[Show music begins]
Michael Harle: This is Episode 238 of Alohomora! for February 3, 2018.
[Show music continues]
Michael: Welcome back, listeners, to another episode of Alohomora!, MuggleNet.com’s global exploration of the Harry Potter series where we open the Dumbledore on Harry Potter topics that you – the listeners – have asked us to talk about. I’m Michael Harle.
Alison Siggard: I’m Alison Siggard.
Beth Warsaw: And I’m Beth Warsaw. And I would like to welcome our guest, Rita. And Rita is a guest that we’ve had before on the show. She was on the show in October on Episode 229 where we discussed “Hermione’s Helping Hand”. So welcome back, Rita. We’re so happy to have you.
Rita: Yay! So happy to be back, guys!
Beth: For those of our listeners who may not have listened to that episode, would you like to give a refresher about yourself?
Rita: Sure. So I am a Slytherin, though Pottermore insists that I’m a Ravenclaw, but that’s where we disagree. I’m originally from Ukraine, so I read the series in Russian first, and I really loved the last episode about the translations. And… ooh, what else?
Michael: How did you get into Harry Potter?
Rita: So one of my friends was reading it, and I thought that there was no way that it was going to be cool because I just generally thought that nothing he did was cool. And then he let me borrow the book and I loved it. So I’ve been rereading ever since.
Michael: Nice. We’re glad you changed your stance on not-cool to cool.
Rita: Oh yes.
Michael: And it’s perfect because I think we’re talking about one of the coolest characters today, right Alison?
Alison: Yes we are. Today our topic is the one, the only, my favorite character since I was five years old, Hermione Granger!
Alison: Yay! This topic was suggested to us by listeners Emma, Rita, who’s here with us, and Stephanie Cherek through our submissions page. So if you have a topic you want us to talk about, make sure you head over to our website, alohomorapodcast.com, and you suggest what you want to hear us chat about.
Michael: And we’ll remind you again, listeners, how to do this at the end of the show, but also make sure and head over there to submit not only your topics, but your auditions, because Rita got to come back on again because nobody else auditioned to talk about Hermione and Rita was so passionate about it and we wanted her back on for this. But we’ve got some other great topics and chapters that were just released. You can check them out on the main site at the audition page. That’ll show you which specific topics and chapters we have chosen coming up next. And we also want to make sure and give a shout-out on this episode to our episode sponsor, Kaitlin Richeson, on Patreon. Thank you, Kaitlin for sponsoring this episode.
Michael: Kaitlin, you are the Hermione of sponsorships for this episode. We appreciate your patronage on Patreon, and you listeners can become a sponsor for as little as $1 a month on Patreon. Our rewards include access to the private Facebook group Dumbledore’s Office at the $2 level, where fans like yourself can chat with each other, and the Alohomora! hosts, about the latest wizarding world news, which we have a lot of because of the weekend we’re recording is the Harry Potter celebration in Orlando.
Alison: Ooh, I have a slight conspiracy-esque theory I should bring up.
Michael: Oh good! Oh good! We’ll have…
Alison: It has to do with Fantastic Beasts footage.
Michael: We’ll have to do some discussion on that since we’ve got some new info. We’ve also got some other perks: a special decal at the $5 level featuring the Alohomora! logo. You can get a private reading from me at the $15 level of a chapter of your choice from the Harry Potter books. I’ve got a few patrons who I’ll be contacting soon for that reward. And also at the $25 level a vintage Alohomora! T-shirt, and a private Skype chat with any host of your choosing. We will continue to release exclusive tidbits for our sponsors, and you can visit us at patreon.com/alohomora to find out more.
Alison: Before we get started though, we want to introduce you to a new thing we’re doing. It’s called our “Shout-Out Maxima”, and it may sound familiar, but this is where we’re going to tell you guys about interesting conversations going on in Dumbledore’s Office, or on comments on our main site, or on our social media about episodes so we can highlight some of the great discussions you’re having. And this one, actually, I took the easy way out. Sorry!
Alison: But we’re going to have several great ideas from our listeners about our main discussion. I put out a call this week and we got lots of awesome ideas from you guys about what you want to talk about in regards of Hermione. So I make sure and tell you who on Twitter those came from. So we have lots of them this week and they’re coming.
Michael: Yeah, and the other about this, listeners, is with this “Shout-Out Maxima”, yes indeed, the second file where we do comments from the previous episode, recap comments has been retired. Not because we do not value your guys’ comments. We love your comments and we definitely want to keep hearing them, and they’re still going to be incorporated into our episodes with “Shout-Out Maxima”. We will be highlighting, as Alison mentioned, comments and special discussions that we see not only on the main site, but also on our Facebook Dumbledore’s Office group. But we wanted to actually consolidate a little more for future episodes. We’re trying something a little different with the recap comments, but your comments will definitely still be a part of the discussion. And as Alison said, she put out the call for Hermione, and you all came through. So Alison…
Alison: That leads then, yes, to talking… I am so excited, guys.
[Beth, Michael, and Rita laugh]
Alison: I am so excited- to our main discussion this week. Let’s start with just some basic facts about this fantastic character. Hermione Jean Granger, whose middle name actually was originally Jane – Rowling revealed in 2004 – but presumably it was changed so she wouldn’t share a middle name with Umbridge, even though it would’ve been a little funny considering how much they hate each other.
[Alison and Beth laugh]
Alison: The name Hermione comes from a couple different sources, actually. It’s probably most well known, I would say, from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. But Rowling’s Hermione and Shakespeare’s Hermione are very, very different characters.
Michael: What are some of the differences? Because I’ve never read A Winter’s Tale or seen the play.
Alison: Yeah. Shakespeare’s Hermione is pretty passive, actually. Listeners, if you don’t know… Oh gosh, can I sum up A Winter’s Tale without sounding crazy? Probably not.
Alison: It’s a weird one that was written at the end of his life in… It’s along the same lines as The Tempest if any of you are familiar with that, his romances. And basically, there’s a king, and his friend from another kingdom comes to visit him. And during that time, somebody puts it in this king’s mind that his friend is having an affair with his wife. So he confronts his wife, but doesn’t believe her when she denies it. So basically his wife fakes her own death/dies. It’s a little confusing. But they have a daughter, and the king banishes his daughter, but he’s told that until his daughter comes home, he will never have an heir to his throne. So all this time passes, and his daughter has been raised by a shepherd. It has one of the greatest lines, stage directions known to mankind, which is “Exit, pursued by a bear” when the guy drops off this princess. And basically he doesn’t know it’s his daughter. She comes back, she has fallen in love with the king’s friend’s son. And everything ends up happy, but then the king is remorseful that his wife died. And so they go to the statue of his wife and he ends up crying, and then she ends up coming alive out of the statue. It sounds bonkers, but it’s quite beautiful altogether. But yeah, that’s probably the other most well-known Hermione.
Beth: So is Hermione his wife or his daughter?
Alison: Hermione is his wife. Sorry, it’s the queen.
Beth: Oh, okay.
Alison: So yes, she’s the one who dies/fakes her death. Yeah, it’s weird. [laughs] Also, another Hermione in literature from Greek mythology is the daughter of Helen of Troy is named Hermione, but there’s not – that I remember – much out there about her. We just get a name drop.
Beth: Yeah, I tried to do some research on that and tried to see if there is any kind of character overlap, or perhaps a source of inspiration for our Hermione, but I couldn’t find anything.
Alison: So yeah, so it’s an interesting and unique name. But our Hermione doesn’t really connect with either of those in a lot of ways.
Michael: I’ve heard a lot of like theorizing from the fandom that because Hermione is, you know, so learned already before she comes to Hogwarts that perhaps her parents were Shakespeare fans.
Alison: Yeah. I think someone said something about, or Rowling said… where did I read this? Rowling said it sounds like the kind of name these very educated people would give to their child, you know?
Michael: Well, yeah. Because the funny thing is wizards give their kids weird names but Hermione’s Muggle-born so she’s already starting off right, really. So.
Beth: Well, it’s also interesting to me because so rarely does Rowling name a major character without putting a lot of consideration into that name. And so the fact that we don’t have a lot to connect to her name is very strange to me.
Alison: I don’t know. I think it’s kind of on the same level as why she chose Harry, right? Because Harry doesn’t necessarily have a special meaning why she came up with it, right? She was like, “This is a very plain, ordinary name.”
Michael: I think there’s been mention, I don’t know if by her, but there’s been mention of connections to say Harry Houdini.
Alison: Huh, I’ve never heard that but that would make sense.
Michael: I mean it but also Ron, you know. It’s kind of a… just… it’s a name. [laughs]
Alison: Well Ron kind of goes in with the whole Weasley family as Arthurian legend connection, right? But yeah it is interesting that all her secondary characters have very specific names. But these main characters, their names have almost superseded anything that would have come before them, you know? We know them as they’re Rowling’s whatever, you know? That’s your first thought when you connect those names now.
Alison: Granger. So her last name is an occupational name for someone who farms grain which is interesting.
Michael: You mean it’s not for a… it doesn’t mean dentist?
Alison: No. But it’s kind of nice to think very salt of the earth kind of people, like farmers, and maybe even a connection to feeding and helping as like a grain, as producing grain. I don’t know if any of that made sense.
Michael: Well I guess if you want to stretch it, it’s the idea of somebody who does a very necessary thing, a very practical thing.
Michael: And that’s Hermione. Everything she does is practical and necessary.
Beth: Well I would frame it in another way in that I think her parents’ profession and, here, now her last name highlights the fact that she comes from – I hesitate to say – a mundane background and becomes quite an extraordinary person.
Michael: Like a humble background.
Beth: Yeah. That’s a better way to put it.
Alison: Yeah, I like that. Funny thing about her name too. People struggled for a long time to pronounce it properly and that’s why we got that scene with Viktor in Goblet of Fire with “Herm-o-ninny” and all of the various ways to say it. Beth, though, had an idea about that, because that’s what I’ve always heard, is that scene directly came from nobody could say the name for some reason and som or somebody asked Rowling, “How do you pronounce it?” And she was like, “Well I’ll put a scene in the book, then to clear that up.”
Beth: Yeah. But the audio books had been out for a long time, and Jim Dale was pronouncing it correctly. I have never listened to the Stephen Fry ones but I assume he pronounces it correctly too. Did people does not believe that that was correct or had they’ve ever – these people who didn’t know how to pronounce it – had they never heard the audio books, or?
Alison: I think it might be the latter. I feel like audio books, when these books were coming out, weren’t super popular. I feel like they’ve gotten more popular with digital and it’s easier for people to carry them around. But back then it was all on cassette or C.D. right?
Beth: And they were huge.
Michael: Yeah, back then cassette was a more was the more prominent form and C.D.s were kind of phasing in for audio books. So yeah there was… even back then, C.D.s didn’t have as much space on them for data. And you still even with Harry Potter audio books now you still get a lot of C.D.s with each one.
Beth: Yeah, I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story on the show before but when I was a kid – well a teenager – I borrowed the audiobooks on C.D from the library, and one by one ripped them to my computer and it took me months.
Michael: I bet.
Beth: But now I have each track, A through Q of each chapter and it’s like a gazillion tracks. Yeah.
Alison: Oh my gosh. That’s hilarious
Michael: That’s seriously insane.
Alison: Well, and they were more expensive, I think, too, weren’t they?
Michael: Yeah, well, and that was the other thing is cars at that time only just starting to get C.D. players instead of just cassette players. And cassettes had the problem of the tape would unravel after a while. Oh there’s a bunch of people listening – there’s some young one’s listening – who are like, “What? What are you talking about?” Go look it up kids or, watch Guardians of the Galaxy and you’ll get it.
Alison: Oh, I remember those days, though.
Beth: I’m sorry but there is nothing more satisfying than the plastic thing that cassettes came in when you snap them back in.
Beth: That’s such a specific memory.
Alison: Yes! That’s so real! VHS tapes too. There was just something about opening and closing those things. Man.
Michael: I’d say that is kind of part of the reason why people didn’t catch on to… because really people were talking about Harry Potter more as something that was getting kids reading. And so I think more people were turning to the book itself rather than the audiobook. So I imagine some very clever Ravenclaw kiddos out there were probably getting the audio book and then telling their friends. But yeah, I know Rowling said she put that scene in because she got asked that question so much on her tours that she was just like, “Okay, let’s settle this one once and for all.” Because I think even at that point too, there was a sense of authority from Rowling that until she said something or confirmed something, we didn’t know for sure. So, yeah. I think I heard multiple pronunciations for Hermione. I don’t remember what mine was, but I know it was wrong. I’m pretty sure I knew someone who pronounced it “Hermy-one.”
Beth: Wow. That’s a new one for me.
Michael: Yeah. That was a stretch. What was funny was on our language and translations episode, I think one of the girls confirmed that in their language “Herm-ee-own” is actually how you say her name. So I was like, “Ha-ha! Some of us were not saying it wrong. We were just saying it in, like, French.” So it was fine. [laughs]
Alison: Yeah, I think it was French.
Michael: But yeah. That was quite a curveball of a name she threw at us, and personally for me I don’t think anything really outdid it until I got to Book 7 and I was reading it out loud to my friends and I was like, “Zena… Xena-feely… Ze-nof-fa-lee-as”.
