Monday, February 3, 2014

what i think about harry & hermione ending up together

The digital world is a-twitter thanks to a recent interview with J.K. Rowling in Wonderland magazine conducted by Emma Watson. In the interview, Rowling claims putting Hermione and Ron together romantically was a mistake. She describes the choice of "the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment,” and wrong because it
was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility.
Of course Buzzfeed immediately jumped in with a listicle supporting this position. That's what Buzzfeed does. But then came the push back. Slate assistant editor L.V. Anderson laid out the reasons why Hermione's know-it-all personality meshes so well with Ron's take-it-with-a-laugh philosophy. She also pushes back against the underlying assumption that "an intelligent, type-A woman" should end up with a traditionally successful guy like Harry Potter (he's "athletic, rich, famous") instead of a "kind, charismatic, supportive, but penniless guy" like Ron.

Anderson makes a good point. My reason for resisting the "naturalness" or "credibility" of a Harry and Hermione pairing, however, is simpler: it's sexist. Harry, a naturally and supremely gifted wizard, and Hermione, probably the brightest wizard of the age, apparently can't just be friends because one has an outie and the other an innie. It's the erroneous "logic" of this (admittedly hilarious) Chris Rock bit. Heterosexual men and women aren't capable of respecting each other, cherishing the other's company, depending on the other for counsel and guidance, or leaning on one another for support without the spectre of sexual attraction haunting their relationship.

Harry and Hermione defy that assumption. Even though others at Hogwarts presume they are a couple because of their intimacy, Harry and Hermione don't waver in their "just friends" position. Hermione might put Harry in his place from time to time, but it's only to check his ego, not to remind him that his place is in her bed. Harry exhorts Hermione repeatedly to bend and break the rules but never to cross the boundaries of their friendship. They make each other better by pushing and prodding and encouraging. You know, like (same sex) friends do.

That physical attraction or romantic thoughts must follow from their mutual respect and capacities, in Rowling's and other people's minds, is sexist. When Rowling backs away from her literary decision to put Harry's technical advisor and his emotional advisor (admiringly gender swapped from expectations) together, she casts aspersions on a model of gender equality for this generation. She denies that compatibility borne of complementing talents and friendship can be valued in another person without heterosexual anatomical "compatibility" therefore becoming destiny if those two people are not the same sex.

Men and women can just be friends. Even (especially) when they are equals. This is one of the most progressive and enduring of themes in Rowling's stories of the Golden Trio. It's a shame six years after publishing the last book of their adventures she now wants to fall back on old prejudices about match-making.

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