Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Why Emma Watson Really Left Brown

Emma Watson looked out of the window of Pembroke Hall onto the intersection of Angell and Prospect and watched the line of vintage jean-jacketed 20-year-olds blowing on their Americanos and clutching copies of To the Lighthouse and Of Grammatology.

It was her first day at Brown University, and she wanted to make a good impression on her classmates. The phone rang. It was Marina from the publicity office at Burberry. “Emma,” she purred. “I see there’s precipitation in Providence today.”

“I’m just wearing a plain old Mackintosh,” Emma stood her ground. “I want to look normal.”

Her roommate, a porcelain-faced graduate of Dalton and third-generation legacy, applied a tiny bit of Stella lip gloss to the center of her pout and untied the bun she slept in, letting a mess of brown hair cascade down her back. She angled her long body inside the door frame. “Normal?” she said. “What does that even mean?”

“I mean, I don’t want to stand out,” Emma said, trying not to sound cross.

“I don’t like to use words like normal,” the roommate said. “They’re so restrictive.”

She disappeared for a minute. When she got back she was wearing a Burberry vintage raincoat. She eyed Emma’s yellow one. “Is that a three quarter sleeve?” she asked dubiously.

“No,” Emma said. “I got it at Marks & Spencer for my first year at Dragon. It’s just a wee bit small.”

They walked across the quad.

“You know I’ve never even seen any of the Harry Potter movies,” her roommate said.

“I know,” Emma said, taking care to keep her tone light. “You mentioned that several times last night while you were sighing over how hard it was to get bit torrent to download Satyricon on the shared Wifi.”

“No offense,” her roommate said. Her voice fell to a whisper. “But like, I came to Brown because it has the best semiotics program in like, the world.”

“Sasha, why are you whispering?” Emma said. Her roommate whispered a lot, like whatever she was saying was so interesting or controversial that no one should be allowed to hear it.

“It’s Masha,” she corrected her.

Sorry, Emma muttered. Three other girls from their hall, Pasha, Sasha, and Lhasa Apsa, passed by, also pushing their hair around. One of them had giant goggle-like glasses. For a second Emma wondered if she had them on the back of her head, but then she emerged from her curtain of hair, and blinked at her. The air was so thick with the smell of Kerastase she was starting to hallucinate. “Anyway, you were talking about semiotics.”

“Shh…” Masha’s 16-carat Colombian emerald, which her great-grandmother had carried out of Bratislava in her asshole, twinkled on her pointer finger as she held it to her lips. “I don’t want to be thought of as just like, one of those rich chicks who comes here to study semiotics.”

“I don’t think I even know what semiotics is,” Emma admitted.

“It’s, like, really fascinating?” Masha said. “It’s, like, studying meaning.”

“Oh,” said Emma. They were on campus now. No one seemed to be looking at her. Everyone’s hair was in their eyes and was also wearing platform sandals so they were really concentrating on walking. One girl walked into a tree. She cursed in French, wrapped her four yards of hair up in a Pucci scarf and answered her phone. “Hello? No way. Go fuck yourself. Hahahaha.”

“Anyway,” Masha went on. “I would like, probably, and like, no offense, never watch a movie like Harry Potter, because like, I see right through it. You know? To some people, it’s about, like wizards, and that’s cool. But to me, it’s about how capitalism creates a structure of self-serving rituals to make individuals believe that they are members of a community.”

“Oh,” Emma said. Her therapist had told her if she felt uncomfortable at any time she should picture herself in the place in the world she most loved, and to make it as realistic as possible. She closed her eyes. “I’m at the Brentwood Town Center Jamba Juice right now with Taylor Swift. She just ordered an Apple and Greens with a Power boost and I got a 3G with a flax boost. I’m wearing a sundress from Kitson and Uggs, and she’s writing a text to John Mayer about…”

“Anyway, I’m late for Shakespeare Rewrites Shakespeare…” Masha said.

“Oh,” Emma said. “I was going to take that, but, in the end I was just looking for, you know, a class on just Shakespeare.”

Masha sniffed. “What does 'just Shakespeare?' even mean?”

