home Books, Europe, Fantasy, Feminism, Humor In praise of Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger series

In praise of Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger series

It’s the end of an era. The entertainment which has stretched across books, movies, and countless marketing tie-ins, which has captivated children and adults for well over a decade and which has, for better or worse, managed to become the defining myth for an entire generation, is winding to its close. I speak, of course, of the Hermione Granger series, by Joanne Rowling.

So, before she goes away for good, let us sing the praises of Hermione. A generation could not have asked for a better role model. Looking back over the series — from Hermione Granger and the Philosopher’s Stone through to Hermione Granger and the Deathly Hallows — the startling thing about it is how original it is. It’s what inspires your respect for Rowling: She could only have written the Hermione Granger by refusing to take the easy way out.

For starters, she gave us a female lead. As difficult as it is to imagine, Rowling was pressured to revise her initial drafts to make the lead wizard male. “More universal,” they said. “Nobody’s going to follow a female character for 4,000 pages,” they said. “Girls don’t buy books,” they said, “and boys won’t buy books about them.” But Rowling proved them wrong. She was even asked to hide her own gender, and to publish her books under a pen name, so that children wouldn’t run screaming at the thought of reading something by a lady. But Joanne Rowling never bowed to the forces of crass commercialism. She will forever be “Joanne Rowling,” and the Hermione Granger series will always be Hermione’s show.

And what a show it is. In Hermione, Joanne Rowling undermines all of the cliches that we have come to expect in our mythic heroes. It’s easy to imagine Hermione’s origin story as some warmed-over Star Wars claptrap, with tragically missing parents and unsatisfying parental substitutes and a realization that she belongs to a hidden order, with wondrous (and unsettlingly genetic) gifts. But, no: Hermione’s normal parents are her normal parents. She just so happens to be gifted. Being special, Rowling tells us, isn’t about where you come from; it’s about what you can do, if you put your mind to it. And what Hermione can do, when she puts her mind to it, is magic.

Ditto for the whole “Chosen One” thing. Look: I’ve enjoyed stories that relied on a “Chosen One” mythology to convince us that the hero is worth our time. I liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer as much as anyone. But it’s hard to deny that “Chosen Ones” are lazy writing. Why is this person the hero? Because everyone says he’s the hero. Why does everyone say he’s the hero? Because everyone says so, shut up, there’s magic.

Hermione is not Chosen. That’s the best thing about her. Hermione is a hero because she decides to be a hero; she’s brave, she’s principled, she works hard, and she never apologizes for the fact that her goal is to be very, extremely good at this whole “wizard” deal. Just as Hermione’s origins are nothing special, we’re left with the impression that her much-vaunted intelligence might not be anything special, on its own. But Hermione is never comfortable with relying on her “gifts” to get by. There’s no prophecy assuring her importance; the only way for Hermione to have the life she wants is to work for it. So Hermione Granger, generation-defining role model, works her adorable British ass off for seven straight books in a row. Although she deals with the slings and arrows of any coming-of-age tale — being told that she’s “bossy,” stuck-up, boring, “annoying,” etc — she’s too strong to let that stop her. In Hermione Granger and the Prisoner of Azkaban, she actually masters the forces of space and time just so that she can have more hours in the day to learn.

And it pays off. Hermione saves the day, over and over; in every book, there is a moment where her classmates need to be saved, and they need a plan that is going to save them, and they inevitably turn to Hermione, “the brightest witch of her age.” Hermione always comes through; she has the plans, she saves them all. That’s why her name is on the cover of every book.

As the series developed, its politics did, too. Dumbledore, memorably, falls in love with a younger man in the third installment. Other female characters were introduced, and developed beyond stereotype; we learned to value McGonagall as much as Dumbledore, to stop slagging Lavender Brown off as clingy and gross because she actually wanted her boyfriend to like her, to see the Patil sisters and Luna as something other than flaky, intuitive, girly idiots. Unbelievably, even Ginny Weasley got an actual personality. Hermione was not an exceptionalist, the one girl in the world worth liking; she didn’t need to be surrounded by female stereotypes in order to stand out as a compelling female character. And Hermione, in her defining moment, became an activist for the enfranchisement of house-elves.

The best thing about this development is Rowling’s lack of condescension; it’s easy to take potshots at youthful activism, and a lesser author would have played Hermione’s campaign for nasty comedy. Imagine that abomination; Hermione being the only character to notice that her sparkly, magical world relied on the creation of a goddamn slave race, and all of the supposedly sympathetic characters being like, “no, they like slavery! Stop being such a downer!” Instead, Hermione works with the house-elves to free them early on, and many house-elves become well-developed, central characters.

And there we have it: The defining hero of our age is a girl who saves the day with her egalitarianism, love of learning, hard work, and refusal to give way to peer pressure. It’s hard to think of the Hermione Granger series as anything other than flawless. And yet — as fans constantly point out — there is a very big flaw in the series. You know who I’m talking about; it’s He Who Must Not Be Named, but we spell it H-A-R-R-Y.

The character of Harry Potter is an obnoxious error in the Hermione Granger universe, made more obnoxious by his constant presence. It’s tempting to just write Harry off as a love interest who didn’t quite work out; the popular-yet-brooding jock is hardly an unfamiliar type. And, given that Hermione is constantly having to rescue Harry, he does come across as a sort of male damsel-in-distress.

But, if we look closely, we can see that Harry is a parody of every cliche Rowling avoided with Hermione. Harry is not particularly bright or studious; he’s provided with an endless supply of gifts and favors; he’s the heir to no less than two huge fortunes; he’s privileged above his fellow students, due to his fame for something he didn’t actually do himself; he even seems to take credit for “Dumbledore’s Army,” which Hermione started. Of course this character is obnoxious. It’s only by treating ourselves to the irritation caused by Harry that we can fully appreciate Hermione herself.

