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Guest Post: Why we Need More “Warrior Princesses” Like Hermione Granger by Natalie Wilson

by Melissa Silverstein
July 18, 2011 4:06 AM
8 Comments
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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.
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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.

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8 Comments

  • J | July 19, 2011 11:17 AMReply

    I totally agree about this last Harry Potter movie. I really wanted to see Hermione more and I wanted to see her kick ass more in this movie. That was my initial thought walking away from it.

  • Lisa | July 19, 2011 8:13 AMReply

    For me JK Rowling took a wrong turn after the 5th book. That book remains among my favorites because of it's strong female characters. Not only Hermione but also Luna Lovegood (who in my opinion was a much more interesting match for Harry than bland Ginny, who looks enough like Harry's mom to make their relationship a bit creepy in my opinion) and a great female villain in Dolores Umbridge. That book also featured Professor McGonagall prominently, having her step up after Dumbledore's dismissal. At the time I had assumed Rowling was setting McGonagall up for playing a pivotal role in the finale (Dumbledore, after all, was the Transfiguration teacher before becoming Headmaster), and I was disappointed to see her basically cowering in the final book. Were it not for a certain chapter at the end of the final book about a certain person's memory, the end would have been a real let-down.

    But looking forward: don't forget next summer we'll also have a kick-butt female heroine in Pixar's Brave.

  • LondonHellraker | July 19, 2011 8:01 AMReply

    I have always thought the same that Hermione should have been a more central character, rather than the support.
    She did solve most of the problems Harry encounters.

    After the whole series, she ends up married to someone who is not even her equal or someone she could respect.

    Fans have theorised that Hermione is JK Rowling and Ron Weasley, her first husband. Perhaps a new series would happen to be written once JK has become more comfortable with being a strong woman.

    There have also been fans of the fiction that have written a few fanfics wherein Hermione has taken more control of her destiny.

  • Kasey | July 19, 2011 3:55 AMReply

    KT -- I agree, JK is not off the hook.

    For a magic/wizardry series that features a starring role for a girl, and later in the series her sister one needs to look back before Harry Potter. Before Hogwarts and what everyone calls the first teen wizard series, there was Diane Duane's 'Who Wants to Be a Wizard' series that starts with young Nita finding a book of the same title and discovering that under the modern world is a world of modern, & ancient, magic.

  • KT | July 19, 2011 2:59 AMReply

    "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."

    J.K. Rowling needs to admit that we all have subconsciously absorbed our culture' biases and that we all have a responsiblity to get rid of them. J.K. Rowling is NOT off the hook.

  • Kasey | July 18, 2011 12:55 PMReply

    Hermione is certainly a much better female character to be emulated than Bella, who IMO epitomizes pretty much everything that is wrong with teenage girl portrayals. Thank you for acknowledging that Hermione does have flaws. She's not perfect, which is part of her appeal.

    However, I feel that JK in the end did the character a disservice in two ways: (1) the manner in which Hermione so sublimated herself into the wizarding world that her muggle heritage & studies became lost, and (2) that she, a 17 year old girl, would choose to mind-rape her parents by removing their memories & shipping them off to a foreign country. I had a real problem with the latter--while it made for poignant story, the sheer level of hubris staggered me regardless of the reasoning behind it.

    Yet, in the end Hermione and her actress, Emma Watson, are worthy and wonderful role models. Watson is a breath of fresh air & professionalism amongst all of the self-indulgent gossip pages actresses.

  • Tosh | July 18, 2011 12:43 PMReply

    LOL on this entire article. Emma's very warrior princess thing over sweet princess is her entire image. Give me a break.

  • C.K. | July 18, 2011 9:16 AMReply

    "I would have preferred the Harry Potter series had been instead the Hermione Granger series."

    I love that idea! Hermione is my favourite HP character.

    "Katniss just may be the female Harry we’ve been waiting for - a Hermione tower of bravery and intelligence."

    I'm hoping that hope with you. Can't wait to see Katniss take on the screen.

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