“I don’t know. Reading his plays and discussing them?”

Masha smiled sympathetically. "I remember when I was a freshman, I was so caught up in the purity of the author’s identity.”

“Oh,” Emma said. “I’m just a little worn out from making movies, and I kind of wanted to take some time to learn, and to…”

“It’s not really surprising,” Masha interrupted, “Your success in the system where art is exchanged for money means that you have no reason to question it. I get it.”

“But… what about you?” Emma said. She was pretty sure Masha’s dad was a federal judge, and her mother was like, second in command for some big designer and she thought she lived in the Dakota. “What’s your reason for questioning it?”

But Masha was gone. Emma watched the plaid lining appear and disappear as the stiff New England wind blew across the vent on Masha’s coat.

She slipped into her seat. This was the only class that had fit into her schedule, and she didn’t even know what it was called. “What’s this class called?” she whispered to the girl sitting next to her, who didn’t seem to recognize her.

“It’s called Great Books and Good Movies,” the girl said.

Emma was annoyed but determined not to show it. She sat there staring at her pencil. A professor walked in and wrote: Great Books, Good Movies, at the top of the board.

“Crikey,” Emma exclaimed. “It’s really called that.”

“Duh,” said the girl.

That night she went to a party. Everyone was drinking beer. Emma didn’t like beer. For a while she pictured herself at the café at the Tate Modern splitting a bottle of Prosecco and a tuna tartare with Daniel and Rupert. It made her miss them. She took out her phone to send them a text. “Hey lads,” she had written when a guy bumped into her. “Pardon me,” she said.

He was cute. “It’s Ok,” he said. “Hey, aren’t you the chick in the Harry Potter movies?”

“Yeah,” she said. She was actually sort of glad someone had just come out and mentioned it.“I was just texting Daniel and Rupert,” she said. “They’re my best mates, still, so.”

“Daniel and Rupert?” The guy shook his head. “Who are they?’

Emma laughed. “You’re funny,” she said.

“I’m not trying to be funny,” the guy said. “I seriously don’t know who they are.”

“They were in the movies with me,” she said. “Daniel played Harry, and Rupert played… his other friend.”

“I never saw any of those. I don’t even know what they are. Someone just said you were the chick in the Harry Potter movies,” the guy said. “Anyway, my mom is the Exchequer of Mauritania, but that’s not something that defines me. Have you ever read anything by the French social theorist and philosopher de Certeau?”

“No, I haven’t,” she said. “What does he write about?”

“Well,” the guy said. “It’s kind of hard to describe. But you know how everyday life works by a process of poaching on the territory of others, using the rules and products that already exist in culture in a way that is influenced, but never wholly determined, by those rules and products?”

“Not really,” she said.

“Alright,” he said. He looked at his cell phone. “Shit. I gotta go to band practice.”

She went back to the room. Masha wasn’t there. She went down the hall. Sasha and Pasha weren’t there either. Lhasa Apsa, who was pre-med, was actually studying. “Hey Emma,” she said. “They all went down to New Haven, to a party at James Franco’s.”

Emma nodded. She was thinking about the guy. He was cute. She wished she’d had more to say about that de Certeau character. But she didn’t know if it would matter. “Hey, Lhasa Apsa,” she said. “Do you think maybe like, guys here are intimidated by me?”

Lhasa Apsa nodded. “Because you room with Masha? Definitely.”

Sarah Miller is the author of Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl, which are for teens but adults can read on the beach. She lives in Nevada City, CA.

94 Comments / Post A Comment

Jane Hu (#5,833)

this is pretty special.

SeanP (#4,058)

@Jane Hu I'm definitely crushing on Lhasa Apsa.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@SeanP lhasa apsa has the most integrity of all of them

Bittersweet (#765)

Two weeks ago I took Amtrak Acela from Boston to New York. A Brown student of the male persuasion, all hair and skinny jeans and flannel, got on at Providence and sat next to me.

We didn't converse, as he was listening to his Shuffle and really into his obscure Huxley novel, but if we had I imagine it would have gone almost exactly as transcribed above.

scrooge (#2,697)

@Bittersweet What obscure Huxley novel, pray?