Michael: So, yeah. Hermione was king of the weird names for quite a while.
Alison: I don’t know how I said it. Did I ever say it weird? Because I’m trying to remember – you guys know I’m so bad with times and dates – I think I started reading them just around the time Goblet came out. So I’m trying to remember if I even ever read them and thought about them without that scene in there.
Michael: Well you must have for a little bit since you read the first three before you read Goblet.
Alison: Yeah. I honestly don’t remember, it was too long ago.
Michael: I know I didn’t say it right but I don’t remember how I said it.
Beth: I mean I can’t be hard on anyone about this because I’m sure many listeners can relate to this, that being a person that has gained a lot of vocabulary by reading through the years, I pronounce a lot of things wrong because I’ve never heard then said out loud before.
Alison: I spent so long not understanding every time I read the word “hors d’oeuvres” because it’s spelled so weird. I was like, “I literally have no idea what that’s talking about right now.” But if you said the word “hors d’oeuvres” I got what you were saying. Oh my gosh.
Rita: I know exactly what you mean with that one.
Michael: See, Hermione taught a whole generation of people to really track down the pronunciation.
Rita: Did Goblet come out first or did the first movie come out first?
Alison: I think it was Goblet, wasn’t it?
Michael: Goblet came out first, because it came out in 2000. The first movie came out in 2001.
Beth: I mean as I could imagine just as a little girl going there and having one pronunciation of Hermione’s name and then having the movie teach me that I was pronouncing it wrong, and having that take away from the magic would be just awful.
Michael: Well, it’s fine. The movie pronounces a few things wrong anyway, so. And you know infamously now some of us here try to say, [pronounces Volda-more] Voldemort on the podcast after Rowling’s thing. I mean it’s too late. The movies added the “t” and so many people assume about the “t” because nobody… I don’t think very many people – perhaps in the U.S. or the U.K. – were just, you know, assuming, “Oh, this is French! [with a French accent] [pronounces Volda-more] Voldemort.”
Alison: Yeah, well it took the movies to remind me that these were British books, so.
Alison: That’s fine.
Michael: Well tell us more about Hermione. She’s got so many cool facts about her.
Alison: Yes. So Hermione’s birthday… was born on September 19th, 1979 which feels super old.
Alison: I don’t know what it is. I know in my head that these books take place in the 90s, right? But every time I see the actual days they were born I’m like, “’79? What?” I don’t know. It’s weird to me maybe. Again it’s my date thing.
Beth: When you made the doc I sort of did a double-take and I was like, “Wait. Is that right? Did she put that in there right?”
Michael: Little Hermione was totally listening to New Kids on the Block.
[Alison and Rita laugh]
Michael: So yeah.
Rita: And you know she probably was before she went to Hogwarts she totally was. She probably had the posters in her room.
Alison: Yeah. If she had gotten into music before she turned 11.
Michael: She was getting into that age, right around there right at the end.
Alison: That’s crazy.
Michael: That’s funny because Rowling confirmed that because she’s just a titch older than Harry and Ron – because she had to be nearly 12 to get into Hogwarts because you can’t be nearly 11… you have to be 11 her older past that date, I think.
Alison: Yeah, the cutoff date is either August 31 or September 1, right?
Michael: Or September 1, yeah. So yeah, you have to be 11 by that time. So she couldn’t have gone. So yeah, she’s the oldest of the three of them.
Beth: I always thought that was interesting that she is the oldest, especially because – we’ll talk about Emma Watson later – Emma Watson is the youngest of the trio. But so I’ve always found Hermione being the oldest being really interesting because she’s kind of the one with her head on her shoulders, and the most mature, and so I wonder if that has anything to do with it.
Alison: Yeah, I mean it is interesting because she, I wonder if there’s anyone else in that entire class who’s older than her or is she the oldest kid in that year? Because that gives her quite the advantage, actually in a lot of ways. There’s been studies and stuff and just from experience because my birthday makes me one of the oldest kids in my school grade. But being one of the oldest kids in your grade puts you a little bit ahead behaviorally at the beginning of schooling; your cognition is a little bit ahead, you know? It gives you quite a boost. So it’s quite interesting that no wonder Hermione is so good at the very beginning because she’s half a step ahead a little bit in some ways.
Michael: Oh yeah. And she knows it.
Alison: Yes she does.
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Rita: What’s interesting to me is that if she received her letter on her 11th birthday, that gave her almost a year before she started to mentally digest that she was going to go to the school. But I’m assuming she got the supply list at the same time that everyone else did. So I was thinking that maybe she had a year to sort of practice and read up on Hogwarts, the history of Hogwarts. But then I don’t think she had that time. I think she was just sitting there.
Alison: Would she have though?
Beth: It never occurred to me that she would have gotten her letter on her 11th birthday. And I know…
Alison: I don’t that’s right.
Beth: Well that’s we all think of, that you get your letter in your 11th birthday but now I’m doubting that. Do we know for sure which it is?
Alison: I think you get it during the summer because they always get their letters during the summer. It just happens to fall on Harry’s birthday because his is in July but the letters started coming earlier. They start coming in mid-July?
Beth: Well we only see acceptance letters one time.
Michael: We don’t see, because the letters we see after this are kind of the welcome back…
Alison: Book list.
Michael: …letters. “Here’s next year’s stuff.” But I mean that that’s possible because Hogwarts wouldn’t necessarily have decided its curriculum for the year since they do change depending on the teachers.
Michael: So I don’t know if they could decide. I don’t know if she could have gotten at that early or if she would have gotten it at the same time as everyone else. The thing, too, was Harry was supposed to get his letter earlier than his birthday. They were trying to reach him before that.
Michael: So I think it’s early summer that they actually do send those out.
Alison: So she probably would have started whatever year of Muggle school. Likee the next step of Muggle school, wouldn’t she?
Beth: So I guess that depends on whether the cutoff age for Muggle school is the same as for Hogwarts. Because if it was slightly different she could be you know a whole school year ahead of anybody else who went to school.
Alison: Yeah. So she would have she would have been in secondary school already then.
Beth: So that puts her one year ahead in terms of reading and writing and that kind of thing.
Michael: I bet she had a lot of moral quandaries about leaving school.
Alison: Yeah, I was going to say what do you think they told people? What would they have told people, especially like if she made friends at whatever school she was at?
Michael: Well we should discuss that farther down because there’s been a lot of talk about Hermione’s potential friendships that she may or may not have had before Hogwarts.
Alison: Okay. Speaking of Hermione’s early life. She is Muggle-born. Her parents are dentists. We don’t know their names though.
Michael: Mr. and Mrs. Granger.
Alison: Yeah. That’s all they’re ever referred to. We see them once in the whole series. They run into them in Diagon Alley [hesitates] third year? Four- second year?
Michael and Rita: Second year.
Michael: Yeah. They get to be a witness to Lucius and Arthur’s little scuffle in Flourish and Blotts.
Michael: But yeah. That’s their only – I think – on page appearance, but they’re mentioned a lot. Hermione talks about them quite a bit which is also a whole discussion.
Beth: Yeah, we’ll get to that.
Michael: Yeah. We have points about that.
Alison: Yeah. I’m fascinated by her parents actually.
Michael: I’d love to know more about her parents. I’m surprised we never got a piece about them on Pottermore.
Michael: Because that seems like it could be pretty interesting.
Alison: Just from the tidbit we get in Chamber there of when they’re in Diagon alley I just… How did they deal with that? You know? How did they… I mean, we’re going to talk about this a little bit later but I’m fascinated to talk about her and her parents and how her parents, especially, interact. How much they interact with the wizarding world, and how much she keeps from them, and how much she shares with them.
Beth: But to be fair in Diagon Alley, that one time we see them, they seem to be drinking it up and really into it. And that’s exactly how Hermione enters the wizarding world too.
Beth: So it doesn’t surprise me that they sort of step right into that world without much hesitation and fear.
Michael: And as far as we know that’s not necessarily their first time in Diagon Alley. Hermione had to come the year before to get her wand and her supplies.
Alison and Beth: True.
Beth: Yeah, not everybody has Hagrid.
[Alison, Beth, and Michael laugh]
Michael: Yeah, Hagrid doesn’t go get everyone. We’ve heard, too, that there’s other representatives from the school – like McGonagall – who make house calls. But I assume, and I think they have to, if it’s a Muggle-born… I think if the parents want to accompany them, they may have to have somebody from the school or the ministry accompany them because they can’t see Diagon Alley.
Alison: I hope they let their parents come with them. Otherwise as a parent I’d be a little concerned.
Beth: Yeah, I would not be into that.
Alison: [laughing] This person just dropped into my house and told me that my child is magical and now they want to take them away?
Michael: Yeah. There has to be, because we know the Grangers go in Chamber of Secrets which we’ve talked about before like, “How did they get in?” But we kind of just went off the assumption that being with the Weasleys allowed them to get in. There do seem to be occasions where, and Fantastic Beasts is seeming to explore that even more, where if the Muggle is with wizards they can see everything. And it’s not necessarily the wizard who takes the like the charm down or has individual control over that. It’s just that being in the Wizard’s presence can trigger it.
Michael: Well we haven’t gotten…
Alison: It’s almost like if they know it’s there, you know? I always got the feeling – sort of with Diagon Alley – you have to know it’s there or you just don’t see it. So maybe if they know it’s there they’re able to get over some of those Muggle-repelling things?
Rita: Yeah it’s like Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
Michael: Well the one I was thinking of is actually M.A.C.U.S.A. Because Jacob doesn’t know that they’re in M.A.C.U.S.A. when they get there. He just… they open the case and they’re in M.A.C.U.S.A.
Alison: Oh yeah. That’s true.
Michael: And Newt didn’t know they were there either. They just open the case and they’re there because Tina brought them there. So there’s no magic spell or anything that takes the facade down. He’s just in it.
Alison: But I do wonder, because those always seem to be on the outside. So I guess we don’t know the security around The Blind Pig because they walk right through the front door.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know how that works. That’s that’s a confusing one. But, you know, another Pottermore piece for you, Rowling. Keep it up.
Alison: Please explain to us how that works.
Beth: I’m really excited to read what listeners think about this one.
Alison and Michael: Yeah.
Michael: Maybe they can untangle that one for us.
Rita: Also, Alison something you just said is just super funny. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, our baby is magical.” I feel like they have to high five after that. You know, Lily Evans’ parents, Hermione’s parents, “Literally we are so good that our baby is magical.”
[Alison and Rita laugh]
Michael: I can’t remember what the name of the story was, I read it for AudioFictions a long time ago. But there was a story that I read about how proud Hermione’s parents were, and it was from the perspective of her dad. And it was a very sweet story, this idea.
Alison and Rita: Aw.
Michael: The writer did go along the lines of Hermione’s parents are super educated and they wanted to push books on her at an early age. And they were really proud, but in a way kind of not remotely surprised that their daughter was super special. So yeah. I think it’s a really sweet idea. That’s kind of the fun part about not having the Grangers’ official story, is there’s a lot of hypotheses we can still have about them.
Alison: I think it’s kind of cute to think, too, they look at each other and they’re like, “So anyone on your family? Your family? No? Where did this come from?” [laughs] Because we do know is genetic, right, at least to some degree.
Michael: And it occasionally can jump a generation.
Alison: Speaking of Diagon Alley, though, that is where Hermione got her wand. And she has a very interesting wand. Especially taking into account the information we get on Pottermore about these things. So, Hermione’s wand is dragon heartstring core, ten and three-quarter inches, and made of vine wood. So the dragon core, interestingly enough that means then that the trio all each… Their wands are made up of the three cores Ollivander uses, since Harry’s is a phoenix and Ron’s is a unicorn hair. But Hermione has a dragon core which are the most powerful cores, and they learn the quickest. They also make very strong bonds with their owners, and they are the most easily turned to dark magic, and they usually have the most accidents.
Michael: Is this weird to say? I mean, part of me is like, that makes Hermione cooler because she mastered her wand so well, really without question, to the point that when Harry tries to use her want he doesn’t like it because it doesn’t feel right. You can tell, too, in Hallows, she gives it up because Harry makes her feel like she did something wrong. Which she didn’t, by the way, but also you can tell she doesn’t want to give it up. But at the same time, is it weird to say that I kind of want to switch the cores of Ron and Hermione’s wands? Keep Harry’s phoenix feather, but I kind of think Hermione should be unicorn hair and Ron should be dragon heartstring.
Michael: Because I think Ron has more of that duality that can shake him one way or the other because he’s so sensitive and he’s accident prone.
Michael: Whereas Hermione doesn’t really have a bad bone in her body. She has a very set moral compass. Even though we see her get a little lax as the books go on and she relaxes a bit and kind of learns how to shake the rules a little, she generally follows a pretty staunch outlook on life that doesn’t really change.
Beth: I don’t know, I feel like after halfway through the first book, she’s kind of the one that suggests breaking rules most of the time.
Beth: She is very quick to do what she thinks is right in the moment, whether it’s following the rules or not. And her power is extremely apparent, and I think that that power in the hands of just about anyone else could have led them down a darker path. It’s a testament to Hermione character that she has stayed so true.
