Liz Smith: Emma Watson, Kristen Steward, Katherine Hepburn’s House
The Feminism of Emma Watson … The Blooming of Kristen Stewart and the house of Katharine Hepburn (Yours for a $11.8 million song.)
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara
“THERE HAVE been moments in my career when I’ve had an agent or a movie producer say, ‘You are making a big mistake’ … But what is the point of achieving great success if you feel like you are losing your mind? I’ve had to say, ‘Guys, I’m going back to school or I just need to hang out with my cats.’ People look at me like ‘Is she insane?’ But, actually it’s the opposite of insane.”
That’s Emma Watson, star of Disney’s much-anticipated “Beauty and the Beast,” talking to Derek Blasberg in the current issue of Vanity Fair.
I’ll admit, although I certainly know who Ms. Watson is — mostly as the child and adolescent star of the “Harry Potter” movies — she hadn’t made much of an impact otherwise. (On me, anyway. “Beauty” is the most potentially commercial film she has dome since her “Harry Potter” days.)
Indeed, when I was handed this issue of Vanity Fair by a friend, I asked “Who is this?” At first I thought it was Kristen Stewart, or some other young, very pale, actress.
But I came away impressed by Watson’s level-headed attitude and fine disregard for the easily distorted frenzy of stardom, especially when visited on the very young.
Few escape unscathed. She won’t discuss her love life and now declines fan requests for selfies, but will sign autographs and even sometimes chat to particularly moved or obsessed “Potter” fans.
Watson in Dior. Photograph by Tim Walker. Styled by Jessica Diehl.
EMMA is also quite involved in women’s issues — a feminist, if one wishes to attach that forever controversial and misunderstood word to her. She seems altogether like a good, head-on-straight young woman. Which is why I was astounded when she was dragged into a controversy about her feminism and a “very revealing” photo of her in the VF piece — how could she be a feminist and pose for such a photo? Wow, what had I missed? The cover photo by Tim Walker was positively Victorian — all misty and organza-ed. I barely recalled the pictorial essay inside. Some sort of dream-like, arty, mostly black-and-white, semi Dali-esque adventure.
I looked again. Nothing. What? Had my issue been mysteriously censored? I looked again. There it was, and THIS was it?
THIS was it? Photograph by Tim Walker. Styled by Jessica Diehl.
Watson is shot from hips up, wearing a white lace dress with a transparent mesh top, a ruffled white collar and some sort of strange white jacket thrown over her shoulders. (As fashion, it’s pretty ugly. Sorry, Burberry!) Her arms are crossed and what we see, shockingly, is her cleavage. Her cleavage. You see more skin, ankle to collarbone, on any red carpet. Had the actress uncrossed her arms, we’d have seen more, but she was clearly not going for anything like that.
Emma and Gloria
The point is, even if she had (uncrossed her arms) would that have made her less a feminist? The mind reels. I thought we’d moved on from the antediluvian concepts that a woman who is sexual or dresses provocatively is somehow “less than” in terms of her right to be taken seriously. And it’s not even a sexy picture. It’s actually non-sexual, distant and antiseptic despite the modest flash of flesh.
Toward the end of the article, author Blasberg asks Emma’s friend Gloria Steinem if Watson runs the danger of being considered too serious in her “relentless activism.” (The actress had a hand in making “Beauty’s” Belle a more independent girl.)
Miss Steinem has lost none of her own “relentless” qualities. She responded: “Let me ask you something. If you did a story on a young male actor who was very private and involved with activism, would you think he was too severe or serious? Why do women always have to be listeners … it’s possible to be both serious and fun, you know. That response is why men will ask a woman, ‘Why don’t you just smile more, honey?’”
This un-amused reply (the writer admits to being surprised by Steinem’s annoyance) brought me right back to Gloria’s glory days as the leading symbol of the woman’s movement, when it first began to move in the 1970s. And she was a pretty sexy symbol, too.
Thank you, Gloria Steinem (for everything) and thank you Emma Watson (for what lies ahead.)
Emma in Stella McCartney. Photograph by Tim Walker. Styled by Jessica Diehl.
SPEAKING of “smile more, honey” I’m afraid I have to offer an apology here to Kristen Stewart, whose often gloomy countenance in public incited me to write this several times.
Like Emma Watson, Kristen started young, and became a huge star in the “Twilight” franchise. However, unlike the “Potter” films, which held some charm for me, I loathed the adventures of Stewart and her vampire friends. I thought the films were idiotic and both Stewart and her onscreen love, Robert Pattison, were singularly lacking in charisma or energy.
What appeared to be her indifference, anger, boredom at premieres and in interviews was also off-putting. But as an actress, she has grown on me (“Still Alice,” “The Clouds of Sils Maria”) although I doubt she’s ever going to voraciously chew scenery — hers is a more subtle approach. (She is currently starring in the spooky, melancholic, “Personal Shopper.”)
Kristen in “Personal Shopper.”
And I was charmed by her casual, amusing throwaway line on “Saturday Night Live” a couple of weeks back, in which she came out, as gay. (It was a response to our current president’s onetime obsessive tweeting about her former boyfriend and co-star Pattison.) Recent interviews have displayed her as more relaxed.
I still don’t think Kristen Stewart — even a less constrained, more at-home-with-the-vagaries-of-fame Stewart — is going to turn into a relentless toothy smile machine when in public. And she shouldn’t have to. 2017 audiences still believe, just as they did when they swooned over Garbo and Valentino and Pickford in the 1920s that the stars “owe” them something. (Sometimes gossip columnists fall into that trap as well.) Well, they don’t owe us more than good performances, period. If we are foolish enough to hold up movie stars and athletes as role models; expect certain behavior out of them in their private lives, then that is very much our problem.
Kristen, smile when you want to smile … honey.
IF YOU are a fan of the late great Katharine Hepburn, and/or want/need to buy a home in Fenwick, Connecticut, you are in luck. Hepburn’s house is still on the market, through Sotheby’s and Colette Harron.
This magnificent property was where she was burying the family silver (sorry, dug up, now) … emerging from the surf of her own beach to catch a glimpse of her lover, Howard Hughes as he flew overheard (you can see some variation of this in the Leonardo DiCaprio-Cate Blanchett movie “The Aviator”), and generally being very Kate-like and Yankee-ish.
Fenwick in mid-February. Kate emerges from her morning dip.
The house and surrounding property are now going for a mere $11,800,000. It’s a stone’s throw from Old Saybrook, if that sweetens the pot.
Are you a real potential buyer? Not just a star-struck time-waster? If so, contact Charron@wpsir.com