In a rather delightful exchange with actress Jessica Chastain for Interview magazine, Emma Watson has opened up about the burden of being dubbed a role model. It might be a surprising admission when you consider the somewhat low barrier to being a societal role model (for eg NRL players who might be chastised for their non-role model-y behaviour on the club end-of-year trip).
But when you consider how women tend to be held to higher standards of behaviour than men and the entirely nonsensical dressing down that Watson, who became a child star playing swotty Hermione Granger, received when she went ‘topless’ in Vanity Fair earlier this year, well, who’d want to be a role model?
This is how the exchange about role models between Chastain and Watson went down:
CHASTAIN: Besides deleting your e-mail, what do you do to relax? When no one’s watching, when no one’s thinking about you as a movie star or as a role model, what do you like to do?
WATSON: When people call me a role model it puts the fear of god into me, because I feel like I’m destined to fail.
CHASTAIN: But remember, you can teach people that our failures are our greatest gifts in life.
[By the way Watson bakes to relax, apparently making a mean “chocolate chip banana bread”.]
Besides the calm, big sister-like wisdom that Chastain bestows on Watson, what’s great about this exchange is Watson’s acknowledgment of the immense expectations people have of her – to not just be a movie star, but to be the right kind of movie star, to recommend the right kind of books in her book club (between the Hermione Granger legacy, the baking, the reading and the feminism, it’s awfully tricky for Watson to extricate herself from the shackles of role model-dom). And to say that she’s afraid of failing in that is liberating.
The more people talk about not being perfect – or a ‘goody two-shoes’ as Derek Blasberg pondered of Watson in his Vanity Fair profile – the more it becomes possible to forgive ourselves a bit. If we admit when it’s hard it makes it easier, truly.
Watson tells Chastain that she is always striving to speak from the heart, even when sometimes it’s opening yourself up to criticism.
“No one likes feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable and weak. But I really have found that it’s in those moments when I go there that there’s a kind of magic. [The scholar and speaker] Bren?? Brown does an amazing TED talk about vulnerability, how it’s the single most important way of connecting to other human beings.”
Sounds like a role model to us, and we know Emma Watson knows it. Otherwise she simply wouldn’t care so much.
Read the full interview here.