Fug Girls: In Praise of Emma Watson

Love her. Love.

With Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince hitting theaters tonight, a whopping eight years after the first movie catapulted its young stars into the spotlight, we find ourselves watching Emma Watson with something approaching maternal pride. Our little Hermione has morphed from a precocious moppet into a self-possessed, smart, and refreshingly hygienic-looking young woman who has gotten love from the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and that most finicky of mistresses, Vogue — hardly the standard fate for kid actors who've endured puberty in the public eye. So, as the Potter phase of her life enters its coda, we give Watson full marks for achieving the tricky feat of surviving teen stardom by becoming a stylish woman we'd sooner expect to see on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar than The National Enquirer.

Scores of child stars can attest that coming of age in the entertainment industry — amid its associated temptations — can end in surly resentment, ill-chosen paramours, booze-sodden paparazzi shots, rehab, or (arguably worst of all) roles in the kind of quality flicks that have "National Lampoon" in the title. In the “surly” category, we’ve got Twilight's Kristen Stewart, who got her start at age 12, hit it big less than a year ago, and already looks like she wants to beat her head against a wall every time she goes outside. Tabloid fave Mischa Barton may — against all odds — still wear clothes by the likes of Louis Vuitton, but discounting reruns of The O.C., when was the last time you watched her in anything? She's leaning on the CW to resurrect her career, and judging by all the photos of her looking bleary-eyed outside of various bars, she may not be too happy about it. And we’re pretty sure we don't have to drop the L-word here (hint: it rhymes with "Bohan") to underscore how the wrong kind of attention can keep Hollywood from taking you seriously, or even taking you at all — advice that ought to be plastered on giant billboards along every inch of L.A. County's borders. Frankly, it's nothing short of a miracle that Watson made it through her teens as the star of a hot movie franchise without turning into an equally hot mess.

Related: Ranking the Harry Potter Movies From Riddikulus to Brilliant [Vulture]

Much like the Potterverse's wizard chess, Hollywood is all about plotting your course with strategic sense, lest you suffer a surprise mid-stride beheading. Watson's instincts have served her well thus far, turning her into a budding fashion plate and an appealing English rose; now, as she approaches a post-Potter reality where she can spread her wings, she ought to stick to those guns. Because regardless of what she decides to do, she'll have a much easier time writing her own ticket if she listens to that gut instead of landing in the gutter.

Related: Ranking the Harry Potter Movies From Riddikulus to Brilliant [Vulture]