Those who doubt Rowling’s satiric intent need look no farther than the scathingly funny epilogue to the final book. In the end, we see Harry married to some girl he met as a teenager, dropping his kids off at school, and reminiscing about his glory days. In the end, Potter is just another jock who peaked in high school. And Hermione? Well. Rowling would never insult Hermione by dropping her into some suburban nightmare of marrying a boy she met before graduation. What we learn about Hermione is what she does for her job. Although we are, thankfully, treated to the hint that she’s been hooking up with Neville Longbottom.

“For truly,” goes the last line, “Neville somehow got really handsome. All was well.” Indeed.

Front page photo: Emma Watson filming for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Editor’s Note: Sady’s responded to the comment thread with a follow-up thread here.

210 thoughts on “In praise of Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger series

  1. NO!! Hermione may be awesome, but Harry is amazing, too, will always be The Chosen One, and The Boy Who Lived.
    Some people view Harry as stupid and egotistical, but he is really amazing, and is surrounded by other amazing, good characters, such as Hermione, Ron, Luna, Neville, Dumbledore, and even a few evil ones, like Bellatrix and Voldemort.
    There are also the ones who keep you guessing whose side they are on, like Snape and Draco.
    Long live Harry Potter, and the whole wizard ing world.

  2. Huh?

    But Hermione hooks up with Ron at the end doesnt she? Where did Neville come into it?!

    And Harry is not arrogant by a mile – he’s just a perfectly average guy with mostly average ability but a golden heart and iron will. Which makes him a hero in his own right. I love all the trio.

    Brilliant piece otherwise.

  3. I love you so much I love to see you play in harry potter you’re beautiful Congratulations Laura Lagarde

  4. Thank you! To be completely honest, this sums up so much of what I’ve thought about the Harry Potter Series, not with regard to Hermione herself but certainly about the laziness of the world building. You’ve made some excellent points about Hermione that I really hadn’t considered but I certainly agree that there’s nothing remarkable about the Harry Potter character. Remarkable things happen to him and remarkable characters take an interest in him but really he’s a an arrogant, clueless hothead who had things way too easy the second he left Privet Drive.

    Great piece!

  5. This article is so true! I was always annoyed about how much opportunity Harry had, but he never did anything with it. He didn’t try in school and basically the only spells he knew where “expecto patronum” and “expelliarmus.” Next to Aron he looks like a success, but compared to Hermione he is annoying and entitled.

  6. WTF? Is this some kind of version that wasn’t published in the UK? Hermione is married with children with Ron (known him since age 11).

  7. brilliant piece. i loved the harry potter series, but was always saddened by the fact that a female writer felt that she had to have a male protagonist, and that, presumably, the books wouldn’t have worked as well, had the lead been hermione, or even a harriet potter.

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  11. sorry dear Hannah, you must be young and delusional.

    Sadly this is also Bellatrix’s case as well. If you pay attention, Bellatrix is the reason Voldemort is capable of leading.
    She comes up with most of the plans, she usually does all the grunt work with the torturing, and when it came to hiding the Horcrux and then solving riddles- she did all the work or allotted who was to do it. I mean seriously, if she wasn’t crazy, she could’ve easily overpowered that loser and became a world power. But she was too caught up in her “admiration” of the jerk to realize her own worth. 🙁

    It seriously took me to grow up to realize how Hermione was the REAL hero in the story. Harry normally is whiny, wimpy, and always asking everyone else to do his work (unless it deals with quiddith or conversation). If you don’t believe me or the writer other commentators, go back and read the series. Perfect example- BOOK 4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

    Harry basically had Hermione and Hagrid solve all of the puzzles for him. The one puzzle he almost figured out was the egg, but Dobby the House Elf gave him the answer to that one in the end as well.
    Let’s not forget book 6. Hermione pawned all of the wizarding world in that one thanks to her figuring out about the Horcruxes.

    I hate that she ended up the that pigheaded prejudice Ronald Weasley. Honestly, she would’ve been better off with Draco. Maybe even Luna Lovegood (she’s a ravenclaw people!).

    Harry and Voldemort were both losers. They honestly were made by the Women in their circles. Lame.

    1. You seem to be rather misguided to say the least if you think Ron is pigheaded. Ron is anything but stupid. Sure he might not have done as well at school as Hermione but who did? You also did remember how much he helped out in all those dangerous adventures did he? For example, who was the person that got the Trio past the giant chess set in PS?
      You think Draco Malfoy is a better match for Hermione? OK let’s do some quick comparisons between Malfoy and Ron.
      1. Hermione is a Muggle-born. Ron despite whatever flaws he may have, never ever showed any prejudice towards her based on her blood status. Malfoy hates and despises Muggle-borns and constantly used the term Mudblood, the foulest term imaginable to insult her. In CoS he said twice that he wished Hermione was killed by the Heir of Slytherin. It doesn’t look good to me.
      2. Ron and Hermione and Harry are best friends. Malfoy never wanted friends. He only wanted minions like Crabbe and Goyle who would always do his bidding no matter what he tells him to do or sycophants like Pansy Parkinson.
      3. Ron is really brave and has shown many times he would sacrifice himself and die for his friends. Malfoy, on the other hand, can only act brave when his father or some other authority figure is behind him. Remember how scared he was of dying in HBP and DH? Or how he ran away like a coward when Hermione slapped him PoA?
      I could go on but I doubt you would get it if you don’t get the three points I listed here. What do you say?
      By the way do you know why people don’t like Hermione/Draco shippers? You post is a perfect example of why.

