A Relationship of Equals

A Relationship of Equals

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.

That Creeping, Skin-Crawling Sensation

That Creeping, Skin-Crawling Sensation

I’m probably the last person on the Internet to have seen the creepy short film “Lights Out.”  It made my skin crawl, and had me jumping at every creaking floorboard.

It also reminded me of my favorite demon.

I haven’t been writing much in Neon Blue’s sequel(s) of late. Tsara and her demon are seasonal characters for me. I don’t tend to write them in the lighter months. Summer is for scifi and the sun-blasted world of Hale and Kez. It’s when the days get shorter and I begin seeing werewolves, ghost dogs and demons in the shadows that I feel the urge to write about them again.

It was dark before 7 p.m. last night, and I spent the evening writing nightmares.

So here’s an excerpt from Blood Yellow, the next book in the Neon Blue series. I can’t hope to match the sheer creepiness of “Lights Out,” but I hope I’ll give my readers a little of that skin-crawling sensation.

Harvard Square is crowded. In addition to the weekend shoppers and tourists, there are clots of students wearing worn hoodies and baggy shorts – which it’s not quite warm enough for – on every street corner. Before we reach the madness of the Cambridge Street intersection, Shirri directs us into the commons. We wind our way across the green – which is already quite green, even though there might be three more months of winter ahead – around students lounging in the grass and a shirts verses skins game of Frisbee that I have to literally drag Mel away from. At the Garden Street end of the commons, Shirri spots Will. We join him in watching a couple who are playing ball with a slender silver shadow of a dog.

Shirri unlinks from Mel and tucks herself under Will’s arm. He gives her a tender kiss that carries the promise of heat, and I feel my cheeks warm, remembering the demon’s kisses.

Mel leans into me. “Gimme a smooch, I’m all jealous.”

“Get real.”

After Shirri comes up for air, she looks around and points at the couple playing with the dog. “That’s my brother Tomas and his girlfriend, Holle.”

I could have guessed who Tomas was without Shirri telling me. He looks very like his twin – taller, his dark curls cropped to the back of his neck, but recognizably related. His girlfriend looks like a model. She’s an inch or two taller than Tomas, even in her canvas flats, close to six feet. As whipcord-slender as the dog she’s playing with. Her hair’s pulled back into a long, chestnut-brown braid, which glitters in the sunlight like it’s dusted with gold.

As she twists to throw the ball the dog’s brought her, the air around her shimmers. A furnace blast of heat, like August sun on asphalt. Her body shreds away and I see the bones beneath, blackened like they’ve been burned. Her skull grins at me, the fanged jaw unhinging. A torrent of dark wings spills out, darkening the sky. They break over me in a wave of nightmares.

“Hey, you okay?” Mel shakes my arm.

I blink. The wings are gone. I’ve turned away from our small group and thrown my arm over my head. I’m shaking all over and my brunch is an inch away from making a dramatic reappearance. I lower my arm and take several deep breaths. Push my sunglasses back up on my nose and hope that everyone’s too blinded by the bright day to see the sparks jumping from my fingertips.

“Tsara, are you okay?” Mel’s peering at me a little too closely, and there’s something in her blue eyes that I don’t like at all. Other than her relationship with Click, Mel is totally normal as far as I know and I’ve loved having a ‘straight’ friend who doesn’t treat me like a freak.

“Too much sunshine,” I say.

Mel wraps her arm around my shoulders. “Makes me sneeze. C’mon, let’s get that coffee.”

Hope you enjoyed, or at least got a little shiver!

(Image courtesy of Unsplash. Used under License.)