Lisa Schwarzbaum
August 05, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It is theoretically possible that Emma Stone is nothing like the characters she plays. It’s possible that, despite her casual genius for delivering the smart repartee of a modern young woman not afraid to say what she’s feeling, the vivacious Ms. Stone is just acting out the gumption of Eugenia ”Skeeter” Phelan in The Help. Skeeter, after all, is a singleton oddity among her Southern-belle friends, and one of the precious few white folks in her corner of Mississippi not afraid that the times are a-changin’.

And maybe it’s just a coincidence that Stone is so good as Hannah, the one self-possessed Single Lady who doesn’t fall for the Playboy moves of Ryan Gosling as a ladies’ man in Crazy, Stupid, Love. And maybe Stone’s triumph as Olive, a good girl masquerading as a bad girl in Easy A, can simply be attributed to the actress’ physical self — her energy, her approachable beauty, her playful sexiness, and her specialty: a skeptical smile that suggests at once ”Guys, let’s do this thing!” and ”Girls, do you believe this thing?” (As a result she’s catnip to both male and female audiences.)

Nah. I’d rather believe that Stone, a shooting star at 22, is as bulls— free and smart, as impatient with hypocrisy and sexism, and as fully her own woman as the under-the-radar female rebels she plays on screen. I hope she approaches her professional and personal life with equally genial self-possession and delicacy; that light touch is tremendously valuable. The Emma Stone Character represents a kind of young American female role (and role model) in precious short supply these days — one who likes herself and cherishes her options. That a generation of young women and men are learning from the real Stone’s bright example is more valuable still.

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