  12. I guess I must add that I was and still am entranced by the Harry Potter movies. The characters are so vivid and before even becoming teenagers, the principle actors in the screenplay were fantastic, their facial expressions so expressive of the particular moment/ The screen effects were unreal and the progression of the screenplay complimented the books, at least the ones that I have read, with some literary license. Finally, it has to give some hope to the younger set to become a hero, like Harry or Hermoine in their life pursuit. Dreams do come true, but as the movies portray, one has to work for their rewards, ultimately getting paid for devotion and hard work. Simply great movies, and to think that with the six different books/movies, it was all brought back to the beginning, the first book, a real professional writer with great vision. Also achieved was the fact that as these actors grew up on the screen, it was almost as if they were a part of your family, or you might wish they were, not the screen play characters but the real live kids. No longer kids, you wish them all well and success for the enjoyment they provided.

  13. Ok,first up from a feminist point of view this one really rocks!
    Point 2;Hermione is brilliant , she is smart,hardworking,talented,pretty,brave,etc and she has gr8 selfestteem. She really rockHarry may not be as great as her but he is a good guy. If his parents had been alive he mayb would have been an arrogant jerk like his dad OR he wlnt’nt coz his mum would not let her kid b a jerk+his dad had reformed right?
    harry is not annoying, he is just a normal boy,bt he has always appriciated Hermione and always given her credit where its due.
    he is most definately NOT a jock who peaked in high school, he is a normal average boy who landed in some bad situations. The thing which marks him out as a hero is the way he reacted to those situations, hw he faced the bad stuff .
    And hermiobe was not sorted amazing she started out as bossy, nosy, and know-it all-y .
    plus as a liberated young witch she is free to choose whom she wants to marry and since she chose Ron, well good for her!
    p.s she never hooked up with Neville.
    p.p.s harry led D.A

  14. Brilliant, Nana. I would suggest that you remove your head from its dark place and re-read the books. Nothing you say rings true with me.

    Hannah: I think your views are just fine. Some people can’t handle anything positive. 🙂

  15. Jen writes:

    > Some people can’t handle anything positive.

    Sure we can. TRUE positives. Not FALSE positives.

    You can distinguish between the two by delving into the facts, rather than being like Hannah, waving your arms and proclaiming EVERYONE IS AMAZING or that Harry is the hero because … he just is.

    The Harry Potter series is truly a work of fiction for children. Because Rowling wrote it that way – Harry was the ‘hero’ because the books were in his name, never mind who actually did the hard work.

    Mature readers with the perception to actually take note of who did what know who the real hero(ine) was. We don’t accept something ‘positive’ if it’s a fabrication out of thin air that will dissolve upon inspection.

  16. Am I the only one who *liked* the fact that Harry in the books is fairly passive, more lucky than competent, and can’t achieve anything on his own? Those things are what make him a sympathetic character, and a contrast to the more typical skilled fantasy protagonist who can easily save the world by himself.

    Yes, Hermione is certainly more talented, and could have sorted everything out herself; but that’s arguably what makes her harder to sympathise with, and would make a series with her as the main character less interesting. Flawed characters make better heroes.

    1. I like Harry for all the reasons that you stated. What I DON’T like is Harry then gets all the credit for being an amazing wizard and the hero when he doesn’t really do anything.

  17. Alasdair –

    > Am I the only one who *liked* the fact that Harry in the books is fairly passive, more lucky than competent, and can’t achieve anything on his own?

    I think so. 🙂

    > Those things are what make him a sympathetic character –

    … but not a hero.

    And not realistic either. Impossible to take seriously.

    > Flawed characters make better heroes.

    But Harry isn’t just ‘flawed’. He’s incompetent. He wouldn’t have survived without luck (and Hermione). He sets out without any plan and hopes his author will write him a happy ending.

    That’s another reason to dislike non-hero Harry; because it’s much *easier* to write a chap who stumbles around and is saved by dei ex machina and the sacrifices of others. You and I could probably write a passable book if we didn’t have to worry about actually making sense of the things that pop up to save the protagonist. But I would consider such to be bad writing and unworthy of the accolades and bullion that Rowling earned with her amateurish last novel.

  18. I agree fully. I loved the series, now I know why. amazing you never notice this til it is pointed out to you.

  19. While Harry may have his flaws like the rest of us, he has nobility of character. He may have had his share of egotistic behavior like any normal male teenagers would, but it is not the detrimental type of egotism.

    I think the best evidence of this was when he broke the Elder Wand into two, and threw it away so that no one would be tempted to use it for evil–ever again. Harry also had his sensitive side. When Doby died, Harry gingerly carried Doby and gently laid him on the grave he dug himself. Such tenderness and loyalty to friends, along with his other praiseworthy characteristics, make Harry truly a sympathetic and admirable character like Hermione.

    I do not see the wisdom of pitting the two characters against each other.

  20. Yes, Hermione was the most interesting character. But this is an ancient archetypal set-up. Harry, the chosen one, is King Arthur. Hermione is Merlin. Everyone thinks Merlin is more interesting that Arthur.

  21. Ugh. Why do so many self-proclaimed HP fans have such a bloody chip on their shoulder? This kind of “here’s how the series SHOULD’VE been written” is such a turnoff. Why would you spend that much time reading something you later trash?

    BTW, JKR never had to “change” the protagonist’s gender. She always envisioned the Chosen One as a boy. And Hermione had flaws! That’s what makes her real–this Hermione sounds perfect and therefore boring.

  22. Please. Hermione is a self-centered narcissist who rarely – ever, honestly, but I’m trying to be generous – does anything for anyone other than herself, ultimately. I’m laughing at comments about how unwaveringly she sticks by Harry and Ron, like she actually has the alternative of not doing so if she doesn’t want to be stuck as the same friendless loner she was in books 1 and briefly, 3. There aren’t many other people in the series who seem to actually stand her for long periods of time. And when it seems like other students almost could, she’ll go and cast a Body-Bind on them (Neville) or permanently scar them with a pimple hex that she warned NO ONE about. She doesn’t exactly play well with others.

