Sunday 10 November 2019

Emma Watson, Normality and The Observer

Did you hear about Emma Watson? Apparently she's failing to be 'normal' in a fantasy world, whatever that means. Those are the words of The Observer, offering clickbait comment wrapped up as concerned advice from a friend you didn't want. Disappointingly, it's as happy to feast on Ms Watson's fame as the tabloids.

The Observer's article starts with a quote from actor Helen McCrory. "So often when you meet child actors they're weird, they're freaks. No, I mean it, they're really odd people", she's quoted as saying. The original ITN interview continues "because they have a very weird life that as an adult you can just about get your head around".

Who's she talking about? Well, it's something she said eight years ago to endorse Asa Butterfield, who'd just co-starred with her in the film Hugo. "For a child to go through that and not end up very strange is really exceptional, and he's managed it."

There's no apparent reason to assume this is a snide reference to anyone specific, let alone Emma Watson, who'd been seventeen when she'd filmed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with McCrory, but that's what this article does. And then it builds on this assumed strangeness by throwing in the slyly pejorative 'precocious daughter of two divorced lawyers'.

Okay, being chosen as a child to audition for a film role is unusual. But 'strange'? I'm not sure. Graduating from university is apparently also an indicator of her strangeness, as is campaigning for gender equality. The article talks of Watson as 'an earnest believer in the ability to use her fame for good' but that's not enough for The Observer. 'Her controversial comments about ‘self-partnering’ may not have helped her', the paper says. It doesn't want to judge, of course, which is why there's a slippery 'may not' in there. It's the OTHER media that's been judging - The Observer handily provides a list - but not THIS newspaper. Except, well, it can't resist a bit of sarcasm. 'By apparently looking to reinvent an identity hitherto explained by the drably last-century concept of being, say, “happily single”, Watson said that “self-partnering” was a state that she had reached.'

Riiight. A hyphenated construct rather than two separate words. That's what this is all about. A repurposed quote, a list of other people's complaints, attacking Emma Watson without being seen to lay a finger on her, plausible deniability. Oops, no, not plausible deniability. The Observer goes on to nail its colours to the mast: Watson is 'indelibly sensitive and prone to navel-gazing'. Unfair, I say. The sensitivity is hardly surprising, given the behaviour of elements of the media, whilst the navel-gazing accusation is the inevitable result of being expected to explain yourself in every interview. Even if it's true, none of this justifies commissioning an article for a national newspaper.

Watson's often found herself 'a target for cruelty, rather than sympathy', the paper tells us. Indeed so. In fact, the article is a perfect example. How very meta. Criticism speckled with fragments of faux concern, sentences plucked from other people's interviews and a punchline that says she should 'try to learn and do better'.

She's doing very much better than I would have done in the same circumstances, I think. And showing a better example than the newspaper column, too.

No comments: