, while Rupert Grint has a lineup of films in pre-production. And Emma, why she's been doing something quite clever.

Emma has taken a gradual course since the end of the Harry Potter franchise. She took a supporting role in My Week With Marilyn. She's been attending to her studies. Now she has The Perks of Being a Wallflower coming out and The Bling Ring in post-production. Each role is one step further away from child stardom, each a graduated phase of a public maturing. All this without Playboy centerfolds or leaked nude photos or mug shots or some other attempt at rebelling or revolutionizing her image. The most radical act she's committed since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows wrapped was chopping off her famous mane of golden hair. An act which smacks more of personal catharsis than pointed rebellion.

Female child stars usually transition to starlets through their sexualization. The audience now knows these girls have become women because the heterosexual men in the audience now ought to want to sleep with them. Think Olivia Newton-John, from the beginning to the end of Grease. It's a formula, but it's one that, despite its crudeness and its potential for epic failure, has generally been applied, to various degrees of success. But Emma's career and personal choices at once subvert and play into this formula. Cutting her hair off may be seen as the opposite of overtly sexualizing herself. While, in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Emma takes on her first role where her character's primary function is as a romantic interest and sexual object to the lead. And who knows what we're in store for with The Bling Ring.

Emma, in accepting these new roles, now tests the waters of life after, and preferably outside of, Harry Potter' she left her native England to attend university in the United States, she voices her fears of how the Hollywood scene would likely negatively affect her, and, despite (or perhaps, because of) the pervy online counters that ticked down the days until her eighteenth birthday, she expresses her tentativeness to inhabit her sex appeal in the traditional manner of a starlet on the rise. Still, Emma hasn't enshrined her childhood, but she does remain cautious not to shatter or break the career momentum and image she built during her prepubescent years. She has become at once vulnerable and in charge. Managing her career with direction, while also cautiously protecting herself from any potential blowback.

It's a fine line to walk, between childhood and adulthood, between the private drama of growing up and the public front of that process, between acknowledging the career start that the Potter franchise gave her while also expressing hesitancy as to taking the next step. She's on the tightrope now, halfway between buildings, and thought she has yet to falter, there's a quite unnerving feeling attached to watching her balance herself as she moves forward.

Perhaps the choice of her projects, and the pacing of them, derives out of a real and natural feeling of her own. I cannot claim to know Ms. Watson personally. This all could be an elaborate ruse' a means of controlling persona through press interviews and public relations. And if so, she's a clever marketer. And if not, if she truly feels hesitant about what the Harry Potter franchise and her fame have positioned her to become, she's still clever-- by taking her time to situate into herself and her future projects and avoiding making enormous splashes into roles and a kind of adulthood she may not want.

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 12:14 PM EDT | More details

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