Hermione and Ron: What Went Wrong?

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^ This, by Emily Sowers, who will hopefully make a thousand more soon, is a good video essay.

I could just leave it there, but watching it got me thinking about my simultaneously most hated and most beloved topic of discussion: Ron and Hermione, and their adaptation hell.

The video starts with Hermione and then can’t quite help but comment on Ron. In fact, I think because of the ways Ron and Hermione are intertwined in the story, it’s almost impossible to talk about the changes the movies made to one of them without discussing the changes made to the other.

I’ve often felt a little weird about complaining that the movies made Ron useless and bumbling, and then adding, “And Hermione isn’t useless enough! Where are her flaws?” I think that’s because at first glance, removing Hermione’s flaws and taking away any sign of weakness makes her a stronger female character, and if I want her to cry more and mess up and be bossy and be the butt of a joke occasionally, that’s me wanting a strong woman torn down.

But I’m done worrying about that, because no. I wanted Hermione to be more like she was in the book because she was real, and her flaws were uniquely feminine, and removing them is – look, I’m not going to say it’s misogynistic, but it does suggest that unfortunate thing where we’re all really turned off by what are generally considered to be feminine traits. Also, complex and flawed female characters are so important and WHY RUIN HERMIONE LIKE THIS. She was perfect the way she was, with her damn flaws intact.

Six years ago (nothing changes, alas) I wrote this:

The real root of the problem is that they failed at both characters separately, so their interactions inevitably didn’t work properly. With Hermione, the hair is just the beginning, but it represents what they did to her. She was supposed to be flawed, but they stuck her on that horrific pedestal and turned her into the world’s most perfect, most bland, most heroineish heroine. I suspect that deep down, the filmmakers are supporters of Grangerverse. If you’ve been reading this in sheer horror that I put so much thought into such things, I can assure you that it only gets worse from this point on. There are some crazy people who think that Hermione is God himself in human, fictional form. She is so brilliant, so perfect, that she is actually, without JKR’s knowledge, the main character. As in, when JKR named all of the books after HP and made him the protagonist she simply wasn’t thinking straight. These people are also very often people who despise Ron, which reinforces my suspicions about the filmmakers.

Grangerverse isn’t relevant anymore, but I do occasionally see the odd pro-Hermione comment that makes me feel sad. Not because I think Hermione shouldn’t be celebrated – she should. Every day we should be throwing Hermione Parties. I get sad because I can’t just take for granted that the pro-Hermione comment is informed by the real Hermione, flaws and all. Also, this typical pro-Hermione comment is usually at the expense of Ron and that’s how I can tell that, yeah, this person either didn’t read the books or did, but only once or twice, and now only remembers the movie version.

Which is a shame.

Because movie-version Hermione is a one-dimensional character: defanged, prettified, and smooth where she should be all rough edges.

I’m friends with a Hermione-type in real life, and let me tell you, sometimes conversations get difficult. Hermione is demanding of her friends. She doesn’t let things go. She doesn’t always listen. She doesn’t always spare her friends’ feelings. She’s stubborn and confrontational. These are all traits that make her amazing, but they also have their pitfalls, just as Ron’s humour and surprising displays of sensitivity are the flip sides of occasional cruelty and insecurity. In my real life friendship where I guess I’m the Harry to my friend’s Hermione, sometimes I feel like there’s a huge spotlight being shone on all of my shortcomings and my friend can’t or won’t notice that it’s making me a bit uncomfortable. She’s an amazing person and I love her, and she doesn’t mean to make me feel bad – no, she really is just trying to make me better and often that’s great and invaluable to have that, but, look. I change the subject a lot. Because. Nobody (except Hermione-types) can be that pure.