    And even with Harry and Ron, it’s pathetic trying to pretend like she never got constant, incessant validation for being the smartest, bestest, most invaluable person around by hanging around with them. Not just because of ther own attitudes toward her, but because of what Harry (and Ron) were always getting into. They were the ones always entangled in scrapes and incidents that would put them front and center in the attentions of the school, of people like McGonagall, Dumbledore, the Minister, the infamous escaped convict from Azkaban … Hermione would’ve been yet another one of the background redshirts in the series never even HEARING about these incidents until they were long over and part of the generic rumor mill, if she didn’t stick with Harry and Ron, because she’s never done anything attention-worthy or action-starting, ever, without Harry or Ron, or Harry’s particular circumstances, dragging her into it. She wouldn’t have even thought of the DA if Harry’s fifth-year dilemma hadn’t been an issue, and even then she had to bandy about Harry’s name and apparent promises of hearing him talk about the Third Task, to even get people to show up.

    And yes, that’s the exact nepotism people are whining about, and that’s why it’s the height of utter stupidity acting like Hermione doesn’t BENEFIT OUT HER ASS from it, like her friendship with Harry and Ron is all about selfless loving concern that she gets nothing out of. Slughorn wouldn’t even have noticed her if Harry hadn’t mentioned that his best friend was Muggleborn and the best in the class. All those “important” people, Dumbledore, Sirius, McGonagall, etc, give her the validation and acknowledgment of being “the brightest witch of her age” largely because of what they’ve just seen her pull off as the brains of Harry’s operation, even though we have no way of knowing just how many “witches” are just as bright or even brighter because they don’t cling to the Boy Who Lived and make sure they’re seen. And it’s because of idiots like nana and Brad and the article-writer that this pathetic shit is seen as flawless heroism. Riiiigghhtt.

    What’s worse is that Hermione is so conceited she starts BELIEVING all the hype she gets as the smartest witch around because of who she hangs out with, as evidenced by her gross belief that she has the right to make decisions for other people without consulting them, because she’s just that smart. Her parents, the SNEAK hex on that Ravenclaw, the house-elves, oh yes, let’s get into that.

    Even her so-called house-elf liberation kick was so incredibly self-motivated and arrogant it disgusts me to this day. She wanted the house-elves free – but she didn’t give a damn what they might want. She WATCHED Winky go to pieces after Crouch freed her, watched Winky literally fall into alcoholic depression because of it….and then goes around trying to trick other house-elves into freedom despite knowing how it affected Winky. She had endless opportunity to actually talk to the house-elves that were damn terrified of her ideas, find out what they might want out of a liberation movement. She didn’t.

    But yes, this egocentric self-interested hanger-on who constantly milks her friend’s fame to get herself the things she wants … She’s so selfless and heroic. Please let us have followed her around for a seven-book series just because she’s a girl. Please. I would learn so much from her.

  23. Karen, your comment is so full of fail I can’t enumerate all the flaws. Here’s a few:

    > Hermione is a self-centered narcissist who rarely … does anything for anyone other than herself.

    Please prove this. Book 1, saving Harry and stopping the bad guy from getting the Stone. Book 2, solving the puzzle of the monster that is attacking *other* innocents. Book 3, protecting Harry, saving the life of Sirius, spending weeks/months trying to save Buckbeak. Book 4, helping Harry stay alive, spending all her spare time trying to rescue the elves from slavery. Book 5, risking everything to keep Harry alive. Book 6, ditto. Book 7, going on the run against the government of the day to fight the good fight against the bad guys (rather than taking off to Australia with her parents).

    “She never does anything for anyone other than herself”. *snort*

    Well, I’m glad you started with that, making it clear that your comment was intended as a joke piece, flagging that you’re not to be taken seriously.

    > I’m laughing at comments about how unwaveringly she sticks by Harry and Ron, like she actually has the alternative of not doing so if she doesn’t want to be stuck as the same friendless loner …

    So you agree, then, that she does, in fact, ‘stick unwaveringly by Harry and Ron’, regardless of whatever silly motivation you try to shoehorn into your slanted view of the series. Good. There might be hope for you yet, Karen.

    > it’s pathetic trying to pretend like she never got constant, incessant validation –

    Please show us where, in the books, she got this ‘constant, incessant validation’. 50 points for saving the Stone, yes. What did she get for solving the riddle of the Basilisk? Launching SPEW? Saving Sirius? Or Buckbeak? And so forth.

    One of my own gripes is how Harry and Ron almost never do thank her for her strenuous efforts and brilliance on their behalf, not until book 7, when Rowling realised she had to make them/Ron grow up a little (and when Hermione was even more clearly the brains of the operation, without whom hapless and feckless Harry would be helpless).

    > She wouldn’t have even thought of the DA if Harry’s fifth-year dilemma hadn’t been an issue –

    Another falsehood. Here’s what Hermione said about her reasons for kicking off the D.A. –

    “Itʹs about preparing ourselves, like Harry said in Umbridgeʹs first lesson, for whatʹs waiting for us out there. Itʹs about making sure we really can defend ourselves.”

    Hermione Granger wants everyone to be able to protect themselves. OOOH, SHE’S A NARCISSIST says Karen! *laughs*

    > All those “important” people, Dumbledore, Sirius, McGonagall, etc, give her the validation and acknowledgment of being “the brightest witch of her age” largely because of what they’ve just seen her pull off as the brains of Harry’s operation –

    Oh, Karen. You’re so silly. Please explain how being Harry Potter’s friend assisted Hermione Granger in being awarded nine Outstanding and one Exceeds Expectations OWL. Take your time; I’m not going to hold my breath waiting.

