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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30 Days of Avatar: Boy Hero VS Girl Hero

Week 8: Aang VS Korra

Day 22: Boy Hero VS Girl Hero
Day 23: Consequences
Day 24: Limitations

Day 22 is for reluctance, confidence, gender identities, and hero moments.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

Airbender

“Why didn’t you tell us you’re the Avatar?”

“Because… I never wanted to be.”

aang never wanted to be avatar

Korra

“What makes you so sure your daughter is the one?”

“I’m the Avatar, you gotta deal with it!”

Presented without comment.

OK, not really.

When it comes right down to it, Aang and Korra’s genders have nothing to do with their respective approaches to being the Avatar, and, even before that, dealing with finding out and accepting that they are the Avatar. HOWEVER, we thought it would be interesting to look at how Aang and Korra deal with being the Avatar in their different ways through the lens of their genders to make just a little teeny tiny point about representation.

In Book 1, Aang has two entire episodes that explore, either briefly or at length, that learning that he is the Avatar at such a young age really messed him up. Here are some various images of him moping:

aang mopingaang ashamedaang ashamed 2

This is not to say that he should just get over himself, because, of course not. He wasn’t just told too early for no reason. The monks decided to tell him four years before he turned 16 because Fire Lord Sozin was becoming an increasing threat, and they wanted to speed up the process of turning him into a fully realized Avatar so that they could take care of it.

So, you’re 12 years old, you’re told that the balance of the world is in serious peril, and you need to grow up fast and stop doing the things you enjoy and being around the people you love because it’s on you to deal with it. Of course he mopes.

Also, he runs away, and almost dies, and freezes himself for 100 years. While he’s frozen, his entire nation gets destroyed. So. Mope away, baby Aang. 😦

But there’s also the fact that Aang is reluctant to learn fire bending. Well. Not at first.

kataraburn1kataraburn3kataraburn4

After he accidentally burns Katara because he’s not being a respectful, patient student, he vows never to fire bend again. Guru Pathik helps him overcome this, as does Zuko, who understands that fire is dangerous and then some, but this whole thing is a pretty big deal.

And when Aang isn’t doing so well with earth bending, he just gets kind of sad and tries to avoid Toph.

Come to think of it, even when he’s trying to master water bending he’s more interested in snowman bending and playing with Momo.

And then there’s Korra.

Korra is a bending prodigy and never runs from a challenge. She struggles big time with air bending, but rather than mope about it like Aang would, she burns a bunch of stuff and yells in Tenzin’s face that she is bad at air bending because, 1. He’s a bad teacher, and 2. She doesn’t even need it anyway.

That goes away, of course, but she’s always determined to perfect her bending. She seeks out a metal bending tutor in Su Beifong, and is eager to learn how to use bending to purify angry spirits from Unalaq.

Later on she does reject the Avatar label, but that’s a conversation for another day.

How Korra is as a student and how Aang is seems pretty significantly different. She’s eager and determined, and easily, easily frustrated. Aang is fairly eager, but he’s more patient and at least slightly less determined than Korra is. A lot of that may be the age difference… but let’s look at how they both found out they’re the Avatar to begin with.

Aang is 12 when the monks tell him, Korra looks like a toddler and can already bend three elements. Korra was probably the first person in the world to realize that she is the Avatar and is clearly delighted by the prospect. Again, Aang has lots of reasons to not be so happy about it, and Korra definitely doesn’t at that young age. If Korra was growing up already on fantastic stories of Aang’s saving of the world, then why wouldn’t she be thrilled to discover that it’s her turn now?

