I’ve seen more than one extended joke about how Hermione is the real hero of the Harry Potter series. The thing is, it’s true. Harry’s in the foreground most of the time, but Hermione’s the intelligent one, the one who actually masters magic, the moral leader, and frequently, the practical leader.
This is better writing and analysis than most adults are capable of.
This post is wonderful. It’s a first-person account of this XKCD strip:
Your priority. I think speaking for all smart girls may be a bit royal, in this case.
Most people would put meeting someone they can trust, and find a little heroic, as something of a priority.
I think the princess stories actually prevent a lot of people from asking for the help they need from the people they could get it from… so that they don’t -appear- to be a princess and draw the fire of smarter people who would rather do it all themselves and also speak for all smart girls while at it.
Like asking for help (being in distress) makes you look dumb or something, when really, asking for a hand makes you look very very smart, and accessible.
And Hermione was my favorite character too.
not only is this an excellent analysis, it is also tragically true.
i teach 6th grade science. i have had many opportunities over the years to encounter my former students. although i think most of them, both boys and girls, romanticize the quality of my instruction only the girls tell me i am the last good science teacher they had. they describe being ignored when trying to volunteer answers or volunteer to do things in class. they describe having less capable boys put in charge of groups for group work. they describe teachers accepting the word of boys in groups that it was the girls who were to blame for bad results or poor measurements. these tendencies are attributed to both male and female teachers.
i rarely have contact with the junior high science teachers but when i do i try to suggest that they have some really talented girls coming up and i hope the teachers will encourage them. i’m generally blown off as being a bleeding-heart liberal or an affirmative action man. i regard it all as a sad waste of talent.
Oh man, did the math thing give me a flashback.
One of my high school math teachers used to put an extra credit question on the board every day. Most of them weren’t even math, they were little logic or word puzzles. And most of them he’d seemingly pulled from the same book of them that I had at home, so most days I could walk into the classroom, look at the board, and immediately know the answer. The first time I didn’t, I announced it hoping the rest of the class would stop pestering me for the answer. Nope, I didn’t know that one because I was dumb and a girl. The next day, of course, they were all demanding I share the answer again.
From another frizzy-haired early reader: don’t be tempted to play dumb. It’s a terrible habit to unlearn again. The best thing about high school is that it’s over fairly quickly. You will be on to brighter things before you know it. And I am happy to report that many many men do indeed appreciate a brilliant, strong-willed woman. Ron did, after all.
Don’t you mean “Harry did”?
…Ok, can we pretend Harry did?
Dammit, spoiler alert! Now, there’s no point in reading all of those books. Hey, wait…
I’m halfway through Order of the Phienix with my seven year old daughter, and I feel like I cannot overemphasize how valuable Hermione’s contributions to the story are. While strong academicly oriented role models are on the rise (I hope), there is still an appalling number of shows that run with the subtext that boys are better at STEM.
Anyway, I think I will share your story with her tonight after we read a bit more of the story together!
The writing here is fantastic - I shudder to think about my own writing, when I was 14 years old. More Hermione Grangers in the world, please. And more Naomi Horns too.
I love how it all comes together in Deathly Hallows. Hermione’s shown how smart and resourceful she is plenty of times by then, and Harry and Ron would have been dead at least a dozen times over without her – but up until that point, it’s mostly been within the confines of Hogwarts.
Hallows, for all that the Camping Trip portion is interminable in places, shows what Hermione’s like out in the wilderness without any support system beyond Harry and Ron (and even Ron’s gone for a good little while).
And she KILLS it.
It’s not just the studied and researched plans, it’s the split-second reactions, the moments where she has to turn on a dime and save everyone’s bacon.
The sequence in Xenophilius Lovegood’s house may be my favorite example: she knows she, Harry, and Ron have to get the hell out of Dodge, but before they disapparate she makes sure the Death Eaters get a good look at them so that they know Xenophilius was telling the truth. She puts all that together, AND pulls it off, in what’s got to be a matter of seconds.
I think it’s great that we adults here are praising and encouraging Ms. Horn, but I hope this is reaching her peers, who also need it. There are plenty of adults who could benefit from this 14-year old’s wisdom, but the future could potentially be better if more people get this message before they’re adults.
I remember reading a criticism of the Harry Potter books as being anti-feminist, back when the series was still young (this was prior to the publication of Goblet of Fire, and I can’t even remember now where I’d read it, or I’d provide a link). I don’t remember details, but I do remember the author’s main point being the amount of time Hermione is sidelined in Chamber Of Secrets.
And yet even while petrified Hermione’s able to deliver a vital clue. Yes, we don’t really get a sense of just how awesome she is until the end, but it’s telling that she never lets a little thing like a basilisk get in her way.
I think that line is a succinct way of saying “boyfriends are not necessarily the number one priority for (smart) girls”.
If you plan on doing anything intellectual for a living, asking for help is absolutely vital. Unfortunately, it’s also heavily stigmatized in school. American society places an unhealthy emphasis on individual achievement, so many people avoid asking questions or admitting they don’t know something. I still have trouble with this, and I’m a (sort of) grown-up man. I don’t have to deal with negative stereotyping or other kinds of sexism. I’m surprised any women get into STEM disciplines at all, considering all the shit they have to go through.
This is a good and insightful article, but the pixelated lede image is distressing to the point almost of nausea.
Hermione is one of the many reasons I have great difficulty going through the Harry Potter movies. She is downplayed a lot; many of her key moments are completely left out and I personally find extremely distracting how she gets blonder and blonder as she ages. I understand that they need to cut stuff out for time, but if they find time to make ridiculous scenes like the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students doing a silly dance when they enter the hall, surely they can leave critical character development moments. Oh well. The films have a characterization problem (not just for Hermione) that is probably Hollywood’s at large, but it is still painful to watch.
But returning to the book: One thing I really love about Hermione is that she does feel ostracized at times and clearly has a desire to be liked by others; yet he never once attempts to change herself or her bookishness in order to fit in. In many stories featuring a nerdy misfit, the character inevitably tries to dumb themselves down and imitate the more popular crowd only to find out some lesson about staying true to oneself. Hermione already has self-pride and integrity and that is very refreshing. She gets sad and hurt, but she has a strong sense of self and sticks to it.
I’m not sure if it was intended to do so; but the Harry/Hermione division of labor is a pretty good raised-eyebrow at the Heroic Fantasy convention (also wickedly strong in RPGs, surrounding The Player Character) of having Destiny’s Annointed Golden Boy (probably some golden girls, golden elder dragons, and various other golden characters) be the center of attention for almost entirely exogenous reasons, while a team of various sorts of fantasy technicians circle around to get stuff done with their boring, not-driven-by-destiny-or-fated-to-restore-the-balance, skills.
Depending on how strongly the trope is played this can vary from ‘main character is walking deus ex machina who basically just has to show up’ to ‘main character’s Destiny is as much a burden as anything, main character must strive to become what is necessary as those around him spit on Mr. Golden Boy, born with a destined spoon in his mouth’; but it’s a major, and sometimes rather dodgy, aspect of fantasy. (Analogous to the definitely-not-creepy-no-fascism-here aspect of having a bunch of superhumans operating outside the law to defend a society to weak and corrupt to defend itself and possibly to decadent to deserve to, that you get in superhero comics).
Are you aware of the fact that the writer of that statement is a 14-year-old girl? It might make you rethink your opinion of her current priorities.
FWIW, I’ve sent it on to the few 14-year-olds I know. Hopefully they’ll start sending it on to their friends too.