In the excitement surrounding Emma Watson’s first sexy film role in The Bling Ring, British GQ has decided to imagine Watson is her Bling Ring character. Photographer Mark Seliger presents Watson “In Character, Out of Control,” “as you’ve never seen her before,” styled as a “thieving Valley vixen” in a midriff-baring freakum dress and with a constellation of tattoos. A savvy choice for the magazine, given the level of excitement over Watson’s turn “as a bad, bad girl.” For the public, Watson’s role will be like the moment when you finally have sex with someone after imagining it a hundred times. But in this case it’s the milder — but more titillating — thrill of turning a wholesome starlet into a slut, even temporarily.
It’s the same Hollywood bat mitzvah that the stars of Spring Breakers are currently undergoing. (And that the stars of Glee underwent. And that Miley Cyrus underwent. And that Xtina underwent when she got “Dirrty.” On a vastly smaller scale, male star Zac Efron underwent it when Nicole Kidman peed on him.) Though Emma Watson is 22 years old, she won’t read as an “adult” until we’ve seen her as a sex symbol. Though many wish her Bling Ring role speaks to some long-buried inner wild child, Watson tells GQ she chose it precisely because she “hated” the character:
When I read the script and I realised that essentially it was a meditation on fame and what it’s become to our society, I had to do it. The character is everything that I felt strongly against — she’s superficial, materialistic, vain, amoral. She’s all of these things and I realised that I hated her. How do you play someone you hate? But I found it really interesting and it gave me a whole new insight into what my job, or my role as an actress, could be.
Pairing Watson’s tarted-up film character with her own good-girl personality — and previous good-girl film roles — provides the ultimate virgin-whore paradox. If Watson crossed the virgin-whore threshold in her personal life, she would risk losing everything. (Think Lindsay Lohan forgetting her panties one too many times after I Know Who Killed Me.) Since Watson doesn’t seem likely to do that, we can revel in her imagined corruption with minimal concern-trolling: “Emma Watson shows off her wild side“; “Emma Watson pole dances“; “Emma Watson Goes Bad“; “Hermione in her bra!“; “Bad Hermione!”
To say the Sofia Coppola–directed film will be tamer than Harmony Korine’s debauchery would be an understatement worthy of, well, Sofia Coppola herself. Part of Spring Breakers’ appeal is that it invites the audience to conflate the actresses with their performances. Of a scene in which Selena Gomez goes to a pool hall “populated with real-life criminals and lowlifes,” Korine told Vulture,
[S]he thought the shoot day was over when I took her by the arm and led her to this room where we had the camera and Franco waiting. I said, “Hey, we’re going to do something that’s not in the script and I just want you to react to it and go for it.” She was freaked out. [Laughs.] I could also tell that she was a little bit exhilarated. I think the best acting she’s ever done is in that moment.
On some basic level, are our dense human minds simple incapable of understanding acting? That’s a real question. Even when we know it’s fake, seeing recognizable people doing dirty things alters our perceptions of them, apparently enough to redefine an actress’s entire career. That some actors get “freaked out” or experience growth while acting gives us just enough leeway to fantasize continuously about Bling Ring Emma Watson, grinding in a club.