Examples of Hermione being an exhausting friend:

  • Those freaking homework diaries she gives Ron and Harry for Christmas. I can only imagine. I would rip my hair out.
  • Being infuriatingly nosy about what her friends’ marks are, all while loudly complaining about her own (very good, but apparently not good enough) marks. It’s impossible to commiserate with Hermione; she’s top in the class and yet she’s still too insecure about marks by half.
  • Remember when Harry uses sectumsempra on Malfoy, feels rotten, and she lectures him about it nonstop? It’s like, Hermione, he knows, shut up.

And Harry and Ron love her anyway.

She’s also not always Ms. Extremely Bloody Capable – she mostly is, of course, but sometimes she can’t quite do a thing. The video essay pointed out a lot of key Hermione fumbles but whatever, a short list:

  • She can’t fight Boggarts for shit, at least in third year
  • The freak-out with the Devil’s Snare in book one is a highlight for sure
  • She cannot do social justice work well. She is very bad at it. Just ask any Hogwarts House-Elf (this is not to say she was wrong, because of course she was right. But SPEW is, um, not the way to do anything, ever)
  • She’s often a mess during or after combat, especially in the Ron-gets-splinched part.

And Harry and Ron love her anyway.

Hermione is sometimes, surprisingly, really insensitive. She and Ron seem to flip-flop on this – where usually she’s the one who picks up on others’ feelings Ron is the one being a little flippant (or a complete jerk), but where she’s insisting on being confrontational Ron is noticing that it would be better if she left it alone. Some key Hermione being insensitive moments:

  • Well, the sectumsempra part works here too
  • Remember when her cat was non-stop after Scabbers? It turned out that Crookshanks was right to persecute him but nobody knew that at first. She handled that whole thing really badly, which is to say, she didn’t handle it.
  • A couple of times she gets people to do things for her by being overbearing and insufferable. A fun time was when she blackmailed Fred and George into not testing their skiving snack boxes on first years, and a less fun one was when she cornered Neville into signing up for SPEW.

And Harry and Ron love her anyway.

She is occasionally, delightfully, ridiculous:

  • Her huge crush on Lockhart is a fine example. She slept with his get well card under her pillow. Oh, Hermione.
  • When she failed her DADA exam because her Boggart turned into Professor McGonagall telling her she’d failed everything and she went to pieces.
  • She asked McLaggen to the Slug Club Christmas Party to spite Ron and regretted it almost instantly and then spent the evening hiding behind columns.
  • She blackmailed Rita Skeeter. Both ridiculous and amazing.

And Harry and Ron love her anyway.

Hermione cries all the time. All. The. Time.

And they love her anyway.

See, that’s the thing. If you take a female character from a book who cries a lot and sometimes doesn’t really act like the brightest witch of her age and you adapt her into a perfect, intelligent action girl and stick her on a pedestal because you think it’s more realistic, or entertaining, or god forbid more feminist that way, then, no. Please don’t. It’s not more feminist. Feminism is not about wanting women to be on pedestals and if you think it is you have been led well astray.

And finally, allow me to comment on the Ron thing, because I will probably never stop commenting on the Ron thing. In fact, if “The Harry Potter movies ruined Ron and I will NEVER rest in peace because of it” isn’t engraved on my tombstone then someone’s getting haunted, I swear it.

I no longer care if you wanted Hermione and Harry to end up married. That’s fine. They’re compatible. I mean, he yells a lot and she cries a lot and they aren’t attracted to each other in the slightest but fine. Have it your way – it’s eons better than wanting either of them to have ended up with Draco so I’ll take it.

But I am sick of the anti-Ron thing. Hermione isn’t too good for Ron just because she’s smarter than him. She isn’t too good for Ron just because he has insecurities and makes mistakes sometimes. She isn’t too good for Ron just because he sometimes says mean things. He’s flawed; she likes him anyway. He works on his flaws and occasionally even learns something.

