There has been a lot of talk about the Harry Potter series lately, because evidently with the release of the last WB film the series is really complete. To me, it was complete when I finished reading the last book, I suppose, and this completion of the first movie adaptation is just, well, something else. But there certainly has been a lot of talk about it, so I thought I should chime in.
Mostly, I am responding to Sady Doyle’s blog note In praise of Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger series, which is a comic version of the feminist critique of the series. It seems to me to be a completely standard and obvious critique, other than being quite well-written, pointing out the perfectly obvious fact that the series is seriously retrograde in its portrayal of sex. It’s not just that it isn’t a feminist series, it’s that it participates in a lot of the tropes about women (and girls) that a lot of YASF has, by now, subverted and torn apart.
My reaction, though, was one that Ms. Doyle says explicitly in The Further Adventures of Hermione Granger: “ But I also don’t think that a Hermione Granger series would be anywhere near as ubiquitous, well-beloved, and highly praised as Harry Potter has been.” In other words, there are works of pop culture that are central to our cultural moment, and there are works that subvert the cultural moment, and they generally aren’t going to be the same works. To some extent, I remain grateful that the Potterworld has even the pretension to equality that it does have: individual women and girls who are smart, who have careers and career plans, who have influence in the government, both heroes and villains. While I can’t call the text committed to those ideas, it does acknowledge them. Which, over the last decade or two, has meant something.
In fact, I think it’s probably true that as much as a Hermione Granger series would not have been as widely popular as the Harry Potter was, I can’t imagine the Harry Potter series would not have been as widely popular as it was without Hermione Granger—and without the other female characters, as well. Is it heartening, then, that to include the widest book-buying (and ticket-buying) audience the world must include certain basic ideas about equality? Maybe. I suppose, to answer that question, I would have to read Twilight—and that’s not a sacrifice I am willing to make.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,