On growing up: Radcliffe vs. Watson

It is not uncommon of child actors to have trouble moving on in their adult life. Having grown up in a role, it can be difficult to not be forever seen as the role they had as a child. However, this becomes problematic when it becomes apparent that only male actors seem to be experiencing difficulty in the transition from being viewed as a child to an adult. There is a sort of reluctance from the audience that actresses do not ever seem to encounter.

Daniel Radcliffe has grown up being extremely well known for his role as Harry Potter in the movie adaptations of the beloved series. Having started as Harry at 10 years old and then staying in that role until he was 20, Radcliffe has literally grown up as Harry Potter. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the series as well as the decade long movie enterprise, many people believe they will always see Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. There is a sense of loyalty among fans to the franchise even after it has ended that is admirable, but can also be problematic as Radcliffe continues his acting career in more mature films. As seen from the fan reactions to his role in The Woman in Black, what started off as dedication leads to the possibility that Radcliffe will never be able to move beyond his image as Harry Potter.

While Radcliffe has made progress in his move away from Harry, he still faces a sense of resistance. In a recent interview for his upcoming movie Horns, Daniel Radcliffe was told that many of his fans felt uncomfortable seeing him as a developing sex symbol. Radcliffe replied that he did not like being told he was “an unconventional romantic lead” just because he had been Harry Potter when he was younger. He then proceeded to simultaneously shut down the interviewer as well as defend his previous co-star with the perfect response that “the male population has had no problem sexualizing Emma Watson immediately.”

Indeed, Emma Watson has undergone the same experience as Radcliffe as she grew up in the role of Hermione Granger. Having also started at roughly the same age and then stayed in the movies for as long as Radcliffe, it would be assumed that Watson would also experience resistance from fans to leave Hermione behind.

Why then, was there no outcry when Watson took on sexualized roles in more mature movies? Why was there no talk of how uncomfortable it was seeing Hermione Granger pole dance in The Bling Ring, or strip in The Perks of Being a Wallflower? Why were people so much more comfortable with sexualizing Emma Watson?

This is a double standard that permeates not only in the movie industry but also in our society as a whole. Children grow up being taught that “girls mature faster than boys” for mysterious, unknown, biological reasons. Perhaps it’s time to realize that it might not be the girls themselves that are maturing so much as the media’s eagerness to sexualize them, especially from a younger age than boys.

While Watson has faced this sort of treatment by media since her ranking in FHM’s 100 sexiest women list in 2007, it has taken Radcliffe years after the last Harry Potter movie to finally begin shedding the last vestiges of his childhood persona. Despite similar situations, Emma Watson is now widely seen as a sex symbol while Daniel Radcliffe still deals with Harry Potter jokes.

Regardless of whether celebrities should be sexualized in order to break away from childhood roles, the fact remains that the audience so much more readily accepted and encouraged Watson’s transition to a sexual object over Radcliffe.