Michael: Oh yeah. I think that it totally makes sense in that sense, and – like I said – I think it makes Hermione even more awesome. I’m just saying that, to me, especially when we consider how wands… There’s question of whether wands see potential in people or if they choose them as they are in the moment, similar to the Sorting Hat. I just see more of this duality of the dragon core in Ron that I do in Hermione.
Alison: I wonder though, because you brought up that she has a very strict moral compass that she sticks to and a moral code she sticks to, but I wonder if some of that is because she’s afraid of turning bad somehow. If something happened in her childhood where she had experiences that made her think, “No, I have to act a certain way or I’m going to end up as a bad person,” however she defined that. And so maybe that’s one of the things that is good about her having this dragon core is that she as a person is not easily swayed because she’s built up that moral compass and then she’s able to bring her wand with her.
Michael: Okay. I feel like that one’s a little… I need evidence, because the evidence from the book that I see is that she is terrified of dark magic and that she really has an immediate aversion to it and to things that seem morally wrong. She just doesn’t like stuff like that. She’ll explore deeper and darker magic for an educational purpose, but she never has any feelings to use it. Versus Ron who’s just like, “Ah, let’s curse their faces off.”
Alison: Well, to make a connection to another franchise, it’s almost the Luke Skywalker theory, right? Where he has been told so much that this is bad, this is bad, this is dark, this is dark. And so he totally rejects anything that has to do with the dark side. And sometimes that can be to his detriment. Right?
Alison: And that happens with Hermione sometimes, right? She’s so afraid of it, and for good reason quite honestly. For good reason. But she’s so afraid of it that she almost refuses to take it into consideration. Not to use even necessarily, but even just to know what the enemy is doing so you can fight.
Michael: Oh yeah. No, in Order and Hallows, that comes to a head because – in Hallows especially – Dumbledore knows that about her and uses that to slow Harry down purposefully.
Michael: Yeah. Still think she should have a unicorn core, though, but okay.
Beth: Listeners, weigh in. I can’t wait to find out what you think.
Michael: But what’s her wand wood?
Alison: Her wood is vine, which is fascinating to me. Ollivander makes note that anything considered a wand wood is what the Druids considered a wood, so vines work. It’s a not very common wand wood. And from the Pottermore information, it says,
“Their owners are nearly always those witches or wizards who seek a greater purpose, who have a vision beyond the ordinary, and who frequently astound those who think they know them best. They’re attracted to personalities with hidden depths and they can sometimes spontaneously emit magic when a prospective owner enters a room.
Michael: Yeah, that’s Hermione. That all sounds correct to me.
Alison: So my other question was, Ollivander says in the information he’s seen it twice, and I really want to know if Hermione was one of those.
Michael: That’s cool. She could have been.
Beth: Wait, what has he seen twice?
Alison: He’s seen these vine wands emit magic spontaneously when a prospective owner walks in.
Beth: Oh, interesting.
Rita: Wouldn’t that be so easy? I mean, Harry breaks like half of Ollivander’s shop and instead Hermione wand just lights up and Ollivander is like, “Done. Great.”
Beth:I do want to call out some of the things mentioned in this passage that you pulled out about vine woods, particularly the idea of vision beyond the ordinary… Do we really think that Hermione has vision? Because, to me, she spends most of school not really thinking about what she wants to do, just that she wants to have good grades and do well in school. And then she ends up in law enforcement, which she scoffed at. She definitely didn’t want to do that when she was a teenager. So I can agree with the the greater purpose that that she she wants to have that. But does she really have a vision for how she expects her life to go?
Michael: Well, that’s the interesting thing about the Harry Potter books and with our whole trio. None of them really have a vision until like fifth year, sixth year with what they’re going to be doing. They never talk about, until that year that McGonagall is like, “All right! Career counselling. Time to tell me what you want to do.” So they never really discuss that up until then.
Alison: I think it depends on how you’re going to define “vision.” If it’s like a layout for how she wanted her plan to be, I agree. She doesn’t really have one. But I think she has a vision of how she thinks the world should work and how she thinks people…and, I mean, all sorts of creatures, and people, and ideals should happen.
Beth: I like that.
Michael: What would be interesting would be to see what would happen if you put eleven-year-old Hermione in front of the Mirror of Erised.
Michael: The thing the thing that’s interesting is, Ron’s is to have some kind of accolades and not really have his family saddling that, which he gets after a time. Not in the way he expects, but he gets it. And Harry’s is to have a family, and he gets that. So I wonder if Hermione got whatever it was she would have seen. I don’t know. Has anybody ever asked Rowling what Hermione would have seen?
Alison: No, but I’m about to right now.
Michael: [laughs] Twitter! The magic of Twitter.
Alison: Here we come! Bam! Tweet! Speaking of Hermione’s wand, this is just a fun little tidbit. It’s just shorter than Harry’s. It’s about a quarter inch shorter than Harry’s. Quite a bit shorter than Ron’s. But it’s the same length as mine! So, confirmed: I am Hermione. The end.
Michael: What is the length of the wand?
Alison: Ten and three-quarter inches.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Alison: And Harry’s is 11 and Ron’s is 14. And I kind of looked for other characters that had the same length as Hermione and that’s really hard information to find. So I gave up. But listeners, let us know if you know another character that has the same length.
Michael: I like that her wand is long but a little shorter than Harry’s because Ollivander says that all three pieces of the wand kind of joined together to reflect the individual, but the wand length tends to be about an individual’s… It relates to their extroverted/introverted nature and how much how much of a personality they have. And that’s interesting that Hermione is just short of Harry’s but also that, you know, there’s room to grow, perhaps.
Beth: I love the symbolism of that. It’s so cool.
Alison: Yeah. Some of that has to do with their height too. And I mean, that makes sense because Harry is just a little bit taller than Hermione, but they’re both quite a bit shorter than Ron. He’s long and gangly and Ron.
Alison: Hermione’s Patronus is an otter.
Beth: Okay, this is my favorite thing in the whole world.
Alison: It’s so cute!
Beth: I know. Because I love otters, first of all. But also because we see Hermione being very straight-laced a lot of the books. We do think of her as a rule follower even though she really isn’t. And she is very studious and always trying to hunker down and study. But otters are very carefree and they are known to seek out things just for fun. They will build slides just for fun. They do lots of things that don’t really benefit them in any other way than pleasure. And I think that’s super cool to think about with Hermione’s character. And they also fall asleep holding hands so that they don’t float away from each other while they sleep…
Beth: …and I then I think about the scene where Hermione and Ron fall asleep holding hands and I just get really verklempt.
Alison: Oh my gosh. Also it makes me think of just how tightly Hermione holds on to the people she loves. She’s not willing to let go of someone who needs her and who she loves.
Rita: Yep. That’s really well put.
Beth: I just love it. I just love it so much. And I also, this is really silly, but I just thought I’d point out that otters have several layers of very thick fur to help keep them warm and Hermione has a lot of hair. So, just saying, this is the perfect Patronus.
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Michael: Otters are Rowling’s favorite animal, right? So she wanted to associate them with the character who she has said is most like her. I think. She’s talked before that Hermione was like her as a little girl.
Alison: Yeah. Is most like her childhood self.
Michael: So I like that. I like that sometimes there’s meaning behind things, but it’s nice, too, that on occasion Rowling submits to the pleasures that any writer might do. It’s just like, “Because I like this.”
Alison: Hermione, as we know, has quite the career. She starts in the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. A little step up from S.P.E.W., there. And then she moves into the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and eventually she becomes Minister for Magic, which is awesome.
Alison: So good.
Michael: Boo. She can do so much.
Alison: Don’t rain on this parade.
Michael: I’ll rain on that parade all the time. She’d never… I still think that’s crazy. That’s such an easy thing to throw Hermione into. I really like that she was… But I’m just not going to be a fan of Cursed Child ever, so that’s the thing. But that said, I think that’s just such an easy position to throw her into. I really like that she was in other departments that really reflected… I love that she went into magical creatures first because that’s an extension of S.P.E.W., and then I love that she went into law enforcement specifically because she told Scrimgeour that she didn’t want to do that. [As Hermione] “I’m going to do things that will actually change the world.”
Alison: I just got that magical creatures connection. I was like, “What if she introduced Luna and Rolf?”
Michael: Hah! That would be kind of…
Alison: Because what if Newt’s family’s still hanging around magical creatures. Oh my gosh! Okay. Anyway.
Beth: Wow, I like that a lot.
AlisonI like to think it was almost, she got into this and then she just kept climbing and she was like, “Okay, maybe this is the best way I can make a difference.” You know? I don’t necessarily know if she sought out being Minister for Magic, but she probably just got enough support that she was like, “Okay. I can do this to help people out.” You know? To try and do what’s right. Got to keep Harry in check over there in the Auror office, anyway.
Beth: Do you know how long after Kingsley? Like do we know potentially how many there would have been between her and Kingsley?
Alison: We don’t. Because they don’t necessarily have set terms do they?
Michael: No, on Pottermore it explains that they can just basically be Minister as long as they’re popular.
Beth: Because I could see her choosing to do this only under one condition. And I could be persuaded otherwise. But the head-canon that I have is that maybe a Minister somewhere between Kingsley and her reminded her too much of the Ministers that really caused problems during the war. And maybe she felt like that was what she needed to do to keep the magical community on track. I don’t know. What do you guys think?
Michael: I like that idea.
Rita: Me too.
Alison: Yeah. There’s also, if there was someone between her and Kingsley, maybe it was like, you know how in politics the pendulum shifts along. You’ll get somebody really good and then… Yeah. So maybe that happened and Kingsley – I get the feeling – was a great Minister. Kingsley. And then maybe they got someone horrible who just made a mess of it and she was like, “You know what? I can do this better. Let’s go.” And so she just kind of stepped up to the plate.
Beth: Yeah, and frequently people who are best suited for the job are not the people who are best at the job. And so a lot of people that could be really good in those types of positions don’t pursue them. And so maybe she was persuaded to pursue it by somebody else. Potentially Harry. I don’t know.
Alison: Maybe Kingsley took her a little under his wing too. Maybe he saw how brilliant she was and… Because he took an interest in all of the trio, right, and where he thought they might fit?
Rita: Also it’s interesting because, I mean, we don’t know who was between, or if there was anyone between, Kingsley and Hermione, but from what we know she could be potentially the first female Minister of Magic in a really long time. So that’s also really, really cool.
Michael: I think the last one was actually the one before Fudge. Because there was a female Minister when Voldemort went down [because of] Harry as a baby. So in the 80s.
Alison: Interesting. Well, Rita, you have a point and a question to bring up.
Rita: Yeah, so one of the things that gets brought up quite frequently that I see is, “Why is Hermione in Gryffindor where her behavior tends to suggest that she should be a Ravenclaw?” Because from everything we know about Ravenclaw, their defining trait is cleverness, and a love of books, which we definitely see in Hermione. And I was just doing a personal analysis of this, so I’m just going to read the quotes and then you guys can chime in because I wrote a lot of paragraphs.
Rita: So I have three firm reasons for what I believe is why Hermione is a true definitive Gryffindor, rather than a Ravenclaw. So the first one is the quote that we all love, which is,
“Books and cleverness! There are more important things, like friendship and bravery.”
And to me, that’s a pretty strong defense of why Hermione is a Gryffindor. I mean, like I said, we see her go to the library a lot. We know that she holds books as the ultimate power of authority. But to me, this quote shows that there are traits that she values so far above that. So yeah, to me that seems like, yes, she is definitely a Gryffindor.
Beth: We’ve talked a lot about Sorting on this show, and the Sorting episode was the first episode I was ever on. But I firmly believe that Sorting has a lot to do with what you prioritize – what’s important to you – just as much as your personality. And so even if Hermione is really bookish, she holds bravery and friendship in such high regard that I can totally see that massively winning over her bookishness.
Michael: Well, and you’ll get more into the rest of the quotes you have here, Rita, but just saying that, what’s interesting too is that we have a moment in the series, in Order of the Phoenix, when Hermione shows off the enchanted Galleons for Dumbledore’s Army. I think it’s Terry Boot who asks her why she wasn’t in Ravenclaw, and she basically says, [as Hermione] “The hat said either one, and it ended up choosing Gryffindor. The end! I don’t have an explanation.” And she doesn’t say anything else about why. So it’s funny that it’s even brought up, because there is no in canon proper explanation, as far as the actual Sorting goes. And we know too that Hermione was a near Hatstall. She wasn’t actually a Hatstall. But the Sorting Hat, according to Pottermore, spent nearly four minutes trying to decide whether it should place Hermione in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. So she didn’t make it easy on the hat. Rita, what are these other quotes you have here though?
Rita: Yeah, so the second one is from Goblet of Fire [squeaking noises in the background] where Hermione definitively says,
“My parents don’t read The Daily Prophet. Rita Skeeter can’t scare me into hiding.”
And just the general storyline of Hermione and Rita Skeeter in Goblet of Fire… Again, I’m sorry for the toys in the background.
Michael: [laughs] That’s fine.
[Alison, Beth, and Rita laugh]
Michael: It’s adorable.
