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Emma Watson Dan Radcliffe Getty.jpg

This is an Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe Appreciation Post

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | April 14, 2024 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | April 14, 2024 |

Emma Watson Dan Radcliffe Getty.jpg

I’m not here to talk about J.K. Rowling, for once. I don’t wish to regurgitate her latest screeds of transphobic hate, the only thing she seems interested in talking about these days. I’ve written enough about my contempt for her, her supporters, and the Harry Potter fans who keep giving her money. The only impressive quality she possesses is her ability to sink to lower and lower depths with her bigotry (and that’s saying something given that she’s recently been engaging in full-on Holocaust denialism.)

It’s no real shock that, following a faulty and deeply damaging report into ‘concerns’ about trans kids in the UK, Rowling has gone on a one-woman faux-victory tour where she has bragged about how she’ll never forgive actors Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson for not kissing the ring and agreeing with her abhorrent hatred of a vulnerable minority in our society. I’ve no desire to dissect everything wrong with Rowling once more. I do it more regularly than I have hot dinners. No, what I want to do today is give my appreciation to two cool people who grew up under baffling and potentially nightmarish circumstances and emerged as decent human beings who seem to truly care about others.

Emma Watson was barely a pre-teen when she was cast as Hermione, the bushy-haired nerd of the group who cared as much about injustice and hard work as she did her friends. She spent her entire adolescence being ogled by grown men who bragged about how they were waiting oh-so-patiently for her to turn 16/18 so that they could openly leer over her. We’re the same age so I have sharp memories of her being objectified by the tabloids and shamed for doing things that normal British teens do, like have a beer with friends or get a cool new haircut. While she was undoubtedly the weakest actress of the main cast, she kept working, but moreover, she decided to throw her sizeable clout behind public feminist causes. Not too shabby for someone who was barely in their 20s at the time.

HeForShe was flawed from the get-go, an example of a decent idea diluted into something ineffectual and corporate-minded, but you couldn’t deny Watson’s own enthusiasm. It’s easy for us internet dwellers to talk about how mainstream rich white lady feminism doesn’t do enough and isn’t even designed to. We’re not wrong on that. But Watson wasn’t Sheryl Sandberg, and as a young woman in a sexist business who threw the weight of her name behind a desire for tangible systemic change, there was much to admire. As she’s stepped away from acting (she hasn’t been seen in a film since 2019’s Little Women), she’s focused on various charitable and social justice causes: environmental change, Black Lives Matter, equal pay, sexual harassment in the workplace, and sustainable fashion, to name but a few. She’s also expressed her support for trans rights on numerous occasions. In terms of someone fully putting their money where their mouth is, Watson is doing the work.

Radcliffe might have the platonic ideal of a post-child star acting career. He made more money than he’ll ever be able to spend in his lifetime (unless he picks up a cocaine and Scientology habit real quick), he has no need to adhere to industry trends to remain relevant, and he can work with whoever he wants. Moreover, he’s genuinely eager to improve as an actor, both on screen and stage. Radcliffe was acting long before he became a boy wizard, although he was never seen as a prodigy or unique talent in the way that, for example, a young River Phoenix and Jodie Foster were. He grew up on screen and you could see his craft improving. By the fourth film, he’s a real actor. When he could have been resting on his laurels, he went to the West End to star in Equus. After Potter, he moulded himself into a triple threat to do the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He also poked fun at himself with referential appearances on BoJack Horseman and Now You See Me 2.

It’s genuinely exciting to see which projects Radcliffe chooses. A lot of his work doesn’t get wide cinematic releases nowadays but then you see him in something random and remember what a delightful presence he is. It helps that he’s honed his comedic talents in fascinating ways, most notably when he played Weird Al Yankovic in the biopic parody Weird. It’s not just that he was playing everyone’s favourite parody musician: It’s that the was playing an egotistical actor playing Weird Al in a piss-take of self-serious biopics that aim for prestige over truth. He earned that Emmy nomination fair and square.

Now, he’s back on Broadway, starring in the long-awaited revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, and he’s earing some of the best reviews of his career. Merrily was Sondheim’s biggest and most notorious flop, and it took decades for the show to fully earn its stripes. I haven’t seen the show because I’m poor and British, but those glowing write-ups of Radcliffe’s performance speak volumes to his growing talent and ambition to be more than that guy who was in those magic movies as a child. He is tasked with singing ‘Franklin Shepard Inc.’, one of the toughest numbers in the show as well as Sondheim’s entire back-catalogue. It’s a dense tongue-twister designed to be a scathing take-down of the show’s lead, and Radcliffe makes it look easy. If he doesn’t get a Tony nomination for the musical, there will be hell to pay.

Radcliffe, like Watson, is vocal in his support for various causes, LGBTQ+ rights among them. He began filming public service announcements for the Trevor Project in 2009, a charity he has long supported. When Rowling’s transphobia became impossible for the public and press to deny, Radcliffe’s response was moving, classy, and undeniably anti-Rowling. Frankly, it’s a level of compassionate that Rowling herself has never deserved. As Radcliffe himself said in his statement, ‘I realize that certain press outlets will probably want to paint this as in-fighting between J.K. Rowling and myself, but that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now. While Jo is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken, as someone who has been honored to work with and continues to contribute to The Trevor Project for the last decade, and just as a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment.’ It speaks volumes to his grace that he would give this disclaimer while Rowling continues to seethe over this tax-paying adult millionaire with a child exhibiting basic autonomy.

As a society, we are not kind to child actors, former or current. For well over a century, we have seemingly decided that it’s perfectly okay to treat kids as disposable commodities and public punching bags. We’re so wedded to the idea of the ‘child star curse’ that we see it as a mystical inevitability and not a cultural sickness we have the power to stop. It’s a minor miracle that the main Potter trio grew up to be happy, successful, and well-adjusted adults. I remember plenty of people making jokes about these then-teens in the mid-2000s and how they were going to have catastrophic downfalls once they turned 18. Instead, we have a bunch of good eggs, ones who are using their powers for good and in the face of an intense fury from bad-faith bigots who see them as perpetual children who should do what their cruel elders and hungry audience demands.

At the heart of the faux-fury over Watson and Radcliffe’s refusal to kneel at Rowling’s feet is this astonishing infantilizing of two 30-somethings who owe nothing to this transphobe. They are not perennially in her debt just because they were cast in some films based on her work. Child actors are not indentured servants to hacks who can’t get off Twitter and be normal people. It’s an attitude that permeates transphobia, turning children into props for their own grievances and stripping them of their independence. Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe will never apologise for Rowling because they’ve nothing to apologise for, and that is devastating to a woman who has set her legacy aflame to commit herself to full-time hatred. Their names will be appreciated long after Rowling finally sinks into irrelevance.