Bittersweet (#765)

@scrooge: Hmm…can't remember now. Had a very unmemorable title. Could have been an essay collection – Texts and Pretexts? Themes and Variations? I'll remember it at approx. 2.30 am next Tuesday.

scrooge (#2,697)

@Bittersweet Crome Yellow or Those Barren Leaves, no doubt. He was a pretentious young twit when he wrote those, would have fit right in at Brown.

@scrooge : I'm still a pretentious twit, so there's that.


sarahpm (#13,702)

@dntsqzthchrmn thanks for liking that line. you have good taste. I can't remember where Mauritania is…and I have no idea what an exchequer does.

scrooge (#2,697)

@sarahpm West Africa. Holds cash, usually under the supervision of a Chancellor Of The

SeanP (#4,058)

@sarahpm it's Knifecrime-speak for treasurer.

evilfred (#2,351)

amazing. nice balance. more of this plz!

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Loved this a lot. It reads like Pictures from an Institution 60 years later from the students' perspective. (Disappointing to learn that Emma Watson is an actual person from one of my children's videos.)

sarahpm (#13,702)

@Tulletilsynet i don't know what that is…i should check it out. thanks for reading and liking.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

I bet you'll like it. They say Robert Penn Warren and Robert Lowell used to call it "Randall's joke book." (Randall Jarrell's.)

sarahpm (#13,702)

@Tulletilsynet ok i am all over that. I wrote two teen books inside the mind of gideon rayburn and the other girl but i read far beyond the level of my talent…

HiredGoons (#603)

Satyricon AND Marks & Spencer bomb-drops in a single post!?

My brain just bit it.

ellbeejay (#13,699)

I love you so much for this right now. I mean that in the most academic way possible. You don't even know.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@ellbeejay thanks. I love you too. yeah i know a lot of mashas and pashas. i can be a bit of one meeself. But…not reaaallly

This was pretty teriffic and reasonably dead-on.

Also, I just assumed she accidentally stepped on the old Pembroke seal, but whatever.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose thanks. Explain pembroke seal (my mother was wait listed at Pembroke) is that bad luck?

@sarahpm : Stepping on the Pembroke seal results in either failure to graduate for males or pregnancy for females. I don't quite get it either, but it was too good a joke to pass up.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose can the Pembroke Seal balance a copy of The Practice of Everyday Life on its nose?

mishaps (#5,779)

It's almost like I didn't miss my reunion!

litothela (#13,700)

oh god lhasa apsa. can't stop laughing at lhasa apsa.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@litothela I have had that joke forever…it's like, 20 years old. Never had a chance to use in print

naughtysneaky (#11,902)

I don't know if this is why Emma Watson left Brown, but it's definitely why I left Vassar. (Also, props, cause this was really good.)

wtvr731 (#13,701)

so you left because people wore gems that were smuggled in assholes?

sarahpm (#13,702)

@naughtysneaky thanks. I went to amherst. similarly annoying, plus date rape. (not of me)

mishaps (#5,779)

@sarahpm so, just like Brown, then.

Bittersweet (#765)

@naughtysneaky: Almost went to Vassar. Now incredibly glad I didn't, based pretty much solely on your comment.

naughtysneaky (#11,902)

@Bittersweet Well everyone is different, but yeah, I was pretty unhappy there. Annoyingly rich, annoyingly beautiful, annoyingly self-absorbed kids plunked in the middle of a very lackluster, occasionally violent town (sorry if anyone is from there). I transferred to a notoriously good public school in my home state and never looked back. It was also less than a quarter of the price.

alicegroznyi (#10,780)

@naughtysneaky i did the same thing exactly. not vassar, but an expensive pretentious school to a really good cheap state school (was yours in virginia by chance? there were quite a few people with a similar story where i ended up). so so glad i did, as i enjoy life without major debt…

naughtysneaky (#11,902)

@alicegroznyi It WAS in Virginia! How about that.

alicegroznyi (#10,780)

@naughtysneaky ooooh i knew it!! did tj graduate from or start your school? (he went to but bitched about mine…)

naughtysneaky (#11,902)

@alicegroznyi Oh my god we went to the same school, how weird! What year? I'm 2010 but just finished this past winter, on account of the transferring.

alicegroznyi (#10,780)

@naughtysneaky ha crazy! i was 2009. i managed to get out on time because of a summer session in england. hows life outside of a historic restoration treating you?

extremely funny.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@Heather Lukes@facebook thanks you have great taste. do you know anyone like this, by any chance?

