Emma Watson on Caribbean holiday helps us to find love
It is cold and wet in London and Dublin, its been snowing in New York. Berlin is freezing. People are huddled up alone or maybe with a partner of many years. And here is Emma, in an unnamed Caribbean resort, with her brand new boyfriend Matt Janney.
One looks at her legs and chest and imagines what it might be like with her and the new rugby star lover in the hotel room. This doesn't feel respectable at all.
Being a voyeur is a touch pathetic. But our interest in these images, offered for a steep price by a photo agency specialising in 'bikini' shots (www.splashnews.com), doesn't have to be one-dimensional, even if this is usually how it is framed by our culture.
It's useful to try to get clear about what's exciting here. There are the obvious things: her flawless skin and flat stomach, his muscular chest, his accomplishments on the rugby field, her fame and wealth.
But perhaps what's really pressing our buttons is something more touching - and more accessible: an idea of tenderness. These are distilled images of appreciation. There was a time when we too couldn't stop looking, touching and being amazed at one another's presence. There was a time when we too displayed extreme care and attention and asked probing questions and listened hard to the answers. What has gone stale is put into relief by what is so visibly fresh.
Think of him soothing certain of her anxieties about always being in the public eye and restraining her tendencies to self-criticism around a recent film. In the mid afternoon, they talk about her childhood, before she was famous. She asks him what it felt like when his father died when he was only five and then, tragically, his mother when he was sixteen. She feels a curious impulse to protect this gigantic muscular man as though he were still a boy. He listens to the strange frustrations of her life; he is sweet when she sings Katy Perry in the shower and then when she tries to do her own ironing and can't get the board up in their suite (she knows how spoilt her incompetence sounds - but he doesn't mock her). They welcome and join in with one another's foibles.
Through their care and humour, Emma and Matt serve to remind us of how often we get sternly irritated by aspects of our partner's nature: for example, what we take to be their naivety about politics or excessive fragility in relation to overbearing parents. Thanks to them, we get a glimpse of how much we might like to rewrite our own scripts slightly - in order to become better versions of ourselves.
What is good about these images is, therefore, more accessible to us than we might think: it has little to do with going out with a film star or being twenty three. It has to do with incorporating certain lessons about tenderness and appreciation.
By taking Matt on holiday and unwittingly asking the press along, Emma has done us a favour. She has helped to remind us of some of what we knew at the start and have unfairly forgotten since.