Women getting to take on hero roles that were once mostly taken on by male characters is a thing now. It’s pretty contentious still for reasons that boggle the mind. There is some cynicism about it as well, like, the radical feminists are cautious about embracing female characters as role models and something to celebrate if they are just as violent and occasionally as fascist as your typical toxic masculine male action hero, also marxist critique would like to remind everyone that commercial art is commercial and rarely challenges the status quo in any meaningful way that will tear down capitalism or something, yadda yadda. Also, of course, it’s been mostly white women who get to do these hero things, and that needs to stop. Women of colour shouldn’t have to “wait their turn” or whatever it is that people are saying to try to justify why, if it isn’t a man, then it has to be a white woman. And we need plenty of characters representing men of colour as well. And that doesn’t even begin to discuss how there are genderqueer people who could use decent rep and trans women are still largely being played by cis men on screen which is absolutely ridiculous, and, really, men full stop could use more varied representation if we’re being honest. There’s a lot of good stuff that at least tries to detoxify masculinity if you look for it (we here humbly opine that Disney does it best) but we could always use some more.

But representation is seriously important. Last year, erm convinced Three to go and see girl Ghostbusters, and then this happened:

(the whole thing is good but it’s the Holtzman part especially, of course)

(just)

It’s hard to explain. A woman character doesn’t get to be cool like that unless she’s wearing something sexy and everything that’s happening has been choreographed specifically to enhance the sexiness. This was completely different.

Also this.

This is the scene making all the women cry in theatres. So.

We can talk about “commercial art” and “violence is bad,” but still, representation matters.

Korra’s declaration of Avatarness is really like a celebration of that. In the first series, we had a typical boy chosen one hero, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and only he could bring back the balance. We’re not knocking it, it was great. But in the second series, rather than have another beleaguered chosen one, we instead get this prodigy, thrilled to be the Avatar. Also, she’s a brown girl, so there’s that.

This is her, trying out her Avatarness for the first time against a street gang and clearly enjoying herself:

Korra has a lot to learn, and her eagerness is mainly a thing that helps her character growth end up being really rewarding and interesting. And this is what pushes Korra as a female hero beyond just “the Avatar but a girl now,” because she does actually have to learn how to Avatar responsibly and not just stomp around declaring that she’s the Avatar. But still, it’s fun to watch her have fun.

Also, notice how Aang isn’t overly involved with Korra’s Avatar training the way Roku was with him? Partly it’s because she’s not great at spirituality, but once she opens up that block, we think it’s because he took a quick peek at how things were going with her, made this face:

intimidated aang

and then said, “Eh. She’s got it covered.”

30 Days of Avatar: June (and Nyla) Party

Week 6: Dangerous Ladies Parties

Day 16: June (and Nyla) Party
Day 17: Ty Lee Party
Day 18: Mai Party

Day 16 is for the best bounty hunter (and giant bloodhound mole) the world has ever known.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

June first appears when Zuko commissions her to track Aang using Katara’s lost necklace. Because she’s terrifying and amazing, Iroh has a huge #womancrushwednesday on her.

And then someone made this video to Ke$ha’s “Dinosaur”, so…

I am so glad that this video exists

Iroh basically sums up our feelings. June is dangerous, always gets hers (her money, that is), and never takes a clear side even when she returns at the end of the series. It’s not often that women are allowed to be unredeemed badass questionably-conscienced characters (except in Avatar, that is).

Meanwhile, Appa and Nyla have an epic monster battle. Luckily, they work things out by the end of the series.

025

 

Erm Watches Paper Towns to the Chagrin of Probably No One

I’m going to watch Paper Towns while making occasional comments like I did for Pinocchio, but first, a long-winded (and probably reductive anyway) discussion about contentious things like manic pixie dream girls, female characters in general, and John Green.

I’ve never read a John Green novel. I’ve seen the movie version of The Fault in Our Stars, and I don’t want to talk about it (mostly because I don’t want to seem heartless because I didn’t like it I’m so sorry). I’ve also seen some of his YouTube videos and he seems lovely. And I’m glad he’s as successful as he is, and I hope he keeps writing novels that are successful as his current novels are. Because when people, especially young people, are excited about and enjoying reading, everyone wins. But.

So.

I’m under the impression, perhaps (probably?) unfairly, that… well… doesn’t he write a lot of MPDGs?

It’s unfair of me to make that claim having never read his books. And I’m not getting into my thoughts on TFiOS, especially because I’ve only seen the movie. And also MPDGs are a contentious issue anyway, with the coiner of the term abandoning it because he now feels it’s reductive and often used incorrectly because of misogyny. And I’m probably using it wrong here anyway. And the reality is, as annoying as I might find this character archetype when she’s a woman, isn’t Jack Dawson in Titanic sort of the same thing, only male?

