The Emma Debacle

The controversy over actress Watson’s Harvard visit is overblown

In the Harry Potter series, the character Hermione decides to get even when the muckraking Daily Prophet columnist Rita Skeeter starts harassing her and her Hogwarts friends.

And now, thanks to the sensationalism of The New York Post, it would seem that the entire Muggle world is aglow with a real-life version of the same story: the innocent Emma Watson, Hermione’s real-life alter ego, terrorized by a wicked publication—in this case, The Harvard Voice.

According to the Post article “Harvard Jerks Stalked Emma,” Watson, the Brown University freshman and starlet of Harry Potter fame, came to Cambridge for the Harvard-Brown football game September 25 only to be “stalked” by members of The Voice, who updated a blog with pictures and her whereabouts throughout the game. Unfortunately, media organizations such as The Post have been unable to understand that The Voice is a humor-leaning student-life magazine and that there is a distinction between satire and a true violation of journalistic ethics.

Did Harvard “jerks” really ruin Emma Watson’s evening?

A student-life humor magazine poked fun at this country’s fascination with celebrities, and a celebrity who made a clear, conscious decision to participate in this public activity had to deal with paparazzi. Somehow, this does not seem out of the ordinary or at all egregious.

Of course, that The New York Post of all publications is the one to have accused The Voice of “stalking” is deliciously ironic. One would think that the same publication that prides itself on gossip—especially celebrity gossip—would be proud of The Voice, not incensed. After all, it was The Post that sent reporters to stalk the humiliated Ruth Madoff on the Manhattan subway, photographers to capture her at the worst possible moments, and writers to transcribe every last angry word she said as she tried to escape their questions. We find The Post’s implicit condemnation of The Voice’s actions to be as hypocritical as we do amusing.

Perhaps the most unsettling aspect, however, to the entire Emma Watson “debacle” is the allegation that The Voice harassed her in any serious way or that it contributed to her discomfort. Surely, those updating The Voice’s blog or tweeting during the game were not the first to fawn over the actress, who would turn heads from Los Angeles to Dubai. Their actions were harmless, meant in an unfortunately misunderstood satirical manner, and were devoid of the mean-spirited motives that often define celebrity journalism.

That said, we do not wish Harvard’s reputation to be tarnished more than it already has been in the unfortunate aftermath of this overblown spectacle. Should Watson return to Harvard for future games or other activities, we hope that she finds the welcome environment we know and love. And at least at Harvard, no one has to worry about those nosy reporters from the Prophet or the Quibbler.