…but I need to get this out before I forget my string of thoughts!
Today I came across a quote on tumblr that Emma Watson gave about her character in Harry Potter, Hermione Granger.
Emma said: "How many girls are there are there like Hermione in film or literature? There just aren’t. She’s completely unique. She’s smart, beautiful, kind-hearted, determined, geeky and lovable, all at the same time. She’s just the best. There might be other roles in the future that are as interesting and challenging, but none that I will love as much."
I’m sorry but the person that Emma Watson has described in this quote is not Hermione Granger. Smart? Geeky? Yes. Beautiful? Lovable? Not entirely.
I feel as though for a female character to be credible (and females in the real world), she needs to have all these qualities; she needs to be perfect. It isn’t enough for her to be super smart and brave. She needs to be beautiful also. And lovable. Which is really a blow to Hermione, because this is a character that doesn’t take shit from anyone and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Let’s face it – Hermione is bossy. She’s a know it all. She nitpicks and yells and is on a high horse a lot of the time. And she’s not exactly the belle of the ball – she’s got huge frizzy hair and her teeth (at least from books 1-4) are probably a bit bigger than she’d like, and those physical characteristics are well known by readers of the books. But so what?! That doesn’t mean she’s a bad female character. We don’t need to gloss over those realities when we talk about her. The bottom line is that it should be okay to like a female character with flaws. But it isn’t – because we expect women to be these supergirls that are everything all at once and perfect perfect perfect.
Hermione is a great female character precisely because she’s not perfect – she’s valuable to young girls because she allows them to realize that doing well in school and being smart and studying are great attributes – better than worrying about how you look or being popular. That being gorgeous is not a prerequisite to being happy with yourself or being successful in life. And most importantly, she teaches girls that you don’t need to be perfect – that it’s OKAY TO HAVE FLAWS and still have friends, still do well, still be a good person. Plus, just to add in another element, Hermione is hugely discriminated against in the books for being muggle born – yet she still trucks along, proving everyone who thinks she can’t amount to anything because of her blood wrong. This is a great lesson for girls in areas where gender stills plays a huge role in job and education opportunities.
The female characters in harry potter are written in the books much better than how they come across on screen. Take Ginny for example – she’s really athletic and great at quidditch (and later goes on to be the leader of the Hollyhead harpies and then a sports reporter) and actually acknowledges her sexuality and is in control and proud of it despite slut-shaming from Ron. And how about Luna? She’s totally unique and original and never changes herself to be more popular or accepted despite the fact that she gets made fun of. And obviously there’s Hermione, with her incredible thirst for knowledge and dedication to her friends, in the face of racism and almost certain death.
The movies paint a bit of a different picture, which is pretty sad: firstly, Luna is hardly seen. Ginny, who is awesome in the books, is totally gutted in the films – remember that scene where she ties Harry’s shoelaces? Yeah. Creepy. Also, despite Emma Watson waxing poetic about being able to cut her hair after however many years of keeping up Hermione’s bushy mane, Hermione is much prettier in the films than the books would suggest. Remember that line in the third movie, “is that really what my hair looks like from behind?” …Right. Like Hermione would ever say that.
I guess what I’m saying is, I protest! I protest people painting Hermione as some perfect woman, because she isn’t one. Hermione is amazing and fabulous WITH all her flaws, and that’s what makes her a great character – not the other way around. She’s a role model for young girls because she refuses to deny her own abilities, not because she’s the paragon of perfection.
As a side note, have you noticed how there are so many movies starring not-so-attractive boys (you know the ‘type’ they project: skinny, lanky, zero social skills, passable facial features) in lead characters and no movies casting girls in similar roles? I am yet to see a movie where a girl scores with a hot guy at the end of the movie. UGH. Makes me so angry.
Random Guy: I don’t really like female comedians but I like you.
Ellen: Really? Well… I don’t really like guys, but I like you!
— Ellen DeGeneres