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Rita: My puppy is really cute. He’s 13 weeks now, and yeah. I’m just still adjusting to having a dog, but…
Michael: No, you’re fine. We are not about to make you go through a dog training before being on the episode.
[Alison and Rita laugh]
Michael: Nothing that can be helped. No worries.
Rita: Alright. I apologize. So just in general Hermione’s entire storyline with Rita Skeeter where she takes a full-on adult who’s a professional, who’s just slandering her name. And instead of running to somebody for help, or – I mean – handling it poorly, Hermione handles this very well. And another thing that just struck me as I thought about it is she had the foresight to not use Rita Skeeter’s secret to get revenge because she could’ve totally been like, “Okay, you know what? I’m going to out her, and everybody is going to know that everything she wrote was a lie, and I’m going to get my revenge that way.” But instead she kept that as something that she could potentially use as… I don’t want to say blackmail, but leverage later on.
Michael: [laughs] It’s blackmail.
Alison: Oh, it’s blackmail.
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Alison: It’s blackmail.
Beth: I’m going to disagree with you here, Rita. I am of the mind that this is a Slytherin thing to do. That just brazenly outing Rita and making a big deal of this is a Gryffindor thing to do, and that using it in such a calculated way for her own gain, almost is a Slytherin thing to do. I don’t know.
Alison: See, I see it as it’s the negative side of being a Gryffindor. It’s a Gryffindor trait, but it’s a negative aspect of it, that she’s so relentless in finding out how Rita found out this information, and then relentless in going after her, and relentless in holding her to it, and holding that over her in a lot of ways. And it’s that determination and that… I mean, it’s determination through cleverness, but it’s one of the darker things Hermione does, I think. And it’s a little necessary, but it’s a dark side that she pulls out there.
Michael: I mean, I think the thing is Hermione is somewhat… The altercation with Rita shows that Hermione believes in poetic justice, to some degree. The idea that you get what’s coming to you, that a punishment should somewhat fit the crime; because putting Rita in a jar is pretty fitting, considering what she did. And she doesn’t take it nearly as far as she could. I think it’s actually a mix of a Ravenclaw/Slytherin thing to do. Because she’s not doing it purely for selfish reasons, because she ends up calling in the favor for Harry’s benefit, not for hers.
Beth: Yeah, I feel in this case selfish includes people who are important to her.
Michael: Mm-hmm. I suppose, I mean, we’ve talked, too, about how that’s a potential Slytherin idea, that Slytherins are very tight-knit in that way and look out for each other. But that’s also a Hufflepuff thing.
Beth: [laughs] It’s almost like these things aren’t black and white.
[Alison and Rita laugh]
Michael: Yeah. Yeah. It may be. It might just be.
Alison: That there’s a little bit in everyone.
Michael: What’s the third thing you have, Rita?
Rita: Well, I’m not even sure. Because we just proved Hermione belongs in all four Houses with that one.
[Alison, Beth, and Michael laugh]
Rita: So the third thing is her staying behind with Harry in Deathly Hallows and she chose to fight the good fight instead of pursuing romance. And I’m not at all implying that if she were a Ravenclaw she would have left with Ron, but it’s that inner courage as a defining trait that I think kept her with Harry.
Beth: Absolutely. Yep.
Michael: Yeah, I think so too.
Michael: That’s – as you mentioned in your point, Rita – the fear of the unknown is a very… being able to face that is a very Gryffindor thing. When Ron leaves, and Hermione stays, I think all she’s going on is that they’ve gotten somewhere, but they don’t really have anywhere to go from that point. So that’s…
Alison: And she’s holding to her word. She brings that up. She says, “We told Harry we’d help him. We told him we’d stay with him. We just can’t abandon him and leave.”
Beth: Right. That whole time they’re struggling and she’s probably questioning just as much as Ron is, “This isn’t meeting my expectations.” But she never once considers abandoning Harry. And when Ron leaves and he’s like, “Are you coming with me or what?” And she’s like, “No! What are you talking about? I would never think of that.”
Alison: You have to follow through. Yeah, it’s a follow through thing. I mean, she says that. It’s one of my favorite quotes in Half-Blood that she says, “You told us once we could turn back, and we’re still here, right? So we’re not going to leave now, right? We’ve been here for six years. It’s not like we can really do anything now.” [laughs]
Michael: I think out of all os these, and these are great pieces of evidence, Rita, I think my favorite one that really carries through all seven books is the first one from Sorcerer’s Stone at the end, when Hermione says that books and cleverness are not as important as friendship and bravery. It’s a moment, especially, where Hermione… When the stakes are so high, Hermione tends to let her guard down more and become more emotional. And I think that’s when she speaks truth that she may not say otherwise; I think that’s her true self. So to me that makes sense that she’s in Gryffindor for that reason alone.
Rita: Yeah. Agreed.
Alison: Yeah. Well now that we’ve determined where she is or not is and isn’t working in Houses, let’s talk about something we know she is for sure. Hermione as a feminist role model and why she’s been so picked up as a role model for little girls learning how to be strong and be themselves.
Rita: All right. So first of all, I would just like to thank J.K. Rowling. I know she listens to this podcast like you guys have said many times.
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Rita: Thank you so much for Hermione as a character because genuinely up until this point, I had nobody that I could look to as much as Hermione. I mean, first of all, you know she was the same age as I was when I was reading the books and I could just relate to her in so many ways. And from what I’ve heard on this podcast, everybody can relate to Hermione. Every girl could find something in Hermione that she was like, “Yes, that was me. I was the person who was standing on the chair raising my hand” or, “Yes, that was me. My hair was unmanageable.” So Hermione is just fantastic.
Michael: I wouldn’t discount, too, her inspiration for the boys. So I know we often hold Hermione up as a feminist role model, and as Emma Watson has mentioned, the great thing about that is that you can also have such a great example of a young lady for a different example. I think people were so quick to point out how just unique and different Hermione was in children’s literature, especially as a character where the story is from the perspective of the boy that Hermione gets to be… and I know we’ve got this further down, but Hermione is the brains.
[Alison and Rita laugh]
Michael: And Harry is never upset about that, which is nice. He never really lashes out or feels that Hermione is usurping him. He often just feels like, [as Harry] “Oh my God, if Hermione’s not here we’re going to die.”
[Alison and Rita laugh]
Michael: And he’s right. So it’s nice to have that example for boys, that Hermione is a great female leader and that Harry lets her take charge and he should.
Beth: Well, and I don’t want to say that Harry has never felt intimidated by Hermione because everybody has felt intimidated by Hermione. But Harry has never felt threatened by Hermione, which I think is really important.
[Alison and Michael agree]
Michael: Now there’s a great… I think there was a lot of discussion about that with Mad Max: Fury Road, and the similar idea that Max will happily yield to Furiosa because obviously she is the more capable character in the movie than him.
Beth: Oh I love that reference. Oh my gosh.
Michael: Yeah, but it’s a very similar idea that the male lead does not feel threatened by the female lead when she knows what to do and he doesn’t.
Alison: I think some of that trickled into literature that came afterwards. Children’s literature, I think of Percy Jackson. Percy is never threatened by Annabeth. I mean, they’re a little at odds sometimes – a lot of times at the beginning – but he’s never threatened by her. He’s always like, “Wait. Who knows how to take care of this? It’s her. Yeah. Annabeth, come here. What are we doing?” I think it has made its way in. It’s not necessarily “girl is just there to be potential/future love interest”. Definitely giving her more of a rounded character of, “Okay, who is she as a person? What are her strengths? What are her weaknesses? And how does she fit into a team?” And it’s the kind of thing I think that we saw rarely up to that point, but took off with Hermione.
Michael: I think it was pretty rare up to that point in fantasy, especially fantasy where a boy leads the story. So the female in those stories tend to definitely be more for the love interest purpose or strictly informational.
Beth: When you get strong female characters that aren’t exclusively love interests, a lot of times they are either to be revered or to be feared. And it’s so rare to get this kind of real person who has strengths and weaknesses and has a lot of characteristics to look up to and lot of things that you can identify with. And yeah, that relatable aspect of it but also being able to look up to her I think is so unique.
Michael: But Rita, you had some other points here.
Rita: Yes, so let me jump into that. So number one, is she doesn’t let haters rain on her parade. She gets knocked down and called an insufferable know-it-all. And I think for so many people at such a young age, if you’re told that, they would just take a step back and then either dumb themselves down, or just refuse to answer any questions in class going forward. But she just is unfazed by it. She’s like, “Yep. That is my identity. It hurt a little bit, but I’m going to keep at it the same way that I was approaching it before.” And I just think that deserves so much respect.
Michael: I think that’s an important piece now, especially with the conversation that we’re having so actively about women, and how there’s this traditional idea, especially with what you said, Rita, that when women are criticized, they’re expected to take on and reflect that criticism. And if they’re told that they’re too loud to be quiet, or if they’re a know-it-all to dumb themselves down, especially by men, and in this case Hermione is told that by… We know both men and women, but especially from Harry’s perspective, it’s usually coming from Ron.
Beth: And Snape.
Michael: And Snape, yes, which is horrible. So yeah, it was nice that Hermione doesn’t let that get her down. Maybe that’s why that was such a surprising and pleasant example for people.
Rita: Yeah. And my next point is that even though very few people join, she doesn’t abandon S.P.E.W. She keeps fighting the good fight, even though the house-elves are resistant to it. But she believes that it’s such an important cause that despite people not catching on and the house-elves resisting it she still keeps at it.
Alison: I do love how she stands by her convictions. I wanted to talk about S.P.E.W. later because I think it’s also an example of some bad parts of Hermione’s personality.
Alison: In a refusal to try and understand some cultural norms of a different culture and almost trying to save someone who… We can get there.
Rita: All right. So I’m just going to jump into my next point, which is her relationship with authority. And so at the beginning of the series, we see that Hermione is pretty affected… I know I just made a point that counters that, but when it’s coming from McGonagall, Hermione is just really affected by praise or criticism. She’s seeking validation that she’s here, she belongs in this world. And then at the end of the series she is mouthing off to the Minister of Magic and she’s no longer seeking that validation, which is just showing how she developed and that she’s just that really great round character.
Beth: “You attacked a teacher!”
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Michael: Well, and the piece that helps with that too is that Hermione is also mindful of current events. So she’s respectful of authority if she feels they deserve respect. So she’ll respect McGonagall because McGonagall earns respect. Umbridge does not earn respect immediately because Hermione is the only person who listens to her speech. And because she knows exactly what she’s saying in that speech, she immediately starts off their first lesson with Umbridge by disrespecting her. And it’s great because she feels that that’s within her boundaries. That’s part of her moral compass. She’s not just a blind rule follower.
Alison: But she also starts with a level, you know, she she starts with a basic level of everyone deserves a basic level of dignity and respect, and then it goes up or down depending on how they treat her, and how they act.
Michael: I don’t think she gave Umbridge a chance past the point that she opened her mouth.
Alison: No because I think she listened to that speech and she went, “No.”
Alison: Because she’s the only one who listens to that speech, right?
Alison: So she listened to it and immediately she went, “This is not going to end well.” And so she was kind of the first one to turn against Umbridge, and everyone else had to wait until they’d had class and realized what was happening, and they’re like, “Wait, we hate her too.” And Hermione’s like, “Welcome to the club.”
Michael: Probably one of the first times she really distinctly disrespects authority is when she’s in Trelawney’s class.
Michael: Because she thinks it’s a farce from the get go, and she’s not subtle about it. She makes a point of being very loud about her disbelief. And she doesn’t even need McGonagall to back her up because she gets that afterwards. I think that makes her feel better, to hear it from McGonagall, and probably is part of the reason why she keeps disrespecting Trelawney. But yeah, I think Hermione respects authority that earns it.
Beth: Yeah I think it’s about she thinks for herself and she doesn’t just automatically accept authority on face value. And you know, it’s not just about her bookish intelligence, it’s about her intuition, and her ability to read between the lines and truly understand what’s going on. And that affects the way that she handles every situation.
Michael: You had a point here too, Beth, about…
Beth: Yeah! And we’ve been talking so much about Hermione being so smart, and intuitive, and those are all incredible things to look up to. But another thing that I found myself looking up to about her was that she began to start caring about her appearance, and about boys, and all the sorts of normal things that teenage girls do, and never once allowed it to change who she was. And at the time I was a teenager as well, and I was watching teenage girls all around me change who they were for boys that they liked, and start wearing makeup. And I have very curly hair, and lots of people telling me that I should straighten my hair – or that when I did straighten my hair I should do that more often. And to see her, she made her hair all fancy and nice for one night and then went back to the regular way she did her hair, and she did not bat an eyelash about it. And I drew a lot from that about her.
Alison: Same. I think it’s nice that when these things start becoming important to her, she doesn’t feel like she has to abandon any other part of herself; they just become something that’s added to her. And that was really influential to me, because like I’ve said I’ve been trying to be Hermione you since I was five. [laughs] And that was a big deal; it was like, okay, you don’t have to just get rid of everything that you’ve been before as you change, and grow, and acquired new interests, and new ideas about the world. You can just shift things, and they can just… Everything can be a part of who you are as a person, even if those things some people may say you can’t be both, you know?