    > Even her so-called house-elf liberation kick was so incredibly self-motivated –

    Ha ha ha! Please tell us how slaving away to free house elves benefited Hermione Granger.

    > But yes, this egocentric self-interested hanger-on who constantly milks her friend’s fame to get herself the things she wants –

    So, what did Hermione actually receive because she was Harry Potter’s friend? Initial recognition by Slughorn? That’s the only sane point you made in your drivel. Anything else? No?

    I’d like to finally quote from the Wikipedia summary of Hermione Granger, the girl who silly Karen believes is a SELF-CENTRED NARCISSIST –

    “Hermione has an extremely compassionate side to her personality and is quick to help others, especially those who are defenceless, such as Neville Longbottom, first-years, House-Elves, fellow Muggle-borns, half-giants like Hagrid, and werewolves like Lupin. It was revealed by Rowling after the publication of the final book that Hermione’s career in the Ministry was to fight for the rights of the oppressed (such as House-elves or Muggle-borns). Hermione is also very protective of her friends and values them so much that Rowling has suggested that, if Hermione had looked in the Mirror of Erised, she would have seen Harry, Ron, and herself “alive and unscathed, and Voldemort finished.”

    Say, Karen, you should toddle off and correct that Wikipedia entry, don’t you think? I did a search – just to help you, you understand – for the word ‘narcissist’, couldn’t find it on that Wiki page at all! Ha ha ha.

    > Please. I would learn so much from her.

    Based on your nonsensical ranting … yes, I think you would. (That’s TWO things you got right!)

  24. Hey Brad, I’ll do you one better. How about you prove to me how helping to save her – let’s face it, only – friends’ lives isn’t ultimately looking out for herself. By the way, even Draco freaking Malfoy managed that much in the last book. Not leaving friends to die is somewhere up there with not being a killer, so congratulations. *slow clap* She’s not a completely awful excuse for a human being. I’ll acknowledge that much. Still wouldn’t read seven books about her. 

    And god, I’m positively dying at your examples. Especially the Book 2 one. Because it’s not like Hermione herself is Muggleborn, right? She obviously had no personal stake in a monster that was going around nearly killing Muggleborns! This is exactly the kind of idiot mentality I was talking about. Have fun worshipping her every selfish motivation. 

    Book 3, she was TOLD by Dumbledore to help save Sirius’s life, she sure as hell didn’t come up with the idea to use the Time Turner on her own, nor was she that concerned about Sirius until Dumbledore put her on the spot – which is exactly what I’m talking about, she never cares for anything that isn’t one of her only friends. And when did she protect Harry from anything in this book? Turn off the Azkaban DVD, sweetie, it might actually be Ron you’re talking about there.

    Book 4, again with not leaving friends to die, and her time might’ve been better spent talking to the house-elves she was supposedly trying to help, maybe asking what they wanted out of a liberation movement. Instead of spending the year watching Winky fall into alcoholic depression over being freed, and then turning around to potentially inflict that same damn fate on COUNTLESS other house-elves against their will, by tricking them into picking up clothes, despite knowing how it affected Winky. 

    The house-elves were all petrified of her. That should tell you everything. Like any other egotistic social justice warrior, she had a legit cause, and like any other SJW she was a self-centered dick in going about it, not giving a damn about the actual folk she was “helping” and causing WAY more problems than solutions for them. With SJWs it’s about making themselves feel good and selfless and altruistic by loudly backing a cause they feel no one else cares about, without ever actually helping. That’s how she was benefitting Hermione Granger.

    Book 5, yes, tell me more about how she used Harry’s name and promises of hearing him talk about the Third Task to get people to show up at her club meeting. Without his knowing, might I add, since he only found out the night before, and even that I suspect is only because she needed to deliver at least partly on those promises. But that’s not at all literally using her friend’s fame to get herself what she wants.

    Or how she made people sign a binding document that she told no one was binding – not to actively PREVENTa betrayal, but just to literally scar for life anyone who betrayed? Let’s be real, if it was really about Hermione “wanting everyone to be able to protect themselves”, prevention would have been the goal with that hex, because then the DA could’ve continued. Not vengeance. The vengeance was entirely selfish.

    Or…trust me, I could go on.

    So when does she get constant accolades? This article itself quotes the line about her being the brightest witch of her age. You know who actually said that line? Remus. AFTER she’s confronted him about discovering his lycanthropy, even though god knows how many other students had figured out the same thing and just never had the chance to confront him about how they’d worked it out. A chance Hermione wouldn’t have had if she hadn’t found herself in that situation thanks to Harry and Ron. And Sirius said it too, AFTER she’s helped rescued him with the Time Turner Dumbledore had her use, something else she could only do after finding herself in that situation. (And Einstein, she got recognition for it right there.) And these kinds of situations are where Hermione most often gets praised.

    Ten OWLs? Percy Weasley got TWELVE OWLs. So did Bill Weasley. Both of whom, by the way, managed to do it without the aid of Time Turners, or at least without clocking out on them by the end of their third year. Are they the brightest wizards of their age? If so, people shut up about it a lot faster than they do about Hermione’s “brilliance”. In fact, the non-reaction to Percy and Bill’s OWL scores suggests it’s not an uncommon occurrence, and we don’t even know that Hermione got the most OWLs in her year. But then those other people, like Percy and Bill, don’t glue themselves to the Boy-Who-Lived and thus “aren’t seen” as much.

