the magazine of the columbia daily spectator
May 1 2013
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March 29 2013
Sex & Low Beach
As reported by every news source from Reuters to your 10-year-old cousin’s Tumblr this past month: OMG, Daniel Radcliffe was drunk on set while filming the Harry Potter series! Or, as he clarifies, he was often hungover from excessive nights—as evidenced by “many scenes where I’m just gone. Dead behind the eyes.”
So of course, like any responsible adult, the first thing I did upon hearing the news was go back and watch all of the movies to see if I could differentiate drunk Radcliffe dead eyes from “I was an especially young child actor and thus may or may not be actually talented, plus have now been playing the same fucking character for 13 years—J.K. Rowling, why did you have to write so many fucking books” dead eyes. Thankfully, at age 11, he looks relatively bright and sober—but by the fifth film, there are plenty of scenes where it’s not all too difficult to imagine him mainlining aspirin and asking the crew to keep it down between takes.
Upon seeing this for myself, I was overcome with some sincere, disillusioned indignation. As a child of the early ’90s, I grew up alongside Harry Potter. When he got his Hogwarts acceptance letter, I waited by my mailbox for weeks, watching the horizon for savvy-looking owls. When he spent hundreds of pages angsting his Cho Chang-filled heart out, I was LiveJournaling right there with him. To see my childhood touchstone treated so callously—and, honestly, to be reminded once again that the makers of fictions are separate from those they represent—is necessarily a little rough.
Still, now in my jaded 20s and a film major to boot, I really do understand what would drive the boy to drink. Film sets are nothing if not pressure cookers for everyone involved—especially, I would imagine, if you came of age while working on one. And let’s be real: If I had to act opposite Emma Watson’s spastic eyebrows all day, I would be knocking back butterbeer by the flagonful.
In fact, the more iterations of this headline I read—Harry Potter, drunk on set! Impropriety! Petticoats rustled!—the more it started to get to me. Especially this quote, from his original interview with Heat magazine: “I loved the fact I suddenly could talk to people and feel so entertaining and so interesting. But after a while, you’re living under such a cloud of shame about what you’ve done and the dread of who you might see, what you might have said to them...”
At these words, I cringed immediately in recognition—then blushed when I realized that, indeed, I’m still growing up alongside Harry, still faced with the same age-appropriate social gaffes, that all-too-familiar dread.
Drinking problems in Hollywood are essentially commonplace these days—honestly, I assume that a good 85 percent of the faces I see plastered over newsstands are kept taut and smiling by something chemical (something, that is, other than Botox). I didn’t bat an eyelash when Radcliffe copped to the fact that his chronic dead eyes were a product of his “addictive personality.” What isn’t so common, though, is the kind of self-awareness it takes to get sober at age 22.
It seems there’s still plenty to be learned from the bespectacled boy wizard, even after the series’s end: that being young doesn’t have to mean being reckless, that there can be an unfortunately thin line between wacky fun and a legitimate problem. And, of course, that if a giant man on a motorcycle brings you a smooshed birthday cake and tells you you’re a wizard, he deserves your immediate and implicit trust, every damn time.
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