Thursday, January 24, 2013

Breaking free of "the image"

People tend to be amused when they see that Mugglenet is my home page. Especially now, after all the Potter stuff is over. However, it's kind of fun to keep up with what's going on in the Muggle world post-Harry Potter. A few weeks ago, they released a Harry Potter calendar that had special dates like the anniversary of when Harry Potter figured out the egg's clue in the Prefects' bathroom. I am only a little bit ashamed that I seriously considered buying it.

Mostly, though, the site is a stalking machine and reports on anything newsworthy the Potter stars are up to, from Emma Watson being mistaken for a child at the airport to Daniel Radcliffe's success in his latest movie or play.

Over the past few years, there's been a growing frustration--among the trio especially--about breaking free of their iconic Potter roles. They've moved on, but to millions around the world, Dan, Rupert, and Emma are branded into people's minds as Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

Mugglenet has taken it upon itself to ensure the trio gets plenty of non-HP exposure. Today's headline, "Rupert Grint departs from Ron Weasley image with new thriller film," gushes over the "purposeful departures" Dan, Rupert, and Emma have embarked upon in recent years. It glowingly praised Dan's success in roles that required nudity and was very congratulatory toward Rupert about his new role as a drug addict porn star. As for Emma, well, let me put it in their words: "We also reported on Emma Watson's projects, which are usually wholesome, but soon she will be seen in a role that is as far away from the real Emma as possible when she portrays a real-life criminal in The Bling Ring."

Potter stars aren't the only ones who want to shed their wholesome images. Disney stars like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez have gone through great lengths to convince the world that they're more than just parent-approved role models.

It's tempting to blame the "degradation" of these lost souls on the poison of fame, but fame isn't really the issue here. I think we all want to overcome our own image at some point in our lives, whether that image is "good" or "bad."

When I was growing up, I was the poster child Molly Mormon to a lot of people. In elementary school, I thrived at being the obedient goodie-goodie (at least at school--I'm positive no one will vouch for my angelic nature at home). By middle school, though, I resented the stereotype society had placed me in. It really bugged me when people said things like "Oh, but Angela would never do anything like that," as if I were a plastic cut-out incapable of doing anything more unexpected than tipping over. Inwardly, I would tell these people, "Oh yeah? Well sometimes I sneak out my window at nights without my parents knowing!" just to prove that there was more to me than meets the eye, but of course I never said anything.

My crowning moment of glory came in 6th grade when I was in Mr. Lewis' math class. There was a ban on gum and pens throughout the school, because everyone knows that 12-year-olds can't be trusted with them. No longer Miss Obedient, I chewed gum whenever I pleased, though I was discrete about it. One day, however, I was so engrossed in my math problem that I forgot to monitor my chewing. Mr. Lewis approached my desk solemnly and said, "I never thought I would say this to you, but will you please spit out your gum?"

The entire class broke out into soft titters of shock. As I got up from my seat in the front row, the noise built up around me as my classmates discussed in horror my descent from perfection. I, however, was far from horrified. In fact, I was jubilant that I had knocked myself off the pedestal of Molly Mormonism, and it took all the willpower I had to not break out into a huge grin of triumph. I had finally shown them what I was capable of.

And I haven't changed much. Not really. I still have a difficult time hiding my pleasure when people find out that I have sworn at my car a few times, that I can hold my own in a punching war against my little sister, and that I pretend all the stop signs in Elk Ridge are yield signs.

But what, exactly, is so bad about people thinking you're good? Is is the expectations? Implied lack of character? Frustrations with being lumped into a stereotype?

It's an perplexing issue, one that isn't limited to any one stereotype.


  1. This is something I have wondered about a lot. (Which is part of the reason that when I moved to college, I moved to a new apartment ever few semesters just to experiment with being someone different and see how people would react who never knew me before.)

    I think part of the reason we like stereotypes is they help us know who or what to be. Especially as teenagers, i think we tend to gravitate towards stereotypes we are good at. Some people would be really bad at being "the good girl", whereas some of us are really bad at being "the bad girl."

    But no matter what stereotype we pick - I think there is always something inside of us that jekyll/hyde like is never satisfied with only being one kind of person.

    I love being known as the crazy, sporty, runner, outdoors-person. But sometimes? I really want to be that feminine book nerd who moves more in the mind than in the body.

    When you fit a stereotype, it's also easier to gravitate towards friends. When you try to straddle multiple stereotypes, often people just see you as weird.

    Anyways - I don't have any better answers than you, other than yeah...I agree with most everything you said, and those are my few cents thrown in...

  2. I like what you said about people never being satisfied with being just one kind of person. I'm not sure why we're like that, but it's true.

  3. True, I would not vouch for your angelic nature at home. :) I would vouch for your sneakiness and the fact that you don't like to do what you are told. It's amazing that you turned out so wonderfully. You were actually a sweet and wonderful child with an abundance of personality when you were in a comfortable environment.