    The point is, we have no damn clue if she’s the brightest witch of her age. She’s not the second coming of Rowena Ravenclaw. She’s not even close. The recognition she gets, the reason people tend to think she is? is because Harry and Ron nearly break their backs mentioning how smart she is whenever she so much as completes a homework essay, and because all the other characters tend to praise her intelligence whenever they’ve watched her pull off something impressive in service of one of Harry’s adventures, or Harry and Ron have told them about that something impressive. Even you frame the majority of her accomplishments in stuff she’s done keeping Harry alive, whereas if Harry and Ron hadn’t befriended her she’d never have done any of that stuff. (She certainly never moves on her own.) And none of the other characters would’ve had reason to boost her ego with praise over that stuff. Nope, no benefit at all.

    I don’t know what to tell you if you honestly think she never realized that. As I said, she was actively using it by Books 5 and 6.

    And LOL at using Wikipedia to make a point. 😀 You do know fans primarily write that, correct? How are the hysterical rants of another Hermione groupie supposed to prove a thing?

  25. I’m not saying she doesn’t get accolades on her own merit, for good classwork and shit. What puts her on the map, though, is Harry, and Harry’s adventures (which she never starts herself). Without them she’d be Percy, another top student who was smart and ultimately forgotten. Who she hangs out with, and what she gets up to when she’s hanging out with him, is what gets her commented on so much by the characters in the book. 

     THAT’s the nepotism. And it’s stupid to think she didn’t see that from book 1 and hasn’t been using it since.

    Why the hell else was she so desperate to pal around with Harry and Ron even when they were being asses to her early in book 1? They didn’t like her any more than the other students did, and they were actively ruder to her than at least some of those other students (see Neville). But it wasn’t Parvati or Lavender she kept tagging along with trying to befriend, even though as the two girls in her dorm that would make more sense. It wasn’t Neville, who at least seemed to like her somewhat. It wasn’t Dean and Seamus. It was Harry and Ron. Gee, I wonder why?

    She’s a hanger-on, and an incredibly narcissistic one at that.

  26. I enjoyed reading this article!
    The idea is quite good and true, she’s the one who never gives up, and deserves the most her power and strenght.
    I love Harry because he stays humble and only looses his nerves a hundred times in the books.
    I think the main role should have been for Tom from the Leaky Cauldron. LOL

  27. Karen, your comments are so viciously exaggerated and hysterical it’s impossible to treat them seriously. In almost every line you skip, miss or just plain ignore the point. Or make up others to attack our heroine Hermione Granger.

    > How about you prove to me how helping to save her – let’s face it, only – friends’ lives isn’t ultimately looking out for herself.

    I can’t see why I need to prove something that’s blindingly obvious. Risking your life to save another is heroic. Regardless of whether the other is a friend or not.

    > Not leaving friends to die is somewhere up there with not being a killer –

    Ridiculous. If ‘not leaving friends to die’ involves personal risk then it’s on the entirely opposite end of the spectrum from ‘not being a killer’.

    Can you please read what you type before clicking on ‘Post Comment’?

    > nor was she that concerned about Sirius until Dumbledore put her on the spot

    Dumbledore told her she could save ‘innocent lives’. How is that ‘putting her on the spot’? Please show me where Dumbledore *forced* her to risk her life to save those lives please.

    > The house-elves were all petrified of her. That should tell you everything.

    It didn’t tell *Hermione* anything, because she DIDN’T KNOW that the elves were avoiding the tower, etc. How *selfish* of the girl not to barge into the kitchens and torture the elves for the truth! *snort*

    > Book 5, yes, tell me more about how she used Harry’s name and promises of hearing him talk about the Third Task to get people to show up at her club meeting.

    I’ll let the canon speak for me:

    “‘Look,’ said Hermione, intervening swiftly, ‘that’s really not what this meeting was supposed to be about ‐ʹ

    ʹItʹs OK, Hermione,ʹ said Harry. It had just dawned on him why there were so many people there. He thought Hermione should have seen this coming. Some of these people – maybe even most of them ‐ had turned up in the hopes of hearing Harryʹs story firsthand.”

    So the situation was exactly the opposite of what you’re so desperately trying to conjure out of thin air.

    > AFTER she’s confronted him about discovering his lycanthropy, even though god knows how many other students had figured out the same thing and just never had the chance to confront him about how they’d worked it out.

    Ha ha ha! Now you’re fabricating non-existent canon to try and prop up your raving. God – and Karen – know how many other students had figured out the same thing because not a single one is mentioned in the canon but that’s okay let’s just imagine every single student except Harry and Ron worked it out why golly gosh that just PROVES that Hermione was nothing special then doesn’t it no don’t look at the book just believe Karen lots and lots of students knew okaybyethankx.


    Regarding the Wikipedia, try to ignore that “Hermione groupies” wrote the article – *snort* – and just look at what was written, try and refute it, okay?

    > But it wasn’t Parvati or Lavender she kept tagging along with trying to befriend, even though as the two girls in her dorm that would make more sense. It wasn’t Neville, who at least seemed to like her somewhat. It wasn’t Dean and Seamus. It was Harry and Ron.

    Completely false.

    “Hermione was now refusing to speak to Harry and Ron” – chapter 10 – please explain how this translates to “tagging along trying to befriend”. Please. It should be fun to watch. She ‘marches away’ from them. She’s angry when paired with Ron in Charms class. She “hasn’t spoken to them since the day Harry’s broomstick had arrived”.

    Tch tch tch. This doesn’t sound like the Hermione Granger who somehow knows that she’s only a character in a children’s book and that Harry is the protagonist whom she must befriend if she is to anything but a background character!

    In fact it sounds like someone who is *totally the opposite* of your description.


    > She’s a hanger-on, and an incredibly narcissistic one at that.