OK fine, one thing about TFiOS the movie: Gus, I think, is also a manic pixie dream girl, but a guy. But there’s more to him than the effect he has on Hazel, and in Titanic Jack isn’t really just there for Rose, but rather for the entire tragedy of the historical event the movie is based on. So sure, I’m going to agree that the term is reductive, because if the story in question uses the archetype well, then it’ll probably be fine.

I still think it’s harder for stories to get it right with the female versions, though. Female characters are always harder to get right, and it’s probably because there’s still a decent chunk of the population who think women are somehow less capable, adult, interesting, worthwhile, and human than men, whether they’re aware of those feelings or not. And media tends to sort of agree, at times. I’ve watched many a movie/read many a book in which the female love interest exists only as something for the male lead to obtain/have/enjoy or whatever. There’s the Bechdel Test (a movie must have more than one named female character, and they have to have a conversation that isn’t about a man) and the Sexy Lamp Test (where if your female character can basically be replaced by a sexy lamp because she has no agency or relevance to the story, you’re bad at writing). The Bechdel Test is reductive if you use it against individual movies – it’s mostly about showing just how seldom those three things happen in any given story, which, you know, means something. And the Sexy Lamp Test isn’t about complaining about female characters being attractive – it’s about them being irrelevant to the movie apart from their attractiveness.

There isn’t a name, or I haven’t come across it yet, for when a romance subplot is mainly about making the male lead seem cool – or if it takes a detour to make the male lead seem cool, but recently I watched two minutes each of two Chris Pratt movies: Jurassic World, and Passengers. In both moments I happened to catch before scoffing and changing the channel, Chris Pratt does something that I guess is supposed to be impressive (without context it’s hard to say), and then his love interest does a bit of swooning. In Jurassic World there are kids involved. “Your boyfriend is awesome.” Yeah. I noped right out of there.

I should hasten to add: it’s fine for characters to swoon over their love interests. Probably they should, in fact. But there’s something about the “male lead shows off while female love interest swoons” thing that makes me nope. I think filmmakers just have to be careful about it, so that the indulgence of “I get to be cool while the girl I like watches” is palatable and not just painfully obvious. For example, I don’t mind it when it’s Kirsten Dunst in Spider Man, because everyone stares at Spider Man when he swoops off like that, but it’s just extra special when she does it because he likes her. And who knows, maybe the rest of those movies add context that makes those scenes palatable if I’d been watching them properly (hahahaha I know they don’t but whatever).

I don’t remember what J Law’s character’s swoon moment in Passengers did to bother me. Probably nothing. I just know how that movie’s story goes so her swooning at all for him was enough to gross me out.

My point is that female characters often don’t get to do a whole lot, so even when they’re very important to the plot, and to the emotions, and to the themes that the main character has to engage with, like in a MPDG-type story, I think it’s probably easy for filmmakers to just allow the characters to serve a purpose solely about the male lead and not treat them like dynamic, flawed, interesting people in their own right.

With that said, I’m going to watch Paper Towns. Because I saw a couple of minutes of it, thought it looked like garbage, and now I’d like to either confirm or deny that theory.

(Can I just ingratiate myself to you, whoever you may be, whether you’re a Paper Towns fan or not, whether you like the odd MPDG or swooning female love interest or not, right now: I like plenty of garbage. Like Spice World. I LOVE Spice World. So. It’s fine. Whatever happens, I’m still the person who loves Spice World knowing it’s terrible and I’m still the person who will passionately defend its existence because of its depictions of female friendships or something. Also I don’t really like Beauty and the Beast. What I’m essentially saying is, feel free to not listen to anything I ever say, ever.)

10:26 pm. I’m just home from seeing Lego Batman so this movie is going to pale in comparison, even if it’s good.

10:28: He fell in love instantly, and they became friends as kids. They find a dead guy.