C_Webb (#855)

Whereas my students nearly fall out windows trying to take iPhone pictures of Doogie Howser.

deepomega (#1,720)

@C_Webb "students"

libmas (#231)

The emerald smuggled in the asshole is my favorite part of this delightful piece. So much goodness there: the faded understanding of what is precious, the casual handling of a legacy that people fought so hard to pass on, even the possibility that Miss Watson is herself something of a precious gem lodged in a Brown place.
But seriously, wonderful piece.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@libmas thanks. very nice of you

@libmas The emerald is also generally held to be a "soft" stone, thus one easily damaged. Nice, right?!

LondonLee (#922)

Poor Emma, I'd give her a hug but it might get age-inappropriate.

Marissa E@twitter (#13,708)

I really enjoyed reading this- very well-written! When I first saw the title, I thought it might be the factual reason why she left. I met a few students from Brown last year, and they told me a few good anecdotes about Emma Watson in class. For instance, I was told that in one class, when Emma answered a question correctly, a classmate shouted out, "10 points for Gryffindor!"

HelloTitty (#830)

@Marissa E@twitter Sadly that appears to be an urban legend though I wish very much that it actually happened.

Moff (#28)

This was great. Also: Hey-yo, Nevada City! The Mine Shaft! Cooper's! McGee's! Although to be honest we were usually too drunk to make it up the hill to McGee's.

ennaenirehtac (#11,592)

Hilarious! Now do a send-up of Nevada City.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@ennaenirehtac do you live here?

iantenna (#5,160)

@ennaenirehtac i would love a wind-up of nevada city as well but it might be a bit too insidery for the general awl public to understand.

Moff (#28)

@iantenna: And honestly, Nevada City is kind of a send-up in and of itself.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@Moff as a resident i must confirm this

brad (#1,678)

@ennaenirehtac oh good lord. i know no one will read this as it's long dead in internet time, but nevada city. my hometown. in the 80s it was all nevada city vs. grass valley and how white trash GV was. who are you strange california foothill people?

laloca03 (#8,010)

pembroke hall isn't a dorm, and it overlooks meeting street. it's 3 blocks from the intersection of angell and prospect. i mean, really.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@laloca03 i didn't go to brown, and I made all that stuff up. sorry, it's just that like, I don't really care.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@sarahpm OMG It overlooks MEETING STREET!!!! OMG!!! I have to change it RIGHt NOW.

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@sarahpm Psst, my irony meter is telling me that laloca03 probably didn't actually think this was an "mistake" anyone would really care about, and was just engaged in humorous OCD nitpicking, which if done right can be very funny

sarahpm (#13,702)

@hypnosifl oh sorry but i had a bunch of people actually complaining about that today for real and it was annoying me.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Kill those people. I have a pointy stick. Do you need a pointy stick? Will it kill those people?

Mr. B (#10,093)

Has any English person ever used the word crikey in real life? *

* (Not intended as a criticism in any way!)

scrooge (#2,697)

@Mr. B The last known exclamation of "Crikey!" was made in 1982 by a grand nephew of Edward VII just before he expired.

Mr. B (#10,093)

@scrooge Yes!

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@Mr. B I think Australians do use it for reals, though. We Americans tend to get easily confused by the difference between British and Australian speech (lots of people think the Geico gecko has an Australian accent)

Mr. B (#10,093)

@hypnosifl Oh, I've been around. The only Australian I've ever heard say it was the late Steve Irwin, but he was in character and reading from a script. As for the Gecko, that's obviously an American voice actor attempting (poorly) some sort of pseudo-Cockney.

