By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood July 18, 2011 at 4:06AM
Don’t hate me Potterites, but I would have preferred the Harry Potter series had been instead the Hermione Granger series. Yes, I know J.K. Rowling says Harry popped into her head as wizarding protagonist and that she didn’t set out to create a male lead. I also realize the saga is brimming with strong female characters (as detailed here and here). Yet, given that male protagonists still vastly outnumber female ones, I wish Hermione was the girl who lived at the center of the saga.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is dominating at the theatres, as expected, but Hermione’s character has less screen time than in other installments. Much of this time is devoted to nod and wink moments surrounding she and Ron’s coupledom. To be sure, there are some great Hermione triumphs – she is fabulously disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange at the opening and shortly thereafter comes up with the escape by dragon plan. Later, she is indispensable in helping to bring down Voldemort, showing her typical brilliance, fearlessness and loyalty.
However, given that films with strong young female protagonists have proven pretty much non-existent this summer, this viewer wishes she would have been given more screen time.
Alice from Super 8 was a winner, but I was underwhelmed by the typical damsel-in-distress narrative she ultimately inhabited. And, neither Kung Fu Panda or Cars 2 give viewers anything close to Hermione’s power and intelligence.
Breaking Dawn: Part 1 is on the horizon for the fall, but Bella is a far cry from Ms. Granger. The wallflower character consumed with thoughts only of true love (and abstinence!) has catapulted to fame while poor Hermione has had to metaphorically ride on Harry’s wizard cape tails.
Thankfully, The Hunger Games film adaptation is in the works, with the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence (of Winter’s Bone) as the lead. Katniss just may be the female Harry we’ve been waiting for - a Hermione tower of bravery and intelligence.
We learn in the saga’s ending that Hermione's Ministry career goes on to involve fighting for the rights of oppressed House-elves and Muggle-borns. As such, she seems a better suited heroine for our current times of giant Voldemort-like corporations squeezing the life out of us muggles than the comparatively shallow Bella with her Edward-bought limited edition Mercedes.
Of course, Hermione is not perfect. She’s a bit bossy. She’s got quite the temper. But, she is far more like Buffy, the slayer so many loved, than Bella. When Buffy was all the rage, Seventeen magazine surveyed young women about dreams and found they didn’t most often dream about being dark-alley victims saved by an Edward-like prince, but instead dreamt they themselves were like Buffy, slaying monsters and kicking butt.
I would hope a similar survey today would reveal females dreaming themselves like Hermione, trying to injustices such as house elf slavery. Alas, I fear such a survey might reveal that females dream instead of catching their own Edward (or Jacob).
The astute Emma Watson, of Hermione fame, recognizes the need for strong female characters. Recently, she noted:
“I feel like young girls are told this whole idea that they have to be this kind of princess and be all delicate and fragile and that’s bullshit. I identify much more with the idea of being a warrior and being a fighter. If I was going to be a princess, I would be a warrior princess, definitely. I think women are scared of feeling powerful and strong and brave sometimes.”
Indeed, they are Ms. Watson. And might this fear be lessened if females were given more brave, strong heroines in films to look up to? I would guess Watson would agree with this claim, given her comment in a recent article from Entertainment Weekly that “Film is an incredibly powerful medium, and filmmakers have the power to affect the way people think about the future.”
Oh, how I love you Watson, and the character you play, and if I could invent spells to change the future film world, my first would be “Arrresto Bella! Hermione Engorgio!” – meaning stop with the Bella-esque damsel-in-distress female characters and let films swell with Hermione magnificence.
Natalie Wilson, a Women’s Studies and Literature professor at Cal State San Marcos, is author of the recently released Seduced by Twilight: The Allure and Contradictory Messages of the Popular Saga. She pens one of the academic blogs analyzing the saga at Seduced by Twilight. She is also author of the blog Professor, What if? and writes regularly for Ms Blog, Girl With Pen, and Womanist Musings. Find her on twitterat: @seducedbytwi, @drnataliewilson, and @professorwhatif.