10:30: “It’s a shame, don’t you think? All the strings inside him broke.” I know it’s Green’s thing, but come on. Kids don’t talk like that. No one does.

10:31: She sneaks out the window all the time. They drifted apart and he still thinks about her and wants a second chance. What was your first chance, man? Investigating a suicide at Sea World in the middle of the night as kids?

10:32: Her life is epic. Toured with a band, and a circus, among other things. Leaves clues in alphabet soup for her sister as to where she’s going next.

10:33: This “I want to have sex with your mom” bit is one of the most obnoxious ones I’ve seen. Which, you know, is saying a lot.

10:35: His friends have weird quirks too. Radar’s parents have too many Black Santas. Ben is plagued by rumours that his bloody urine caused by a kidney infection was actually caused by chronic masturbation. K.

10:37: Senior year Margo is still making obnoxious demands but it’s less cute now that she isn’t a kid. Has a stupid name for her “goddamn dog” who “despises” her.

10:38: I’m trying, I really am. I don’t want to hate her. I don’t know anything about her. But UGH.

10:39: All right she’s criticizing his plans that will make him happy in the future and thinks he should find something that makes him happy now. She’s not wrong. But. Why are they talking about this?

10:43: This would be more interesting if he weren’t whining about everything she does as she does it. Just go with it, Quentin or you should have stayed home.

10:44: They got shot at.

10:45: Oh. He progressed. He’s spray painting a saran-wrapped car.

10:47: In 6th grade at the dance this particular guy they’re getting revenge on told all the girls not to dance with Quentin and they went along with it and she’s really sorry. And now she’s talked him into removing the guy’s eyebrow.

10:49: She’s very invested in Quentin’s new ability to have fun for a girl who’s supposedly fixated on revenge against her cheating boyfriend and disloyal friends.

10:52: Title drop. She’s being deep about how shallow everything and everyone else is.

10:53: She regrets not being friends with him this whole time.

10:55: I still think she’s too invested in how he feels about things instead of focusing on her own stuff for either of them to be worthwhile characters. But maybe it’s just early.

10:57: Now he’s threatening to release the nude picture of the ex-boyfriend to avoid getting beaten up.

10:59: She disappeared.

11:00: Margo’s parents suck.

11:02: Oh nice, a gay joke.

11:11: K they’re going to find her and I’m reading my twitter feed.

11:15: Ooh, the title now has an alternative, mysterious meaning. Moby Dick reference ftw.

11:24: “No one ever looks at me and thinks that I’m smart or interesting or clever.” Lacey’s saying this, because the first word people use to describe her is “beautiful.” Had chlamydia at one point. I actually liked that little moment between her and Quentin. Can’t this movie be about her instead?

11:29: Oh good, Lacey’s here now.

11:40: The Gus cameo was worth looking up from the kindle for.

12:01: Aaaand here’s the deconstruction.

12:09: I’m glad it ended like that. It very much redeemed itself.

So yes, I was being unfair to John Green. Paper Towns seems like it’s an attempt to write the manic pixie dream girl as if she’s a real person, with actual flaws, and criticizes the male lead for “being in love with her” when he doesn’t even know her, and she doesn’t even know herself. Margo still helps Quentin get in touch with his own sense of happiness and living in the moment, though, because she sets him on the path of going back to his friends and enjoying prom with them. It was a nice little story, worth the watch.

I wish I’d read the book rather than just watching the movie, because I think it would have been a lot better as a book. But maybe now I’ll read the Alaska one, or the too many Karens one. Katherine, I mean. Abundance of Katherines.

The Last Four Books I’ve Read, In Order of How Creepy the Love Interests Are

I (three) was recently complaining on Twitter about how I keep finding terrible love interests in adult romance.

Teen lit never gave me this problem. Maybe YA wouldn’t either – I’ll get to that. But for now, all I want to know is, why do adult m/f stories always have such skeevy men in them?

Anyway, I wanted to chat a little bit about the reading I’ve been doing and where they all stand on the skeeviness scale.  Continue reading “The Last Four Books I’ve Read, In Order of How Creepy the Love Interests Are”