Fun anecdote: I saw "Ocean's Eleven" with a couple of English ladies, and walking out of the theater all they could talk about was how offensively awful Don Cheadle's accent was.

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@Mr. B I just looked it up, the Geico Gecko is voiced by a Brit named Jake Wood, you can hear his natural speaking voice starting around 1:52 in this video, he definitely slows his speech down when doing the gecko but my ear for British accents isn't good enough to tell if he changes his accent subtly or just uses his regular accent (it sounds pretty similar anyway).

OK, so according to some of the folks here (one of whom cites Webster), crikey was an English expression back in the day, and was later adopted by Australians. Maybe it's just gone out of style in both places, like "swell" for Americans.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@Mr. B oh totally…so bad in oceans. Crikey indeed

Gordon Cole (#13,731)

@Mr. B Nope! The Gecko is voiced by Jake Wood, an English soap actor.

Mr. B (#10,093)

@Gordon Cole Man. And he has an actual East London accent, too. Reminds me of a interview I saw of an Irish actress auditioning for an Irish Spring commercial only to be told she didn't sound "Irish" enough.

apb (#9,461)

@Mr. B Yes! A British professor (in his early 30s) at *my* small private esoteric liberal arts college said it on the regular. But I now work with a zill other Brits and none of them ever do. (Also, we mocked Brown students mercilessly, though maybe we were just jealous of their renowned semiotics program. The only Brown kids I ever met were dumb as paint, though.)

LondonLee (#922)

@apb I do! Not as often as 'Bollocks' and 'Fuckin' 'ell' mind.

commentername (#13,717)

Loved this. The not using words like normal "because they're so restrictive" killed me. Why in god's name do I know so many S/P/Mashas.

Sooo I'll be reading your books now. I'm a semi-adult (the twenties are the new teens, right? No? God, my life is going nowhere fast) who still occasionally reads YA because they're tangentially relevant to my field of work (?)

sarahpm (#13,702)

@commentername awe gee thanks. yeah they're pretty funny

kernelwoods (#13,719)

Has any English person ever used the word crikey in real life? *

Matthew Lawrence (#4,252)

My guess is that she left because she got sick of people constantly snapping when they agreed with something.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@Matthew Lawrence I'm taking a risk at humiliating myself but is that true or a joke. either way it's good

Hahaha!! As a Brown grad student alum, this is outrageously awesome and side-splittingly accurate!

opinions galore (#13,766)

Bloody brilliant.

This sentence "But you know how everyday life works by a process of poaching on the territory of others, using the rules and products that already exist in culture in a way that is influenced, but never wholly determined, by those rules and products?”

Was ripped from this wikipedia page

sarahpm (#13,702)

@peter the destroyer@twitter hi this is the writer. fully intentional.but what a good little detective ur! :)

@sarahpm haha there's a joke in here somewhere about poaching others territory. Loved this though.. should have said that above.

erikonymous (#3,231)

This is funny and great and actually made me feel sorry for Watson even if none of it actually happened. Anyway. Good work.

omggetitright (#13,838)

wow this is chock full of inaccuracies and stupid stereotypes, not funny at all. you're an idiot hipster douchebag who reads yahoo! celebrity blogs and then writes emma watson fan fic about them. sick.

Yeah, totally sick, right???? It's a good thing we cut out the Snape slashfic dream sequence.

brad (#1,678)

@Choire Sicha you should be arrested. for sickness.

Great social satire! But now I'm curious, Sarah: where did you go to school and what did you major in?

sarahpm (#13,702)

@Peter Sterne@twitter i went to amherst and i was an english major. where did you go to school? what did you major in?

PCnorthumberland (#14,026)

If you think a British child, born in Paris of two smart lawyers who then moved and grew up in Oxford is going to be intimidated by poseurs at a US university – however good – dream on. Therefore the whole joke fails – its not funny

sanya@twitter (#14,044)

Possibly the most brilliant thing I've ever read.

sevanetta (#14,222)

@sanya@twitter Agreed.

Post a Comment