^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 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.