Potterheads, I implore you to think back to a time, a very dark time, before it was universally considered cool to be immersed in the Harry Potter world. I ask you this in order to help you understand that Emma Watson did not always want to be Hermione, as she explains in a Paper magazine interview with bell hooks. She had always wanted to play Hermione, but as she told the magazine, as a kid, she rejected the overwhelming similarities she had to the character.
Hey, it makes sense. Before Hermione was lauded for her brilliance and ambition, she was considered bossy and annoying. I know it well, being that I was called a "Hermione" back in the day, and it most certainly was not meant as a compliment. Remember, this was way before the current wave of feminism kicked off and was as broadly (for the most part) accepted and talked about as it is now, and way, way before HeForShe was even a thing on Watson's young mind. Being Hermione meant not being like the other kids. More than that, it meant being a girl who wasn't obviously beautiful, even keel, quiet, and always agreeable.
Watson said in response to hooks' calling Hermione "an important representation for girls:"
She's important because she — well, certainly when I was reading Harry Potter, I started reading Harry Potter when I was 8 — I just really identified with her. I was the girl in school whose hand shot up to answer the questions. I was really eager to learn in an uncool way. In a super uncool way, actually. And then the character of Hermione gave me permission to be who I was.
Well, Hermione gave her that permission eventually. Though Watson happily identified with the witch as an 8-year-old, as she grew, she became increasingly more self-aware because of the connotations that Hermione's character, and her likeness to her, held. hooks asked if Hermione inspired her to "want to be more intelligent" and at least at first, the answer was no:
It was really interesting because at first, despite the obvious similarities, I guess I was also trying to detach my sense of self from the image. It was such a delicate time — I was 10 or 11 when the first movie came out — I was trying to figure out what my own identity was, but I didn't really have one yet. And I watch interviews that I did when the first movie came out and I was so lost! [Laughs] I would think, "What do young girls talk about? What do they say?" "I like going shopping and I have a crush on Brad Pitt." And I had no idea who Brad Pitt really was! I hadn't seen a single movie that Brad Pitt had been in, but this just seemed like the right thing to say. It makes me sad because I see this girl trying so much to fit in. The truth was I loved school. [Laughs]
Of course, being a advocate of feminism as she is now, she overcame that fear of standing out and owned her smarts and eagerness. But it took time and a deeper understanding of herself in order to do so. Being like Hermione was only an "uncool" thing if she let it be. The actress said,
At first I was really trying to say, "I'm not like Hermione. I'm into fashion and I'm much cooler than she is," and then I came to a place of acceptance. Actually, we do have a lot in common. There are obviously differences, but there are a lot of ways that I'm very similar. And I stopped fighting that!
Funnily enough, most of us Hermione-like girls did this, as well. And on a broader scale, Harry Potter fans in general. I suppose that acceptance is a part of growing up as much as it is about social progress. As you mature you care less about what other people think and more about what is right and what makes you happy. In this case, those things happily go hand in hand for Watson. In a way, that Hermione bravado is what helped pioneer a cause like HeForShe.
Image: Giphy (2)