Beth: Okay, that was really beautiful. And this is the part where if I was listening to this podcast, I would pause and kind of take a moment to reflect on that.
Beth: And then speaking of reflecting. [laughs] So this is a somewhat controversial point. In my opinion, Hermione receives far less mentorship or help than Harry does in this series, and then still excels despite that. So I was going to throw it out to the group and see what do you guys think about that.
Alison: I actually think academically she gets more, because she actually takes it as her own responsibility and goes looking for it. So she runs off to talk to professors when she doesn’t understand something, and she takes the time to develop relationships with – we know for sure – McGonagall, Flitwick. She she takes the time to make that connection and take the responsibility for her own education. She doesn’t get some of the stuff like Harry gets with Dumbledore, but I think she gets there. You know? But she has to jump on it herself.
Beth: Yeah. No, that’s a fair point. I guess extending what I was previously thinking, Harry doesn’t really… I mean, Lupin falls into Harry’s lap, and that’s probably one of the most meaningful relationships that he has. And then Moody is forced on him, because it’s not really Moody and he has a very vested interest in teaching Harry certain things. Whereas Hermione, like you said, has to go and seek it out herself.
Michael: I don’t think Hermione… Because she has that level where she can… that that trait where she can, like Alison said, go seek it out herself. Harry tends to be… Because he’s trained into this, with his fight with Voldemort, he’s so internal. He internalizes things. We see throughout, also, in books he doesn’t want to ask for help a lot of the time when he needs help. I don’t think Hermione would do that. Hermione goes and asks questions when she has them.
Alison: So speaking of Hermione’s strengths and her ability to go talk to people to get help. Let’s talk about the opposite. Let’s talk about some of Hermione’s weaknesses, because I really think that’s a very important thing that sometimes we skip over because we love her so much. [laughs] We skip over some of the things she’s not great at, and this actually comes from one of our listeners, Hobbit Violinist on Twitter, who brought up the point about what intelligences Hermione exhibits, and which she might not exhibit so much. So what do we think?
Michael: It looks like Rita has got one of the major points.
Rita: [laughs] Yeah. So, just in general, lack of tolerance for anything that doesn’t have that hard proof. And we see that exhibited in several parts of the series. So the first one being – the one that people most point to – is Hermione gives up Divination. And she just can’t handle it because it’s ambiguous, and there is not like a clear path for, “This is how you succeed in this class.” So then she’s like, “I don’t have time for this. There’s better subjects to be studied.”
Michael: That was probably the first time that Dumbledore took notice of how she would be useful later on, because he was just like, [as Dumbledore] “Ah, she quit Divination, did she?”
Michael: “I see she failed Divination on her report card.” [laughs]
Beth: Well, and it’s so interesting because Divination becomes so important later on, even though it is flawed, and she doesn’t give it a chance. And had she learned more about it, maybe they, as the trio, would have been better positioned to understand the prophecy and execute a plan around that. Hermione just didn’t take the time to understand it or care.
Alison: But I also think that could have been a saving thing for Harry, right? Because he had in his mind this doubt about divination, about prophecies at all, from Hermione’s refusal to accept it, he kind of understood better that he had a choice to follow the prophecy or not in a lot of ways, right? Because it’s not like he feels like, “Oh, Divination. Everyone I know says it’s a fail-proof thing. So obviously I am not in control of this, right? This is a prophecy. I’m not control of it.” Instead it’s, “Well, there’s definitely some things that are a little off about Divination, and especially knowing it comes from Trelawney.” And she already doesn’t have the greatest credibility in Harry’s eyes. He sees he has a little bit more input into how that plays out than maybe he would have otherwise.
Rita: Yeah. And the second one I can think of is when Harry’s hearing the Basilisk and Hermione is like, “No, there are no voices.” Or the veil, she’s like, “No just get away from the veil. There are no voices, Harry.” And she just does not believe in, and can not even comprehend the fact that he could potentially be hearing something she’s not hearing, which just always kind of hit a nerve with me because I’m like, you’re in a magical school! C’mon! Open up your mind a little bit!
Michael: Well, the funny thing is even in the magical world, Hermione does, as we know… She turns to the library, and to her, too, it’s kind of like, “Well, if I haven’t read about it, then it’s not true.” I think even within the magical world she knows that limits exist. So she imposes those, which is funny when dealing with Harry, because he’s such a wildcard in the magical world. But she does that anyway.
Alison: I think some of it is fear for these particular examples too.
Michael: Yeah, it is.
Alison: Hermione doesn’t want to believe these scary monster things. The things she fears the most, her defense mechanism is to say, “No, it’s not real. It doesn’t exist. Even if we are in a magical world, something like that could not exist. There has to be a different explanation.”
Michael: No giant snakes, no weapons of mass destruction that were made by Death. No Malfoy conspiracy. It doesn’t exist if I can’t see it and if you can’t prove it.
Beth: Well, and that makes her such a good foil for Luna. And I love that comparison between them throughout all of the books that Luna is a character in.
Michael: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that with the things Hermione is pushed to believe that Luna is introduced in Book 5.
Beth: Oh, yeah, for sure.
[Beth and Michael laugh]
Michael: I think that speaks a lot to why Luna shows up at that moment in the series and why we didn’t see her earlier.
Beth: Well, and I think there’s a really interesting balance throughout the plot of the rest of the books of things that Hermione says, “Oh, that’s not real,” and it turns out to not be real, and then the things where Hermione’s like, “Oh, that’s not real,” and they do turn out to be true. And we have the Crumple-Horned Snorkack, where she’s like, “Yeah, that’s an Erumpent.” And that ends up being true, versus the Hallows, where she’s like, “Yeah, that’s just a fairy tale,” and that turns out to be totally true. And so I think that’s a really fascinating way to explore the world. Like, “I don’t have any evidence for that, so I can’t really believe that right now. But I also have an open mind that maybe I’ll get more evidence in the future.” And I would like to think – my headcanon says – that Hermione begins to soften her harsh viewpoints in that way as she grows up.
Michael: I think one of the moments that we see a bit more of a failing from Hermione that the fandom often cites is Prisoner of Azkaban with Lavender Brown’s rabbit. And Lavender becomes emotional because her rabbit died, and she associates it with Divination, but Hermione insists it’s not that. And she points out to Lavender why it’s silly, but it’s one of those moments where you’re like, “Not the best time, Hermione.” That is something that sometimes gets the best of her. The funny thing is, I think out of the three of the trio, she’s the most emotional. But she doesn’t always pick up on those emotional cues from others in social situations when she needs to. She gets there eventually. And sometimes I think she just brushes it off, because in that case she’s just like, “Well, it’s so silly. Why is she crying? I’m trying to make her not cry, because she shouldn’t be crying. If she’s going to cry she doesn’t have to cry about this.” So it’s kind of her way of thinking, like if you’re upset or you’re emotional, you should be emotional over the right thing. You should have your priorities straight, which of course we know is something Hermione is very into. Rita, I’d love it if you’d read this quote…
Rita: Oh, sure.
Michael: …that you put here, because I think this summarizes a lot about Hermione. Because this comes by Deathly Hallows.
Rita: Yeah. And she says it to Xenophilius after he tells her to prove to him that the Hallows aren’t real. And she says,
“But that’s – I’m sorry, but that’s completely ridiculous! How can I possibly prove it doesn’t exist? Do you expect me to get hold of – of all the pebbles in the world and test them? I mean, you could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist!”
Alison:But she kind of makes a point.
Michael: She does. No, she has a point. And the interesting thing is that in some ways, her point is in line with the ideas of Deathly Hallows, and in some ways it’s in contention with it. Because she’s talking about what ends up actually boiling down to faith, in some ways. Her and Xenophilius are having an argument based on what faith is and what you put your faith in. Hermione puts her faith in logic, and reason, and proof. Xenophilius puts his faith in anything.
Michael: There’s perhaps a little bit of a balance between those two extremes that I think Harry has to find. It’s a running theme throughout all of the stories, the idea of faith. But yeah, this is definitely Hermione’s take on faith.
Beth: Well, even in the realm of science and mathematics we can do our best to prove that something is true, but we always have to be open to the possibility that we’re going to gain new evidence that could totally change how we understand the world. And to think that you could never gain new information is naïve. And so I think she has a point, but also it could be a little bit refuted.
Michael: Yeah. The most enlightened scientists out there know that once they answer a question, they’re not done.
Michael: The answer brings more questions. So yeah, Hermione is – like I said – more in that extreme realm with her beliefs in that way. But in a way, that’s the thing that Dumbledore recognizes about all three of them by Hallows, that they all have weaknesses but that their weaknesses can counteract each other’s strengths. They can even each other out. And this is Hermione’s weakness, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s something she has to grow with, but it’s not… Everybody has a weakness. So that’s what makes her more interesting as a character, that she does have this failing. As much as I love Hermione, there’s definitely moments when I read the books that I get frustrated with her. And I think you’re meant to. You’re not meant to take everything Hermione says as the correct thing. She’s especially wrong in Half-Blood Prince. And it’s super frustrating. So yeah, it’s an okay thing that Hermione has these flaws. It makes her more of a good character, a well-written character.
Alison: Speaking of gray areas Hermione inhabits, we’ve already touched on this a little bit, and @HopefulHannah on Twitter suggested talking about Hermione’s relationship with her parents. And we’ve touched on that a little bit. But I want to talk about her decision to send her parents to Australia in Deathly Hallows and whether that was a good idea, bad idea, how much we think she told them that would’ve put them in danger, and even how much danger they really would have been in. Do we think Voldemort and the Death Eaters would have gone after her Muggle family? Are they even aware of who she is and who her family is besides connected to, “Oh, she’s the girl that’s hanging out with Potter all the time”?
Michael: No. I think they know enough that they would go after her parents, even if it was just bait. Because they know that she’ll go after them, but Harry will too, because of his saving people thing.
Alison: That’s true.
Michael: So yeah. No, they were in a lot of danger, I’d say. The movies actually tried to convey that in a deleted scene where the Death Eaters actually do go to their house. It’s empty because she sent them away already, and there’s no narrative evidence that that actually happened. But yeah, I would say she’s got a pretty reasonable concern.
Beth: Yeah, I would agree with that. And I think that she does the right thing to attempt to protect them, but I think there’s so much we don’t know about how she handled it that I think could sway my opinion of it one way or another pretty drastically.
Michael: The interesting thing is that the movie gives the audience the impression that she has wiped her parents’ memories for good, and there is no confirmation resolution to that. She’s just wiped her parents’ memories, and they’re gone out of her life forever. But according to Rowling there is a difference between the kind of memory charms that say Gilderoy Lockhart was doing to people and the memory charm that Hermione does to her parents. And that Hermione’s charm she casts is reversible because, canon, we have confirmation that from Rowling that she does go back and get her parents and she brings them back home and she fixes their memories.
Rita: That used to bother me so much. That used to bother me that oh it’s the Oblivate spell and we know that that’s a terminal spell, right? But honestly now I think that it even further displays how drastic of a measure that was that she was okay potentially never having the same relationship with them ever again. But she wanted to protect them so much.
Michael: Yeah she recognizes that even though we know from Rowling that this was not the permanent version of that. That she acknowledges at the beginning of Deathly Hallows that she understands that she may never see her parents again.
Beth: Well and I can imagine that her relationship with her parents is probably forever changed after this. We don’t know how much she told her parents. But I think it has a similar result either way. If she was not honest with her parents about what had happened and she just attempts to pretend that that no time elapsed, she has so much that happened to her that she can’t share with her parents and I’m sure that’s probably difficult for her. And then if she does choose to be honest with her parents, they might not be okay with what she did. And even if they are okay with it they still – I can imagine – might feel kind of weird about it. And even if they got passed all of that and returned to a semi-normal relationship, I can imagine that for at least a while things were not normal in their family.
Michael: Well I think the fandom has extrapolated from one example why Hermione’s parents might feel the way they might about magic. Because the major example is Goblet of Fire when she mentions that her parents did not want her to magically alter her teeth and that she went against their wishes doing that. Which is a very… By Hermione’s terms that’s like dyeing your hair pink when you’re that age. She seems to think of it that way. She says that her parents aren’t going be happy about what she did because they wanted her to do braces. Which suggests that her parents are happy with her magical life but are cautious about it especially when it comes to how it affects you physically and mentally. So I think that’s where readers might get the sense that having a had a memory charm put on them so that their daughter could go battle a Dark Lord for a year was probably not something they’d be very happy about once she told them.
Beth: Well, and knowing that you’ve lost an entire year basically…
Alison: Yeah that’s a long time.
Beth: …is very uncomfortable. Even if you are totally okay with her choice based on the options available to her. Knowing that you just totally lost an entire year of your life is super weird.
Alison: And have to come back and have to figure out, how do you explain that to people? How do you…
Beth: Well and so much happened to Hermione that their daughter is not someone they recognize anymore. Not physically; I mean emotionally. They didn’t get to share in all what happened to her and it changed her, I’m sure. And they’ll be able to notice that but they won’t understand it.