If you’d like to talk about how writing a friendship-to-romance where the friendship is occasionally volatile as a way to hint that they’d be a lot happier if they’d just kiss already is problematic or at the very least not your favourite thing, I’m here for that. I’ll have that discussion. Sometimes Ron and Hermione’s fighting annoys me too. What I like is that they always get over it, even if it’s a big fight, because of course they do. They’re friends and also apparently in love. But I see that point and I’m good with it.

But can we also discuss how I think the real appeal of the Ron/Hermione romantic relationship is the appeal of having someone you know well, who knows you well, who has seen you at your best and your worst, who often expresses annoyance at you and at whom you often express annoyance, who you can argue with without the world ending, who doesn’t let you get away with indulging your worst instincts without calling you out for it, turn out to be romantically interested in you even though you’re both sometimes annoying? I think this works from both sides of their relationship. They know each other’s worst habits and are friends in spite of them, and if they’re also capable of being lovers in spite of them, well, isn’t that a lot more realistic a depiction of a healthy relationship than it ever gets credit for being?

I don’t really know. I’m more open to Ron/Hermione criticism than I have been in the past, but if you come at me with “She’s perfect and he’s always eating,” I’m going to tell you to crack open the damn books. Which is what Hermione would say. Seriously, if you hate Ron so much stop emulating him. He’s the one who would just leave it at the movie version.

**Also we went to see It again after I’d drafted this post and now I think Bev got almost the same treatment as Hermione did. I’ll have to write extensively about that at some other time.**


In other nostalgia news, I narrated an old LotR parody fic we wrote and it was definitely not a waste of time… *shifty eyes*

Click Haldir to listen.

haldir

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The Life of Pi Movie Misinterprets Itself

So Life of Pi. I’m talking about the very end of both the movie and the book today so it is fully a spoiler fest on here.

Hi there, you. Whoever you are. I’d read Life of Pi, if I were you and the me/you person I/you am/are haven’t read it already. The movie will do in a pinch but the book is seriously good.

There’s a scene near the end of Life of Pi in which the movie very helpfully tells you what the meaning is behind the whole thing. I get it, sort of. We live in such times as apparently nobody wants to have to think ever. It’s probably also because the selling point of this book and movie has always been, “This is a story that will make you believe in God.” I think that’s the bigger problem in need of a “explain the meaning during the runtime” solution right there. That’s a pretty bold statement, and in the book, there’s no outright “aha” moment. Never fear, though, it’s in the movie.

Also, it gets the whole thing 100% wrong.

We return, near the end of the movie, to grown-up Pi lamenting to his narrator friend that he never got to say goodbye to Richard Parker (that would be the tiger). By and by narrator friend says, “… that was an amazing story, but, a little hard to believe?” So grown-up Pi tells another story. This time, we don’t flashback to teenage Pi. We just watch grown-up Pi tell the story in the present day.

In this one, there’s Pi, an evil cannibal chef, a Buddhist sailor, and Pi’s mom. The chef amputates the sailor’s leg to be “helpful” but actually so that they can eat some meat (the chef is a big advocate of meat-eating), the sailor dies, Pi’s mom flips out at/physically attacks the chef for being evil, and the chef kills Pi’s mom, right in front of him. Not long afterwards, Pi kills the chef, who doesn’t resist his own murder. Pi survives on the lifeboat alone and gets to Mexico.

Gross.

So then grown-up Pi asks narrator friend, “Which story did you prefer?” And narrator friend says, “The one with the animals.” And grown-up Pi says, “And so it is with God.”

Sigh.

No, movie. No.

Grown-up Pi’s statement is pretty vague, so it’s not exactly entirely wrong, but the easy interpretation of said statement is, “It’s nicer and funner and more interesting and more comforting and less horrific to think that there’s a God/the sacred texts have some/lots of truth to them, so that’s why we believe that stuff.” And that’s pretty nihilistic, if you ask me. Also the book did it much differently and it’s better.

In the book, the story proper completely ends with Pi lamenting never saying goodbye to Richard Parker. He was devastated. RP meant a lot to him and he would like to have believed that he meant something to RP in turn, but RP never looked back at him. That’s sad. The end.