    And more LOLs. Where does Hermione demonstrate “erotic gratification from admiration of her own physical or mental attributes” (from the dictionary.com definition)? Where? She keeps quite about Lupin’s secret (yes, yes, there there Karen, EVERYONE IN THE SCHOOL knows about it except Harry – Ha ha ha ha). She doesn’t tell ANYONE that the Hat considered her for Ravenclaw until directly quizzed on why she isn’t in that House. She never lords it over others about being scholastically superior.

    ‘Incredible narcissist’. Jeeze. You’re off the deep end, Karen.

  28. Really Brad? Have you even met the character whose ass you keep making out with? When has ‘wanting constant admiration for her mental abilities’ NOT been Hermione’s thing? It’s just about the one thing we see her consistently CRAVE (and what most of her grossest actions come from). She badly needs everyone to know she has the answers, and is therefore the smartest one around. It’s her main defining trait.

    From incessantly raising her hand needing teachers to call on her for every question, to the point where she’s actually, visibly disappointed when someone ELSE gets called on and answers correctly. From everyone calling her a know-it-all for precisely that reason.  From her drawing up OWL study schedules for non-friends who  were just irritated by it, and loudly talking over OWL exam questions after the exams to show off her knowledge of the material, to the point where everyone wanted to kill her. From needing her spell work to be praised as the best by all her teachers, and to be seen as an invaluable source of knowledge. From her rage with Trelawney and Divination when they couldn’t give her that. From hating that HalfBlood Prince book, not just because Harry’s using it to cheat but because it’s answers are provably smarter than hers and both Harry and Ron look to it as a source of knowledge that isn’t her. On that note, from her friendship with Harry and Ron – that’s the most obvious example  of all. They’re exclusively dependent on her homework help and her brains and can’t go two chapters without mentioning she’s soooo smart for writing some long-ass essay over the word limit, or reading a lot, or doing some other mundane activity that non-studious people think makes you a “genius”. Hermione is nowhere close to being a genius, but Harry and Ron constantly reaffirm that she’s the smartest of their little group, it’s a goddamn wet dream for a narcissist.

    Ha. ““erotic gratification from admiration of her own physical or mental attributes” I’m positive the only reason that first word doesn’t fit is because it’s a kid’s book that ISN’T from Hermione’s POV. 

    Also, Hermione didn’t need to know about being a character in a children’s book to know that Harry’s famous (having “read all about him” beforehand – her words, not mine) and that hanging around him would draw people’s attention.

    And for future reference, “putting someone on the spot” means putting them in a position where they can’t say no without looking like a jerk. Dumbeldore telling Hermione she could “save innocent lives” is putting her on the spot – she COULD have left to go do homework instead at that point, but not if she ever wanted to pretend she’s a remotely decent person again.

  29. Karen,

    You know, I really enjoy the HP fandom. I’ve learnt a lot from talking to people over the years about HP, why it was so successful, analysing all of Rowling’s mistakes (and reasons why she was still so hugely successful). I’ve also had exposure to creativity and imagination, techniques of writing and art, within the fandom, of which I would otherwise been totally oblivious. The fact that I’m still talking HP today, about ten years after I started, shows how engrossed I am in this world and how much I get out of talking to all sorts of folks.

    I’ve encountered a lot of people over the years who will fabricate any reason, go to any lengths, to avoid admitting they’re wrong or accepting my point of view. Running the full gamut of responses from stupidity (“it’s my opinion and by definition my opinion can’t be wrong so there okbye”) through delusion to outright unpleasantness and ad hominem attacks. But even then I’ve learnt a lot about ‘psychology’ in witnessing these reactions. That’s yet another area where I’ve learnt a lot from my time with HP.

    It’s fairly rare that I have to concede that the person on the other end just isn’t worth my time. I was thinking we’d reached that point in our last exchange. Your feral inflexibility, your mega-extreme bias – beyond cartoon caricature levels – had me thinking this might be one of those occasions where I should just thank Goodness that I’m on a whole different plane of existence from my correspondent and exit our conversation, leaving you to play in the gutter.

    And then I start reading your latest comment and I find that your second sentence makes my decision clear and without doubt:

    > Have you even met the character whose ass you keep making out with?

    There’s nothing of any value to address here.

  30. “to avoid admitting they’re wrong or accepting my point of view.”

    “Running the full gamut of responses from stupidity (“it’s my opinion and by definition my opinion can’t be wrong so there okbye””

    LMAO. I’m sorry, I’m just finding the lack of self-awareness here to be adorable. 😀

    Also, ‘ad hominem attack’ was something you were waving goodbye to in the far off distance, from your very first response to me. And every one of your comments has displayed your own hyper-extreme bias in Hermione’s favour (seriously, that Wikipidia quote you cited, plus…you cited Wikipedia. I laughed because it’s about as genius a move as citing Lindsay Lohan’s Tumblr tag as proof that she’s an upstanding teen role model. Wiki pages are written by hundreds of fans and edited a thousand times a week, mainly because when someone feels someone else has phrased something too harshly and portrayed their idol in a bad light, they change it. The facts remain, the bias coating them is thick. There’s a reason no academic institution will take Wiki as a reliable source.). So I don’t even know what there is to say here.

    You think Hermione’s great. It’s an opinion. Going by your logic I don’t even HAVE to accept it because I think you’re wrong. She’s a terrible role model. Like you said, Rowling made plenty of mistakes with HP – portraying such a person as a protagonist to root for was easily one of her worst, and says a lot about her.

    But okay, see ya, it’s been … Fun. Not sure I’ve learned anything new about Hermione, but I have learned something about some of her fans.

  31. Wow, I love this idea! Although I love the Harry Potter series, I’ve always wondered why J.K. Rowling couldn’t have written her books featuring a girl protagonist. Wonderful essay!