Michael: Yeah but maybe she sold it to them that they had a really nice vacation in Australia for a year. I don’t know if they remember it but it was probably pretty nice. I’m assuming, the funny thing is, I realize this is the closest we get to ever having first names for them. It’s obviously not, their first names are probably not Wendell and Monica.
That would be funny if she kept their first names. But Wendell and Monica Granger. Sure. It kind of has a ring to it.
Beth: Does it?
Alison: No, no.
Michael: But Hermione has a lot of other relationships in the book looks like that we wanted to touch on.
Alison: Yeah. So we talked a little bit about her friendships – and it gets talked a lot – with Harry and Ron, and we’ve also talked touched on her friendship with Ginny but our listeners Karen Abel and Jennifer Rapp brought up the idea of what kind of relationship does Hermione have with the other girls in her year? So the girls she shares her dormitory with. We know two of them for sure. We know Parvati and Lavender. But what do you guys think?
Michael: There’s a vague confirmation that there may have been two other girls in that year.
Michael: Who we’ve never met. I don’t think she has such a hot relationship with Parvati and Lavender. I get I get the sense that that actually went south pretty quick because Hermione is… I mean we don’t really get character traits for Lavender and Parvati until Book 3 with Trelawney. But if that’s any indication of who Parvati and Lavender were before – which I’m pretty sure it probably is because it carries over into later books – I don’t think Hermione would have much in common with those two.
Rita: No, I get the sense that she’s left out all the time.
Beth: Exactly. I you know I have been in situations where I am the odd one out in this situation and I know for a fact that I have been the exclusionary one in the situation as well. And it doesn’t feel great, either end of that. And so it seems like Hermione handles it pretty well by just sticking to the friends that she does have. But I can imagine it being kind of awkward that she has the classic freshman year roommate syndrome of you see them every so often in the morning, in the evening, and you say hello and that’s got it.
Michael: Yeah. I can’t imagine. Sixth year must have sucked.
Alison: Oh my gosh.
Michael: That must have been pretty dang awful.
Alison: Oh my gosh. No, no!
Rita: But she never. I mean to commend Hermione, she never stoops down to be mean to Lavender during that time, you know? Because so many girls would have that kind of penchant for being mean and…
Alison: Oh she totally blames Ron. Yeah, she totally goes after Ron instead.
Michael: Which is correct. She knows where to place the blame.
Beth: She takes to removing herself from situations that she finds uncomfortable as opposed to lashing out about them. For the most part at least. But yeah that’s… Poor Hermione.
Michael: I definitely get the sense in Half-Blood… She never directly goes after Lavender, but in the movies she gets a little snippy with Lavender which is very funny. But I think in the book she kind of passively comments to Harry that she thinks that she feels that Lavender is settling for Ron [pauses] or rather than Ron is settling for Lavender. She makes a few passive comments but she never says anything directly. So, yeah, kudos to her.
Alison: Who’s the one that she… I think she might have a casual nice relationship with Eloise Midgen because maybe she sees her as an outsider too. But I feel like she’s always standing up for her. They’re not close friends, probably, but she’s probably like, “Leave her alone.” I don’t know if Eloise is a Gryffindor. Do you know that for sure?
Michael: We don’t know her house confirmed.
Beth: We also – I don’t think – I know what year she is in.
Michael: I think the movies put her in that house but we don’t have a confirmation.
Alison: Oh, I wish she was in their year. I thought that came up in the books. Anyway.
Michael: Might be.
Alison: But it sounds like she’s like cordial with most of them, you know?
Michael: The funny thing is – as far as we know – her best female relationships are Ginny and later, a little bit, Luna.
Michael: And they’re both below her year. Yeah. I think Hermione’s the kind of person who… I think if she did feel left out, which I do think she did, because the funny thing about Hermione is I think she’s the type who feels that way but would never vocalize it because she obviously pursues Harry and Ron’s company. She puts herself in the path of following them around because she just can’t help herself. Literally The Midnight Duel – which is a great chapter and I was so sad to see it go from the movies – she’s just sitting there dormitory because she knows they’re going to sneak out and she catches them and then she follows them. And I don’t think she minds too terribly much that she’s always caught up with them she intentionally puts herself in their path. So I think there’s an element where, yes, she is feeling left out from the other girls, so she’s looking for friends. I do think she’s actively seeking friendship. That said, I think Hermione is also the kind of person who would reason to herself that if people don’t want to be friends with her, then why would she waste her time with them? Especially with the girls.
Beth: That’s an interesting one, because I was that girl in high school that was very confident with who I was and also very insecure at the same time and very much had that, like, “Well, if they don’t want to be friends with me, I don’t want to be friends with them.” And like, “It doesn’t matter if they like me,” and then also being like, “Yeah, but wouldn’t it be kind of nice if they did like you? And wouldn’t it be kind of nice if you weren’t left out all the time, and when you didn’t have class with your best friend – which was basically never – that you still had someone to do class projects with?” So I can understand where she’s coming from if she did have a little bit of an internal battle on that.
Michael: And I never really know what this is for Hermione, but she does this… kind of what I was saying. Because it’s funny to say that she doesn’t care about if people don’t want to be her friend, then she won’t waste her time. But she goes after Harry and Ron pretty viciously considering that Ron openly expresses that he doesn’t want her around. But on the train, one of the interesting things she says to them… She keeps coming to their compartment, which I think is already a hint. But she says to them that everybody else is acting so childishly in the corridors. She tells them that, and it’s interesting to me that Hermione sees something in Harry and Ron that is more attractive to her than her peers. There’s something. I don’t know what it is. But yeah, she sees something about the two of them that’s more interesting to her than everybody else.
Beth: Maybe that they’re outsiders too, in their own ways.
Michael: Maybe. That might be interesting that she just naturally gravitates to that. Maybe she saw Ron’s giant family out on the platform.
Alison: And she was like, “Someone who will know what’s going on!”
Rita: Little does she know.
Alison: That’s one of my favorite memes, that screenshot where she’s like, “And you are?” and somebody’s put in instead, “Your future husband.”
Michael: Can I just say a random tidbit, because I have to name drop one of our library volunteers, Sarah, who listens to the show. Sarah and I were talking this afternoon about Hermione’s relationship with Ron, and she actually put in a vote for a Hermione/George ship. And I was like, “Interesting.” And she gave me a full argument for Hermione and George as a couple.
Rita: I have thought about that, and I thought that that might play into the trope of “older guy” and maybe… Yeah, I don’t know. I could see it. He’s goofy. He’s funny.
Michael: Right? But in a more sophisticated kind of way.
Rita: I think that would have probably killed Ron.
Rita: That’s the nail in the coffin for him. “And also he gets the girl that I really like.”
Beth: I love how barf jokes are sophisticated humor.
Alison: Well, George is the quieter one.
Michael: Oh, there can be such sophistication… Yeah. I think that’s something that a lot of people have pointed out between the two twins, anyway. And it’s kind of funny, because most of Hermione’s moments with the twins are more along the lines of friendly ribbing. Because the twins tend to not be offended by the things Hermione says. Ron lets the things Hermione say go straight to his heart, and he gets defensive. The twins don’t do that. They deflect with humor, or they admit that she’s totally right but they’re going to ignore her and do whatever they’re doing anyway. [laughs] So they validate her while also doing what they want to do anyway, whereas Ron invalidates her a lot.
Beth: I just want to say that I can’t wait to talk about Ron soon.
Michael: Yeah. He needs he needs his own episode.
Beth: And he’s going to get one, listeners.
Michael: And he’s going to get one. Good job, Ron. I love that that point was just like, “Ooh. Whoa.” Silence. But yes. And I am very much somebody who supports the Hermione/Ron canon. It works for me. That said, it’s got some problematic pieces to it. It’s not all roses and lollipops. But even then, one thing that I think is really positive about that is that Hermione is not… And then maybe another thing that’s unusual about series like these that we were talking about earlier is that Hermione is not the romantic interest for the lead character, despite that she is clearly the main female of the series.
Alison: Other things about Hermione that come up a lot is her activism and how she fights specifically for House-elves. But there are some problems with this. Not that she has bad intentions, not that maybe she’s doing something that shouldn’t be done, but does she go about House-elf liberation in the right way? Or does she ignore the desires of the House-elves, and therefore maybe this isn’t as great as we all think it is?
Beth: I think the House-elf rights are probably one of the most controversial topics in the entire series, because there isn’t one right answer to this. And I think a lot of arguments can be made for, “Hermione was doing the right thing,” or “She wasn’t doing the right thing,” and they’re kind of all right. And I like that. I like that we don’t have a definitive answer to whether she was doing the right thing. And I like that it makes us think so much and try and draw so many parallels to our real world. And yeah; fascinating to me.
Michael: The parallel that I immediately go to, and I think a lot of us have been examining this lately in the US, is our president’s relationship with other world leaders. And you can almost compare this to how the rest of the world approaches a country like North Korea. Because like House-elves, North Koreans have been brainwashed to believe that their way of life – while there is nothing good about their way of life – is the best way of life and that’s how it should be. And going in and just shaking it up has been agreed upon by multiple nations that that’s not the right way to do it, because they’ll suffer pushback. And that’s exactly what Hermione does. She throws herself in the fire. She literally goes into the lion’s den and is like, “You’re free!” And they immediately turn on her, which is great. They push them out of the kitchen, and they don’t want to see them again. But at the same time, there is also the acknowledgement of… Ron throws up his hands after that, and he’s just like, “Way to go, Hermione.” But Hermione’s not wrong, because look what happens with House-elves in the later part of the series because she keeps at it. And people go on throughout the series to her and to Harry that Dobby is an oddball and not representative of the whole; but that’s very unfair to Dobby and ignores the problem, essentially. What Hermione is doing is addressing a systemic problem. And that’s why it makes people uncomfortable and I think makes people assume that she can’t change anything the way she wants to do it. What’s so great about this portrayal of it is it’s really accurate. If you decided that you were in a high school and there was an issue you found and you wanted to change it… For every story you see on TV for kids who do do that, there’s a bunch of kids who tried it and it didn’t work, because their peers didn’t support them.
Beth: Well, and there’s also the parallel to draw that your nuclear life experience may not be representative of the whole. And Hermione really wasn’t exposed to a lot of different viewpoints about this and a lot of different House-elves, and she just formed an opinion and forged ahead without being willing to accept other points of view. And even if she maintained her opinions after hearing those other points of view, I think it would have been easier to digest rather than her just ignoring what everybody had to say.
Michael: Oh, yeah. I totally think you’re right because in Goblet of Fire we see that her early attempts failed because she doesn’t listen. She just forges ahead with her plan, even though the positive advice that Ron gives her that she should have listened to is that the House-elves weren’t going to listen to her if she just stormed their space and told them that they were free or that they should take up arms and strike. It wasn’t going to work. So, yeah, if she had listened to that sooner and gone through other channels, because the interesting thing is I’m surprised that she never goes to Dumbledore about it, because I think he would think that what she had to say was valuable and interesting. Because as we know he ends up paying Dobby. And Dumbledore seems to have invested interest in a similar way to Hermione. But he’s, you know, he’s busy doing other things.
Beth: Yeah. I think if Hermione had a more similar relationship that Harry had to Dumbledore, I think she would have. But I think Dumbledore is pretty inaccessible to most of the students and especially at that point even Harry wasn’t super close with him.
Michael: I’m just impressed because she got so riled up that she actually figured out a way to break into the kitchens. I don’t know why she didn’t figure out a way to approach Dumbledore.
[Alison, Beth, and Michael laugh]
Rita: So I think the reason why – in defense of Hermione – she probably doesn’t take Ron’s experience into account is because they don’t actually have a House-elf, right? So she doesn’t necessarily see his opinion as the wizarding world established opinion.
Michael: I always get the sense more that Hermione doesn’t take Ron into account because he’s not taking her seriously. More so than whether he has a House-elf or not. Because he explains to her pretty clearly what a House-elf is and what its function is to wizards in the wizarding world. I mean maybe that is true because the examples that she has. The main example is Dobby, and he belonged to the Malfoys. So Hermione doesn’t necessarily have examples of House-elves who were in settings that weren’t… while they were in servitude that they weren’t mistreated, perhaps.
Beth: Right. Well, and it’s not until Kreacher – which is ostensibly after S.P.E.W. – that Hermione is able to prove that she did have a point.
Michael: But look how important that was. Good thing she stuck to her guns on that one. Because by that point she still has zero support. And, God, it must have been killing her. Biting her tongue about what happened with Kreacher and Sirius. Because she brings it up later, farther down the line. She has a lot of things that she probably has to bite her tongue about in Order of the Phoenix because she’s right about everything.
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Alison: Yeah, it’s a good thing she does though.
Michael: Yeah. No, she’s pretty tactical about it. She saves it for a while before she goes back into that. But yeah this one she’s definitely… On the house-elf front, she’s definitely vindicated. But I like too that, what I think what people like about this – like you said, Beth, at the beginning of this discussion – is that this is layered and nuanced and that Hermione is not just automatically right about it.
Beth: Yeah, exactly.
Michael: She has to struggle and work to understand it better before she can actually prove her point to people.