On the next page, we’re informed that the narrator found a transcript of a conversation between Pi and two guys from the insurance company for the ship. They wanted him to tell them the whole story to try to understand why the ship sank and also lifeboats, I guess.

The transcript starts right after Pi has told them the animal story. They, like movie narrator friend, don’t believe it. They want to be nice (somehow that gets conveyed even though there’s seemingly no artistry to this part; it’s a straight transcript), but they prod him to tell them the real story. “There’s no way you survived on that lifeboat with a tiger. And the flesh-eating island full of meerkats? Come on.”

So eventually he tells them the other story. It’s the same as the one in the movie. At the end of it, there’s silence. Then I think teenage transcript Pi asks them which one they prefer (I can’t find my copy of the book to check), and they of course say they like the animal one. This time, his “Which story do you prefer” isn’t a question of friendly interest, many years after his horrific experience. This time, it seems more pointed, as though he’s saying, “See? I told you the better story but you weren’t satisfied with it, well now look how that turned out for you!”

After the transcript ends, there is a news article about Pi that has used the insurance men as sources. The story of how Pi survived the shipwreck those men have told the journalists is the one with the animals. And that is the end of the book.

We end the book with two very strong notions of what just happened: The story with the humans and no animals is what actually happened, and that the story with the animals is better. But give it some thought, and there’s one conclusion that brings everything together.

The stories are the same.

The same things happen in both stories. The same players are there. Richard Parker is Pi. The chef is the hyena – and in the book, the french man does show up as an actual human being as well, so that even that disgusting man is portrayed as fully human and that is a different discussion – the Buddhist sailor is the zebra, and Orange Juice is Pi’s mom. He even says, during the animal story’s telling, that he’d always thought of Orange Juice as a maternal figure. She has lost her baby in the shipwreck, just as Pi’s mom had lost her other son.

There are key differences, obviously. Maternal though she may be, there’s a big difference between watching a hyena kill an orangutan and watching a horrible person kill your mother. There’s a difference also between a boy murdering his mother’s murderer and a tiger killing a hyena out of primal kill-need.

But… not that much of a difference. At least, I would argue that.

I think the fact that I’m inclined to view animals as being more or less identical to humans in most of the ways that matter means that I view both versions of this story as horrific. In the human version, as awful as all of the killing is, at least it makes sense. There are reasons and motivations for it all that I can relate to. The hyena is unnecessarily cruel with the zebra (and although Martel tries to claim that a hyena would indeed act like that in this situation, I’m calling bullshit), and on meerkat island it’s pointed out that RP kills way more meerkats than he can eat. He just kills them to kill them. It’s a thing about cats I will never understand.

Pi’s mother being murdered is awful. But because Orange Juice is an innocent, her death is, I think, just as awful, but in a different way. Orange Juice didn’t need to object to the hyena’s treatment of the zebra. She didn’t need to put herself in danger, but her compassion and righteous fury compelled her to do so and it’s just really sad that she couldn’t save herself. It’s a different kind of sad and I’ll be forever at pains to explain that being just as sad about bad things to happen to animals as I am about bad things that happen to humans is not a moral failing on my part (or, like, everyone else who feels that way). We can be equally sad about both things in different ways or similar ways depending on the situation, so deal with it. Also this is just fiction but OMG I hate fictional depiction of animal cruelty. I can’t separate it from the real things that happen everyday.

Here.

It’s super sad at first but then there’s a bunch of baby orangs in a wheelbarrow so. You know.

Sorry, fellow humans. It seems that the greatest ape is the orangutan.

Anyway. There are clear differences in how the personal trauma will affect Pi depending on whether it’s his mother and humans or his zoo animals, but other than that, it’s the same story.

Life of Pi doesn’t endeavour to make you believe in God. It’s just showing you how sacred texts work.