  32. Curious that Philip Pullman’s trilogy “His Dark Materials,” which came out around the time of “Harry Potter,” and features a strong girl as lead in the way of Hermione Granger — and which I believe is better constructed and written — is not viewed as counterpoint. The answer to the gender role criticisms of the Potter series is “read other books.”

  33. What is wrong with you?
    Did you even read the books at all?
    Firstly, Hermione is not the lead, not because she’s a girl, or because she’s not clever enough, or because she’s not brave.
    She’s not the lead because we see it from over Harry’s shoulder and occasionally inside his head.
    If we didn’t, Harry, Hermione and Ron would be equal leads, and why?
    Because they are the Main Three.
    They are all instrumental in taking down The Dark Lord.
    Hermione wouldn’t have been able to do it on her own. (Remember the troll?)
    Ron couldn’t have done it on his own. (Remember when he had to take on a group of Snatchers?)
    Harry couldn’t have done it on his own. (Remember the basilisk.)
    Without each other, they would die.
    Your article is a perverted misunderstanding of the books.

  34. I have to respectfully disagree with this obnoxiously bias article. The fact that Harry was so dependent on Hermione was the reason he looked like a terrible and weak protagonist in contrast. Also, JK’s obviously feminist campaign made other male characters look weak or like douchebags (for lack of a better term) in comparison (i.e. James to Lily; Sirius to Molly). She even made Dumbledore, champion of all muggles & commoners, an arrogant prick in his youth. There were obvious feminist & sexist undertones in the series. Great series but heavily flawed in retrospect.

    1. Hi Veil,
      I’m to glad to see that you concur with me in how biased this article really is. The fact that the author seemed to have no idea that Hermione loved Ron and married him spoke volumes.

      For the record Hermione is my favourite character in the series but I think she is as flawed as Harry and Ron and she definitely is not a goddess.

  35. What the heck Harry Potter is not just a love interest he isn’t a mistake he is a hero HE defeats Voldemort what 7 times you are no Harry Potter fan if you feel that way you should shut this website down

  36. I love you so much. So much. So, so much. All my peeves, some of which I didn’t know I had, summed up in the best way possible.

  37. The thing is, if JKR had written the “Hermione Granger Series” you’ve just described, I don’t think we would be able to appreciate the true depth of Hermione’s struggle. Of course Hermione is the most talented, the most hard-working, the most brilliant- and seemingly the most unacknowledged. That’s the way it has to be, because that’s the way things really are. Why isn’t she the hero? Because that’s how the world right now would treat her; because that’s how the world treats women, and that’s how the world treats anybody who tries to do something good. JKR gave a realistic portrayal of our heroine right down to the fact that she isn’t even the title character. Too realistic, you say? Think it was sub-conscious rather than intentional? Then why is Hermione so obviously freaking talented, that we are all wondering why she’s “in the background”? I think that by creating this exceptional female character, who is not even the main character, JKR is showing us something about the absurdity of our own world.
    For my part, I can relate to Hermione on a personal level; I was valedictorian, national merit scholar, graduated a year ahead of my class, and yet I still have to contend with people’s surprise that I (a woman) am studying physics. And there are certainly people who (it seems to me) get a free pass because of who they are, or rather who we expect them to be. My brother is just as talented as I am, and yet (I think- I hope it’s not mere jealousy) he has been vastly more successful than I in pursuit of a scientific career.
    Would I *like* to see Hermione be the main character? Definitely. But we have to make it happen in reality, not just fantasy.

  38. Liked this, but what’s so bad about marrying someone you met before graduation? It doesn’t mean you got married immediately after graduation. There are some incredibly nice, funny, smart guys at my high school.

    I especially love the bit about house elves. And hard work, of course. People idealize stuff you’re born with too often to appreciate that.

  39. Personally, I love that Harry relies on others. It’s a boring protagonist that can do literally everything himself without any help from anyone ever; those are Gary-Stus. Since one of the main themes is love, familial rather than romantic, it’s great that he couldn’t have done anything without a group of people behind him. And he clearly isn’t cocky since he’s humble enough to accept help.

  40. Hermione ends up with ron? and Harry wasn’t given the choice for this he didn’t want any of that to happen to him he didn’t want the attention

  41. I guess it’s easier to stand by and critique the motives of some famous person’s labor, fortune, and influence than to go out and make your own.

  42. I agree that everything about Hermione is true, and she is my personal favorite hero. However I think you’re being unfair on Harry’s part- you are right, he turned out having a fortune waiting for him in the wizarding world but it is a little silly to brush off the Dursley’s as “parental issues” and that he is undeserving? As a growing child Harry faced a decade of physical and mental abuse living with the Dursleys, and despite of this he still did have to work to HOLD UP the name of a hero and not just be called one when he got to Hogwarts. He even went back the the Dursley’s, his abusers, to save them in the end because it was the right thing to do. Even if that is cliche for a hero archetype, it makes no difference that children are still reading this and understanding through characters BOTH like Hermione and Harry, and others like McGonagall, Ron, Luna, the twins, that everyone faces problems but can still be a hero/stand out against adversary/be themselves/save the day in their own way with what they can do, and not where they come from.
    Hermione is incredible, and yeah, maybe she should have been the lead. However we can’t change what has already happened, so instead of trying to bash every other character and put down the male ones, why don’t we just work to raise Hermione up and remind the world of how amazing she is?

  43. If JK Rowling could read this article and the comments down below she would be thrilled!!! This debate is a dream come true!!! If theis represents the seed she has planted of the years, then WOW! What a total win for Rowling!

  44. Loved the article, always tought Hermione was the best character in the series, “he One That Did Everything”. So… who will re-write the series with this twist?

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