Alison: Speaking of those that have proven a point. Let’s talk a little bit about… We’ve talked about the character from the books and the original way she was written, but let’s talk about how she was interpreted with the different portrayals we’ve gotten of Hermione. So our first one came from a question from our listener Karen Abel again, who is asking about Emma Watson’s portrayal and how that influences how we see Hermione. And that brought me into also the other portrayals of Hermione. But we will step into those as we go. But let’s start with Emma Watson.
Michael: She’s great but she’s too pretty.
Beth: Yeah I mean I agree with you, but digging in a little bit there, I think that that a lot of her depth is removed and that happens to most characters in the movies. That there just isn’t time and space to portray all of that depth of her character. But she is significantly flattened for the purpose of portraying her on screen, and she is too perfect in certain ways and too flawed in others. And it’s just not the same.
Michael: I think one of the most disastrous things kind of to what you’re speaking to Beth, is that David Heyman mentioned during the production of and results of movie four Goblet of Fire that they cut S.P.E.W. because, “It was a Hermione thing.”
Beth: What! He said that?
Alison: Wait! When did he say that?
Michael: He said it.
[Alison and Beth gasp]
Michael: And he meant it as: It’s not in direct relation to Harry’s storyline. And of course he probably didn’t know it was coming to pass in Hallows.
Beth: Oh, I’m sorry I practically just blew out my microphone. [still in shock] What?
Michael: Yep. They cut it because it was Hermione’s thing is essentially what they said. They felt it was too ancillary from the story to include it. And that’s not the best way to have put it.
Michael: Unfortunately. I see why, but it’s the decision shows a mammoth lack in foresight for the movies. And that’s one of my big complaints against Goblet of Fire, because Goblet of Fire films things great, but it films all the unimportant stuff.
Michael: Oh my God, Hermione suffers so bad in Goblet of Fire.
Alison: Yeah that’s true.
Michael: She’s just there to have her pretty moment- which is great. As Daniel Radcliffe pointed out, it’s not quite as striking because she’s pretty all the time.
Michael: But you know. And as we’ve talked about on the show it’s not necessarily just about that, it is also about how she holds herself in that moment and what that moment means for her character. But that said, she doesn’t have much function in that movie otherwise. By the end of it she has her weird corny speech about writing to Ron and Harry over the summer. I think that’s kind of Hermione you’re talking about Beth.
Michael: The really flattened, watered down Hermione. Out of the three of them, she’s the biggest victim of being Hollywood-ized.
Alison: Yeah. She loses a lot of her…not ambiguity, but her…you know, like we were talking about, how she sometimes she goes about things in the wrong ways, and these darker parts of her personality that instead she was just turned into, “She’s Hermione. She’s perfect.” And I think sometimes that influences how we read her now.
Beth: Well, and you know we talked earlier about how Harry never feels threatened by her, but she does help him a lot. And he would kind of be screwed without her.
Beth: But in the movies I think she takes away a lot of Harry’s agency.
Beth: A lot of the decision making, a lot of the ideas come from her. And you know Harry is paranoid and kind of flailing and she brings him back to reality. And that’s not really the dynamic that we see in the books. It’s much more complicated than that. And I think while I understand that it has to be simplified, simplifying it in that way really does a disservice not only to Hermione’s character but to Harry’s as well. And we also know that Hermione basically took every single one of Ron’s lines.
Beth: And so that is incredibly frustrating, too.
Michael: Which is part of what you were talking about.
Beth: Yeah, exactly.
Michael: Because it’s taking away her flaws; giving her complete knowledge of the wizarding world disservices Hermione’s character.
Michael: And like you said Beth, it takes away Harry’s agency. And I think a part of that is a script problem because I think that that adaptation issue is that Harry… a lot of that process for Harry is in his head. He doesn’t speak it out loud. And so Kloves just transferred it to Hermione. And we know a lot of that reason is because he likes Hermione the best. She’s his favorite character. And so he really beefed up a lot of her stuff in ways that maybe perhaps take a little bit of these nuances that we talked about earlier away.
Alison: I also think he ships Harry and Hermione. But that’s a different story.
Michael: Yes, he definitely does. Yes. Or the dance scene wouldn’t have been there.
[Beth and Rita laugh]
Alison: There is something in every movie, though. There is something in every movie.
Michael: Oh, yeah. There’s definitely hints that go both ways.
Beth: I want to frame this for a second, though. If we take the script out of it a little bit and just think about how Emma portrayed what was written for her, how do we feel about her portrayal of Hermione?
Michael: I always thought – and I still think this – she excels in Sorcerer’s Stone. She falters in Chamber through Order, and she gets back on her feet in Half-Blood and carries it through to Hallows Part 2.
Beth: I could not agree more…
Alison: That’s actually quite good, yeah.
Beth: …except I think that she does very well in Prisoner.
Michael: Yeah, I actually I think she does well in Prisoner despite how Prisoner aggressively tries to girly her.
Alison and Beth: Yep.
Michael: And the oddest thing about that is that is the first movie that Jany Temime came on as costume designer. And I did a lot of research about this in college when I did a project for my theater costuming class. Temime talked about – and you’ll see it if you watched movies 3 through 8 – that she decided to put Harry, Ron, and Hermione into a strict color code for the three of them.
Beth: And stripes forever.
Alison: The same shirt.
Michael: Hermione fell into pink. And her reasoning behind that was because Hermione doesn’t care about girly things except in her clothing. And I thought that was weird, and superficial, and bizarre.
Rita: No. Not buying it.
Alison: Yeah, no.
Michael: As girls viewing this, how did you guys feel about that?
Alison: No. It makes me mad as me, myself, because I don’t like pink. I avoid wearing pink. And so to have this person, this character, who I had… Guys, I’m not joking, and we’ll get to this, but I literally was trying to be Hermione from the ages of five to ten plus. To have her wearing pink made me really mad, because I was like, “I don’t like pink.” And she’s not a girly girl, and she’s not supposed to… which, obviously, I was a kid. There’s some issues with that. But I think it makes her seem… I don’t know. The pink dress bothers me at the Yule Ball.
Rita: Me too.
Alison: Still. Because I very much liked that she was wearing that. Because it’s described in the book as periwinkle, which is still a very feminine color, but it’s a very different feminine color. It’s not a very common one. It’s not the one people would think of right away, you know? But when you actually see it, it’s a very nice, gentle, quite feminine color. I really like that.
Michael: It’s funny that we so strongly associate blue and pink with their respective genders, because actually I believe…
Alison: They used to be different. It used to be the opposite, yeah.
Michael: They used to be switched, yeah. And I think that’s where the strong revulsion comes from pink being chosen as Hermione’s primary color for the movies. Because there’s nothing wrong with liking pink, but that said, when you’re looking at a Hollywood portrayal and the history that comes with that, and how Hollywood decides how girls and boys are portrayed, putting Hermione in pink is a… I think that’s why it’s a poor choice. It’s not because there’s anything wrong with it, or that girls should like pink, but that they should always be associated strictly with that is kind of lazy. It’s a little too easy, and it doesn’t really ring true to Hermione. It rings true to Emma Watson, who was apparently thrilled that she didn’t have to wear the uniforms anymore. Because she hated them, because they were made of wool. So I don’t blame her. And I think that shines through especially in movies – like we were saying – 3 through 5. I see a little more of Emma than I do of Hermione.
Michael: Because while they both have a lot of similarities and very admirable traits that they share, Emma is her own person. She is not Hermione. And she definitely infuses a lot of herself in that. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s just not Hermione.
Alison: Well, and I think in some ways it’s been a little detrimental to her career afterwards, because I feel like she’s definitely gotten typecast. And nothing I’ve seen her in since has been very impressive.
Alison: It just feels very bland, and flat, and the same. She didn’t have as much a chance, I think, to stretch some of those acting abilities and…
Michael: Well, it was great, if you look up the interview she did when she was on Ellen DeGeneres’ show, she pointed out that she got a job. She had the job for ten years, and she didn’t ever have to audition for another job within that ten years.
Alison: Yeah. And even to some extent that happened with all of these kid actors where they started getting pigeonholed a little bit, and typecast a little bit, and they couldn’t disassociate themselves and had to do some wild stuff to start.
Michael: Well, and I think that’s a reflection, too, of perhaps the struggles that female actresses have to go through, and females in any profession. But Dan was able to drift off into all kinds of roles. Rupert retreated to his ice cream truck and will make a point of doing the weirdest things he can do when he gets them. And Emma, yes, has fallen into typecasting situations. And on the occasion when she tries to break out of it people go, “No.” So… [laughs]
Michael: And she doesn’t get very good reception critically for it, which I think – in a way – she’s kind of recognized. And that is one of the major reasons why she’s gone off to do some other really excellent work with her activism and her desire to educate others. So yeah, it’s funny, because by departing from Hermione, I think she’s actually become more Hermione in real life.
Alison: Yeah, that’s true.
Michael: And we’re all so lucky for it, especially you people in New York who see her running around dropping books all over the place.
Alison: I also just want to say, since we brought up her costumes, one thing I do appreciate in her costume in Prisoner is that she’s wearing one of those non-functional ribbon belts we all wore back in the day. [laughs]
Beth: Yeah. With the D ring that didn’t do anything.
Alison: Yeah, that literally does nothing. Yeah, I appreciate that one; that little flashback for all of us.
Beth: Well, before we move on real quick – I know I mentioned this already – but I do want to point out… As they allowed Emma to be more Emma in Hermione, and as the costumes went more what you would traditionally expect of a female supporting character, they also allowed her hair to be tame. I don’t know what the word you want to go for, but…
Alison: They style it more.
Michael: Yeah. They basically gave her a perm.
Alison: It doesn’t look naturally curly. It looks like someone straightened it and then curled it.
Beth: They don’t even curl it at the end, and I was just so heartbroken. I was so blindsided by that choice, because as I said, it meant so much to me that a character with curly hair could embrace their curly hair and make it work for them. And the fact that that was basically the entire world telling me that my curly hair wasn’t going to work for them… I can’t even describe how hurtful that was for them to decide to do that.
Rita: I never realized that. Ugh.
Alison: I spent years and years and years trying to get my hair to look like hers in those movies. I did everything I could, and I was always so upset when it didn’t look that way. And it’s one of the reasons I think I stopped wearing my hair naturally curly most of the time, because I could never get it to look the way I wanted it to. Because I wanted it to look like that, you know? It was very sad. So I feel you on that.
Michael: Well apparently Emma wasn’t so hot about it either because then she chopped it all off.
Alison: [laughs] Yeah, that’s true.
Michael: And then she started a whole new craze, which was great. But, yeah, I think it’s unfortunate. Rowling has even said that not only to us fans in interviews, but she said it in that same interview directly to Dan when he asked her about how the three of them were as portrayals of her characters. And I think her immediate response was, [as J.K. Rowling] “You were all too pretty.”
[Alison and Rita laugh]
Michael: And she’s like, [as J.K. Rowling] “But that’s a nice thing. That’s good for you. I’m so happy for you.” [back to normal voice] But she did point out – and of course – who would’ve known? You cast them at 10 and 11 years old. You’re not going to know what they’re going to grow up to look like. But generally in this line of work, there’s a certain expectation of how you look. And I think as a fashion icon – which Emma pursued early on in her career – it was natural that Hermione would look the way she did in the movies versus the books. I know that, say, the buck teeth, were taken out because it was a logistical thing. Emma couldn’t speak past them and it just didn’t work. But, yeah, the bushy hair- that was disappointing. And it really gets me every time in that scene in Half-Blood Prince when her hair curls during the cauldrons.
Alison: Oh my gosh. That cracks me up, though. Because that’s my hair on a daily basis.
Beth: That’s so real life.
Alison: It’s so real.
Michael: When I see that, I’m just like, “That’s what her hair is supposed to look like. Is that an in-joke for all of us who read the books? Because that’s what she’s supposed to look like all the time.”
Alison: I wouldn’t have minded if it was like, “Okay, as she grew up she learned how to style it more,” because I feel like that’s a thing that happens. But to have it completely not look like she just learned how to work with it, yeah. That was disappointing.
Michael: But I’m always impressed when I jump from, say, Order to Half-Blood, and how it’s like Emma just remembered something about Hermione that she had back in the first movie. There’s something very vulnerable and honest about Emma’s portrayal of Hermione by movie 6 through 8 that… And I don’t know if it’s her or the script. I can’t really pin that down. I think a lot of it is the script because the script gives her nothing to do – and Rupert – for a lot of the middle chunks of the movies. But by Half-Blood through Hallows: Part 2, whatever she lost she got it back. I think she’s just extraordinary in those three movies especially.
Rita: Oh, I totally agree.
Alison: That’s also again when I started saying, “I want everything she’s wearing.” [laughs] Every one of her costumes I wanted, but that’s a different story. [laughs]
Michael: But she’s not the only Hermione.
Alison: She’s not. We have two more, actually. And the first one is Noma Dumezweni, who… oh my gosh, you guys. Oh my gosh, you guys. She’s perfect.
Beth: I am so excited to see her onstage. I can’t freaking wait.
