I never went backpacking in Europe.   It was the preferred fantasy in my high school class – go to Europe where there’s “culture” - but my parents had me over a barrel with the twin realities of I had already been to Europe (with them, as if that counts), and they would yank my university tuition if I defied them.  I know, I hear myself.   “Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t send me to Europe.”  If that’s your worst problem – nice life.

So I look at Selena Gomez in Venice, where Spring Breakers is at the festival, and I imagine she’s on her version of a backpacking trip.  First of all, she looks spectacular – I never thought gold-on-black appliqué could look youthful -  and not just because she’s out from under Bieber’s armpit for a change.  Don’t you get the impression, from the way she and the others are hanging all over each other, that she might be legitimately having the time of her life?   She’s young, she’s away, she doesn’t have to stay on Disney message – it must be incredibly freeing.  I wonder if she can walk around unnoticed over there?  Maybe, right?

Lainey has pointed out that there’s a vested interest in keeping Selena young and cherubic as long as possible.  As a sweet-faced child, she’s a moneymaking product.   This movie, of course, is about getting rid of that image – as far as I can tell, she spends most of the picture in a mismatched bikini.  But if you’re going to make a dramatic departure from your image, shouldn’t you have a blast doing it?   She looks like she’s right where she’s supposed to be – relieved not to be chafing at the boundaries of a role that really doesn’t fit anymore.  Unlike her predecessors, she’s not being forced to do Herbie: Fully Loaded.   A little frolicking overseas is entirely age appropriate.

It’s a tough thing,  “transitioning to grown-up star”,  and timing is everything.   Make the transition before your fans  (who, in theory, are growing up with you)  are ‘”ready” to see you another way and you risk offending and losing them; wait too long and you wind up doing sexy storylines on Gossip Girl and hoping they pass for “edgy”.   I can’t fault Gomez at all for making this move now – she’s got momentum on her side and she’s working against that baby face she has.

The contrast, of course, is Emma Watson.  Two years older, she’s had a little longer to distance herself from her childhood role, but hasn’t changed drastically in tone – kind of ever.  Her image is still the same:  clean, composed, sophisticated, as evidenced by these pics outside Letterman (although I wish her loose hair wasn’t flat-ironed).  In fact, on a recent NYT Style magazine cover that’s still lying by my bed, I have real trouble remembering she’s only 22.   Emma is always stylish, always put-together, and I’ve never seen her navel.  It would be very much off-brand, and that brand seems to be working for her – she is, above all, respected – which is hard to come by when you’re 22.

Similar goals, achieved in two very different styles.  The only question is - who’s having more fun?