Or, What Happened to Hermione?
I love the Harry Potter series, both the books and the movies. I don’t quibble with those who criticize J.K. Rowling’s writing style, or the unevenness of the movies. I enjoy them for what they are: magical.
There is something I don’t enjoy about them, however, and that’s the sissifying of Hermione through the two “Deathly Hallows” movies.
By “sissifying,” I mean the undermining of Hermione’s strong-willed, brave, intelligent character. Her strength is so evident in the first Deathly Hallows movie. The movie opens with her casting a charm on her parents so that they will forget her. She does it to protect her parents from the Death Eaters, but in doing so, she makes herself an orphan. Much is made in the series about Harry’s loss of his family, but Hermione’s loss is silent – reflected only on Emma Watson’s wonderfully expressive face when she has to cast the same spell later on a Death Eater. Hermione’s just that strong.
She’s also brave in the first Deathly Hallows movie. Not fearless, but brave. She’s frequently scared, but she doesn’t back down. Not from the Death Eaters, not from the Horcruxes, not even from Harry himself. In some ways, I think that’s more admirable than Harry’s courage, which has a thoughtless, reckless quality. Hermione is smart enough to know what is stacked against the trio, and it scares her, but she still faces it.
Hermione has always been the “smart” one of the trio. She’s a great reader and characterized as something of a “know-it-all” earlier in the series, but by the first Deathly Hallows movie, she’s come into her own. What she knows saves the trio over and over. She plans ahead and brings the implements that allow the trio to set off in search of the Horcruxes. She figures out the reasons behind Dumbledore’s strange bequests which lead her and Harry on in their quest, even after Ron abandons them.
But after Ron rejoins the trio, Hermione increasingly becomes an adjunct. She has a bright moment where she figures out a way for them to escape from Gringotts, but after that, she faces nothing on her own. She solves nothing. She’s not even particularly instrumental in the Battle for Hogwarts. Her big moment in the latter half of the second movie is sharing a passionate kiss with Ron. What happened to Hermione the strong, brave and intelligent?
Without going off on too much of a feminist rant, I’d argue that Hermione’s relegation to irrelevancy is directly related to the culmination of her and Ron’s romance. Ron becomes a heroic character after he rejoins Harry and Hermione. He faces his fears when he destroys the locket Horcrux. He’s the one who figures out how to destroy the cup Horcrux after the trio loses the Sword of Griffindor (Hermione does the deed but in a particularly strange moment of characterization, only after Ron coaxes her to do it – WTF? – she’s confronted and attacked Horcruxes before). During the final battle, Ron fires curses at Nagini while Hermione runs and cowers. Everything Hermione does in the second Deathly Hallows movie showcases Ron’s heroism. While I have no quibble with the heroicizing of Ron’s character, it is incredibly disappointing that it comes at the cost of Hermione’s.
I haven’t read the books recently enough to remember if this characterization of Hermione in the movie is consistent with the book, but either way, why would anyone feel that a warrior-witch has to be reduced so the warrior-wizard can rise? Hermione’s heroism never threatens or reduces Harry’s. Why would it threaten or reduce Ron’s? Is it only because they’re romantically involved? Why can’t they have a relationship of equals? Both strong, both brave, both intelligent?
I love the Harry Potter series, don’t get me wrong, but the Deathly Hallows movies, particularly the second one, always left a bad taste in my mouth and after recently rewatching the whole series during Sky’s “Harry Potter” marathon, I think I’ve finally identified why. It’s because Hermione gets so short-changed, and because Ron and Hermione’s romance reduces and marginalizes my (second) favorite witch.
Something to keep in mind as I turn back to Blood Yellow.