Hermione Granger and the Deathly Hallows?

Girlw/Pen‘s Natalie Wilson asks: why are strong female protagonists missing from so many YA books? She wishes Harry’s series belonged to Hermione, or at least there were more series centered around Hermione-like characters. Wilson posts a link to my gallery of girls-gone-missing posters for kids’ movies and writes the ‘Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows’ film could’ve been included in the list. She’s right. Here’s my comment on her blog:

Thanks for this piece and posting the link to my depressing gallery. Kudos for dealing with Harry Potter. I didn’t include the poster even though, as you write, it would completely fit because it breaks my heart.

The Harry Potter series got my seven year old daughter to read 700 page books. And its by a single mom! But why not a girl wizard as the main character? And why does the writer call herself the gender ambiguous J.K.? Maybe she figured, given the total sexism in kidworld, a male hero is the best way to sell books. Maybe she figured she might not get published at all if she wrote ‘Hermonie Granger and the Sorcerer’s Stone.’ If so, given the climate in Hollywood and publishing, maybe she made the right choice for herself as a writer, deciding the world was only ready for the girl to be a sidekick– but she’d give her a really good part, make her really smart, and not the love interest of the main character.

S.E. Hinton wrote ‘The Outsiders’ about a boy gang to much acclaim. Maybe in 2011, women writers still exist in the world of George Eliot more than anyone admits.

8 thoughts on “Hermione Granger and the Deathly Hallows?

  1. Rowling sent out her book to publishers under the name Joanne and was asked to change it by her publishers so it would also appeal to boys. Ordinarily in the market, boys will be less likely to buy books written by female authors and since the publishers are the ones concerned with selling it, they were the ones who wanted to change it. Rowling complied because, well she got a publishing contract. If I was an aspiring writer with almost nothing, I would be willing to do anything the company asked.

    Second, she has noted many times that the series would have been drastically different if Harry had been a girl. Since she first got the idea she imagines the main character as a young boy. It’s writer’s instinct. When you imagine a character as a certain gender, you can’t just change it. That would affect the story more than people think. I understand your frustration at the lack of female characters in power, but think about this: The female characters are amazing.

    Hermione is very intelligent and strong. You say she only exists to help Harry but that is not true at all. She does so many things for herself and for others.

    Ginny is tough, if you’re actually reading the books and not just watching the movies. She goes through a very traumatic event her first year and gets past it. She becomes strong and independent. She sticks up for her family and refuses to stand back and let others fight for her.

    Mrs. Weasly is the homemaker, yes, but you must also think of the circumstances. She had her first son in the middle of a war (a war she was fighting on the front lines of). Her two brothers died in this war. After experiencing the battle and what it means to lose family, do you really think she would have left her kids alone to go work? It’s not because she’s the woman, it’s her character. Also, when another war and battle come along, she’s the badass who kills a maniacal witch. So there’s that

    Bellatrix is an extremely powerful death eater.

    Narcissa Malfoy plays a one of the most vital roles in the final book

    Nymphadora Tonks is arguably one of the most badass characters, male or female, in the entire series

    Fleur Delacour is a little dainty, but she does withstand the tournament and subsequent battles she fights alongside the main characters

    Lily Evans stood up for her friends, fought for what she believed was right, and contrary to stereotypical female characters, did not pine after a guy. No, instead it was the guy who pined after her.

    Just because the story focuses on a male character does not make it sexist. You make the point a lot that it does not matter what the female characters are like, just the size of their roles. I can disprove your entire claim with one example: The horrid Twilight series. All four books center around a female and yet they still manage to set feminism back about 200 years. What’s your response to that?

      • Seriously? I wrote so much against your view of Harry Potter being sexist. However, you apparently can’t recognize any arguments that prove you wrong and instead chose to focus on one sentence at the end. Really?

  2. I’m sorry but I think you are taking this too far. I don’t know another way to phrase that. I see the frustration, however, one of the lead characters is female, and an amazing role model at that. I enjoy a lot of your posts but I keep reading and it seems like you want every single movie to feature a female main character. Don’t get me wrong, it drives me crazy seeing all of the sexism in the cinema and everywhere else, and the exclusion of main female roles that aren’t horribly cliched and stereotyped, but this particular movie is not one of the problems. I admit, if the books were based around a Hermione rather than a Harry, it might be cool. Saying that every single movie is wrong because the main character isn’t a woman (even movies where there is a female lead like Hermione) is not the way to solve anything. I want to see equality, not women overtaking men, or even thinking that that is the solution. The comment about J.K. Rowling’s name I can understand. I’m fairly sure her publishers may have encouraged the androgynous name. On the other hand, if it just happened to be the name she wanted to write under, then so be it. Quite frankly, she wrote some amazing books, with deep characters and a varied group of characters, WITH strong and important female roles like Hermione’s, and a gay wizard as a headmaster. It’s not perfect but it’s not the “problem”.

    • Hi Dani,

      I get what you’re saying and that’s why I didn’t include the Potter poster in my 2011 Gallery. Hermione is great character. Still, as you point out, I am passionate about getting female leads on the screen with some cool, smart boys helping them along.

      Thanks for visiting ReelGirl.


  3. Thanks for posting this piece Margot! I hope we can keep the conversation going about the importance of positive female role models in fiction and film! Pixar – are you listening?

    • Hi Natalie,

      I used to think fiction didn’t matter that much. Now, with three little kids, I’m thinking its the only thing that really matters. It’s amazing how the things they read, see on TV, and watch in the movies influence their imaginations. Or maybe its not that amazing, just totally obvious. Thanks for your much needed blog about women writing.


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