A religious story may bend the truth or completely fabricate it. We have no way of knowing. Jesus of Nazareth, who was probably one of the most influential people to walk the planet ever, only has one piece of historical evidence to call his own. Something about how James is his brother and they called him “Christ.” That’s it. There’re the gospels but those weren’t written down until hundreds of years post crucifixion. At least some of that stuff isn’t true. Maybe a lot of it isn’t. What Life of Pi is suggesting is that it doesn’t matter what specifically is factually true, because the point of the story is to make meaning which is a different kind of truth.

The animals on the lifeboat, RP moreso than the others, are there to give Pi’s experience meaning. Without them, it’s just another story about people doing awful things in awful circumstances. And with RP especially, Pi’s struggle for survival isn’t just a boy being resourceful and almost starving or dying of thirst and eventually making it. His relationship with RP makes his survival story something more. It’s about having compassion for that part of yourself that you are ashamed of, the more animalistic, enraged, violent side of you. Pi has to keep RP fed and watered for his own sanity, and RP needs Pi to care for him because he’s just a tiger on a lifeboat. He can’t do that himself. They befriend each other, but Pi can never communicate with RP the way he would like to. And RP, excepting those moments when he really is dying, is always a gigantic threat to Pi, if he lets his guard down.

Having the tiger there makes it a really entertaining, easy to understand story about the human condition and human nature and internal darkness and lizard brains and stuff. Everything that happens with RP is truthful, if the human version of the story is the “real” one, even though there is no tiger. Because the tiger just represents an element of Pi that shows up when he needs it to and disappears once he’s back in civilization.

About the God stuff, then. I like to think you can interpret this in both ways. In Life of Pi terms, believing in God is the same as not believing in God, it’s just that believing in God adds metaphorical meaning to the question of why we’re even here. In God’s absence, we should still probably be trying to help each other out but everything is messy and uncertain. In God’s presence that idea of radical love/kindness is made a little clearer (only for people who don’t use their faith to be cowards and bigots, of course, but still), and a little more artfully. On the other hand, because Richard Parker is real whether or not he’s actually a tiger, the book does seem to edge further towards the “believing in God” side of the spectrum, which is fine. Pi would approve; he’s a God fan.

While the ending of the movie annoys me, I do really like this one scene:

Because:

  • Pi looks at RP, who is looking at the stars
  • RP looks at the water, and his reflection
  • Pi looks at RP looking at his reflection
  • Pi looks at his own reflection
  • RP reflecting while looking at his reflection
  • Images of Pi’s and RP’s past and the shipwreck
  • Pi looking at Pi’s reflection
  • RP looking at Pi looking his reflection

AHHH! It’s so cool. And you can’t do that in a book.

Also, the flesh-eating island that looks like a tomb? That was brilliant.

The fact that they used a real tiger for some scenes and at one point he almost drowned? Not brilliant.

Can you spot all the confirmed fan theories in Game of Thrones: Home?

We’ve said it twice and we’ll say it again: We’re excited about EVERYTHING this season except the Greyjoys. They are the absolute worst. (Other than the Boltons, but that should be implied at all times)
Here’s some excellent ASOIAF reading material to get all caught up on your fan theories!

mynerd obsessions

I know you think I’m going to focus on the main confirmed theory, but of course I’m going to save that for last.

Lyanna

OK so maybe this wasn’t a fan theory, but we don’t know a whole lot about Lyanna that hasn’t be told to us. In the first book we hear stories from Robert that make her sound like a sweet virgin that was attacked by a spoiled prince. Ned’s memories are tinted by grief and shrouded by mystery.

So we finally get to see Lyanna and witness for ourselves that she’s not some simpering lady that would get taken advantage of. Instead she’s a fierce woman like Arya and doesn’t seem like someone that would need much help.

Maybe then we’ll get R+L=J confirmed next week. Lyanna seems more like someone that would let the world burn around her to be with the one she loves. I…

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