Alison: I wrote an article about it for MuggleNet, and I left that theater crying after Part 1 because she was so perfect in that role. If you haven’t seen her yet, listeners, I literally could talk for hours about how great it was. But she really brought a lot of book-Hermione into it, but at a matured book-Hermione, I should say – which is the same way I felt about Jamie Parker’s Harry – and just the way it felt like she understands and she cares about this character. It’s absolutely brilliant, oh my gosh. I’m very excited to see it again. But when she was announced… [sighs]
Michael: Ugh. Potter fandom.
Alison: And we shouldn’t spend a lot of time on this because it’s ridiculous, and it shouldn’t have happened. But there was some controversy because she is a black actress, and some people, some terrible people… Yeah, I’m going to generalize them that way. Some terrible people were upset. Thoughts?
Michael: Ugh, man.
Michael: Let’s get a whole other episode going.
Beth: Can I just say…
Michael: This was the Potter fandom at their lowest. I was so disappointed that people in the Potter fandom were participating in this hatred towards this casting. This was so upsetting because… The thing that sickened me the most – and I think it sickened those of us who saw this as a horrible thing – was that people actually went to the text to find descriptions of Hermione as white.
Beth: Nope. Nope. Not about that. Not about it.
Beth: I mean, going back to Hermione’s hair again, that’s the most defining thing that we know about her physically. And natural hair is so gorgeous. Hermione with natural curls just… mmm, I love it. And if that’s all we know about her, go with it! I’m so great about it. Ugh. I’m just so mad.
Michael: It’s a brilliant, logical concept that Hermione would have natural curls because she’s black. And the idea that people did feel they needed to go to the text to say, “Oh, well, Hermione was white as a sheet here, according to this” or “Hermione tanned.” First of all, if you all think that dark-skinned people don’t tan, you don’t know nothing about dark-skinned people.
Alison: Seriously though.
Michael: Thank you, very much. But also, yeah. There was this just aggressiveness by others in the community that… And people who were saying, “I’m not racist, but canonically…”
Alison: Oh geez, that’s when you always know someone is racist.
Michael: And it’s… yes, don’t ever start that sentence with, “I’m not racist, but…” Not generally a good practice, guys. That’s something I was saying yesterday, actually, that I love about the Potter community on places like Tumblr, that there was this big movement to turn all of the characters into people of color through illustrations.
Alison: Mhm. There’s some great ones out there.
Michael: Yeah, they’re beautiful, and there was a movement for this before Noma was cast, and that when she was cast people were just like, “Oh my gosh. This is happening.” And there was positive reaction to it. I think Rowling retweeted a lot of positive comments that she was getting, and she retweeted a lot of artwork to show that this was a thing that people had thought about and that the importance here is about representation…
Michael: …and Hermione does not stand for one kind of girl. She can stand for all girls. I love the idea that in future, Hermione can be played by anybody of any background.
Alison: I’ve talked about this before, but I remember when that was first announced and I was like, “Oh!” I was surprised by it because I have never thought of it because I am white, and I connected so much to Hermione that I always pictured her that way. But it was really great to say, “Oh, yeah.” That’s a possibility and we need to remember that that’s a thing, and representation and diversity is very, very important in everything we do, but especially in these big things that caused such an impact. That it’s more about the character and their personality than it is about what they look like in some ways.
Michael: Well, yeah. There’s a movement – especially in literature, and especially children’s literature including picture books – to fight against this idea that white is just assumed to be the norm. And the funny thing is, I used to work with Fonda Nelson who is actually a children’s book author, and she wrote a piece about this. And that something she pointed out that perhaps a lot of people don’t realize or think about is that people of color can also automatically have an assumption of white when they read a book. I do. I know I do. I love that so many people… This was so thrilling to me when I discovered this. I’ve shared this drawing before on Twitter. Somebody drew a version Harry without ever having seen me that looks exactly like me.
Alison: That’s awesome.
Michael: They drew him as East Indian. And East Indian Harry is a thing, and people are really into it, and that’s so cool to me, the idea Harry could look like me. I love that. And while I don’t picture Harry looking like me when I read that because I had this set idea in my head that white is the norm, I think it might have been Sorcerer’s Stone when I was rereading it that I was actively picturing Hermione as black. I had changed my picture of her in my head, because I was like, “This is great. I’m going to try this as an experiment.” And maybe that’s something we should all be doing, is just trying to picture characters looking a little differently sometimes. And while Rowling maybe didn’t explicitly say one way or the other – which is nice because she left that room – I think that mantle has been taken up by a lot of young adult authors now, who are finding ways to incorporate people of color into their stories, or just doing it in a way that is normal instead of making a big deal about it. Which this shouldn’t have been a big deal.
Alison: No, it shouldn’t have. But definitely, yes. Everyone go see her or… I don’t know how to say the other actress’ name. I’ve never heard it said aloud, but Rakie Ayola.
Michael: She’s just going to have to come on the show and pronounce it for us. [laughs]
Alison: Yes, please do. She’s currently playing Hermione in London, and Noma will be playing her in New York reprising that role. And I’m so excited. Oh my gosh, guys. I’m so excited.
Michael: Yeah. That’s great.
Alison: It is. Like I said, I wrote a whole article for MuggleNet about why seeing an adult Hermione was just so important to me. Because she’s amazing.
Michael: For all that I detest Cursed Child, actually, Noma was somebody I could clearly see in my head because I had seen her in other things. I’d seen that episode of Doctor Who she was in.
Alison: Yeah! I always forget she’s in that one.
Michael: Yeah. And I loved watching interviews with her because the way she speaks is so devastatingly eloquent.
Michael: She has a gorgeous voice that just automatically commands attention. And I could see her so clearly as Hermione even though I haven’t seen the play and I could see how her ability could elevate the material, that she could take that and make that her own. Because I’ve heard she’s one of the best parts of the play.
Alison: Oh my gosh, yes. Yes!
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Michael: Yeah, no, I love that people are getting the chance to play Hermione. And I loved that picture, too, that they put up on Twitter of her and Emma meeting for the first time.
Alison: I love that picture. It’s so cute.
Michael: Beth and Rita, you two haven’t really chimed in on Noma. What do you think?
Beth: I mean, I haven’t seen her yet, but I can’t wait to. [laughs]
Michael: Have you watched some of her interviews and how she talks about Hermione and being Hermione?
Beth: I have a little bit, and also just seeing her in photos both onstage and backstage make me so excited to see her onstage as Hermione. And I am beyond excited to get to see her.
Michael: Rita, would you like to weigh in on Noma a little?
Rita: Oh, well, I haven’t seen the performance yet. I’m also hoping for the second round of tickets, but…
Rita: That issue is just… It makes me very sad that people reacted that way. And I guess my only comment on that would be there is just so much more to gain from people of color being represented than there is for people who want to keep it – I would say – the way that it was before. They don’t lose a whole lot because they still have a lot of representation throughout the rest of the book. So that would be my only call to action of people who are against it.
Alison: If it wouldn’t be too noisy, I would have stood up and applauded for you right there. That was brilliantly put.
Michael: My way of expressing pleasure for that – and to call to that activism is listeners – is if you can’t get tickets to Cursed Child, but you want to support this kind of casting, I mean, first of all, check out some of the movies that have come out this past year alone. The Academy has done an excellent job, actually, of following the rule they set where they were going to diversify a little more. They’re taking baby steps, but they’re actually doing it, which has been really refreshing. But also, one of the big ones in young adult that you definitely need to see right around the corner, is A Wrinkle In Time because it was all cast as mixed race. And that’s fabulous because the characters in the book are described as white. And it has nothing to do with the story, just like Hermione being whatever race has nothing to do with the story. [laughs]
Beth: Yeah, I’m pretty psyched for that movie.
Alison: I’ve never read the book, but the trailer blew my mind.
Michael: Yeah. I think that’s the most important thing to recognize, and that how it draws back to Hermione, is that race does not play any role in who these characters are; who Hermione’s personality is. And in some ways, some very clever people have tied in that race does affect certain personality traits about her. Or how that she reads in that way with the race included. The idea that Hermione, as we’ve talked about, her need to prove herself, her lack of inclusion in other groups, could be race based. And it’s not explicit in the text, but it’s open enough that it can be read that way. And how much more interesting is it that people can take that and personalize that for themselves. Because I love what Alison has been saying all throughout this episode that Hermione represents so many things you love so much and who you want to be. So why can’t everybody have that?
Alison: Yep. Exactly. And speaking of which – just to wrap this up – we’re going to just end out with why we or why we think so many people love Hermione. So who wants to go first?
Beth: She’s real, and I can look up to her, even as an adult. And she will never stop inspiring me to be better.
Michael: And, Beth, when I first saw you in person, I was like, “Oh my God! Hermione hair!”
Beth: I know, right?
[Beth and Michael laugh]
Michael: It’s totally your hair. And I’ve seen your costume, too. The pictures of your costumes that you’ve done.
Beth: Yeah, I would pay a lot of money for some Sleekeazy. I’m just saying.
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Michael: Rita, how about you?
Rita: Honestly, I want to try to put as well as Beth, but I can’t. So I’m just going to ditto her statement and just say, “Absolutely.” That’s exactly how I feel about Hermione.
Michael: It’s funny because the thing that comes to my mind with this question is you’d get this very similar, if not the same, answers if you asked, “Why do so many people love Belle?” [laughs] And there’s a reason why Emma was thought to be the best casting for Belle. Whether that was correct or not is up to you personally, listeners. Because I read this really great think piece about Belle and how progressive she was as a character in Beauty and the Beast back in the 90s, and how Linda Wolverton now looks back at having written Belle and she’s so proud of it, but at the same time she wanted to do more. But I don’t think anybody really feels the same way about Belle as she does. People think, and still think, and I think, uphold Belle as one of the more progressive Disney princesses, and the one who kicked that off. And Hermione did the same thing for fantasy books and YA literature, where she had the romance and the contentious relationship with the boy she liked. But there was something more about her that was important, and it was her qualities that weren’t dependent on a man or other people; qualities that were all her own and just came from her and her alone. I think that might it, is that she’s a female character whose qualities are hers and hers alone, and don’t depend on other people.
Beth: Unfortunately, it also started a trend of writers trying to write female characters similar to Hermione, and writing characters that were really uncomfortable to read and very unrealistic.
Michael: Oh the Harry Potter knock-offs. How many there are.
Beth: “You’ll really like this book. It’s just like Harry Potter!”
Michael: Well and I think that is why there is such a pushback. There was such pushback at the time to a character like Bella Swan when Twilight happened because Twilight came along to fill a few voids during low, quiet points in Potter. And this idea about a girl who is so… her character is so dependent and defined by a boy, and her relationship with a boy. And granted Twilight is a romance more than it is a paranormal book. But that said, I think that’s why it maybe faced so much backlash initially, is because Hermione had taken the world by storm at that point.
Beth: Yeah, I see it slightly differently in that it was an attempt to make a character that felt real, you know? She is clumsy. She’s not super popular and pretty. And I think that that was an attempt to copy what Hermione brings to the table and just totally fell right on its face.
Beth: And everybody could tell.
Michael: Well and like I said, in a way maybe it falls on its face because in the end her traits individually don’t really matter as much as her traits that are brought out when she’s around Edward matter. At least narratively, she doesn’t care about herself as an individual she just cares about being around Edward. That’s how she defines herself and I think that was probably pretty frustrating for readers who had just come off of Hermione. Who doesn’t define herself by Ron. She loves Ron, and she loves Harry; she cares a lot about both of them. But that’s not her be all end all.
Michael: Why do so many people love Hermione, Alison?
Alison: Well, Beth said it really well so now I’m scrambling to think of something to say. But I think I just… I mean I’ve told the story a lot, but I was 5 when I first started reading the books. And the character I immediately gravitated towards was Hermione and I was a very, very shy kid. It was an awkward as f kid. I was looking at old pictures of myself today and I was like, “Holy crap.” And there were times in my life where to make it through different things I was like, “Okay, this is what Hermione would do so this is what I’m going to do.” And it was just so relatable and real. And what I needed that I’ve held onto that for so long. And still to this day like I definitely see her flaws as well. And I definitely now I see a little bit more, the ways we’re different but I still can’t help but thinking this is the kind of person a good person should want to be like. And that’s why I think people like her so much.
Michael: I think those are all excellent things about Hermione.
Beth: I’m so happy that’s the note we get to end on.
Michael: I think we’ve evidenced from this episode that there’s so many things to love about Hermione that we’re definitely going to have to talk about her again someday.
Michael: In detail. She needs another whole episode to herself. Speaking of people we got to talk to again.
Beth: Yeah. Rita we were so glad to get to have you on a second time. Did you have fun?
Rita: Yes absolutely. Thank you so much for inviting me back. I think I answer that email literally within the minute that I received it if that’s any indication.
Michael: Yes you did. I mean yes you might be like on record the fastest response we’ve ever had. I had just sent it and then all like all I got back was, “Yes, yes, yes!” So that was fantastic. No it’s always good having you here, Rita. And we always love that you get to be on Hermione-centric episodes.
Rita: Yes and I just want to call out to everybody who has listened to the podcast for a long time. It took me about two years to get up the courage to say, “Oh my God I want to try hosting but it might be terrible I might just not have anything to say.” But everybody who’s thinking about it who at the end of every episode when they say try hosting, please do it. It is so wonderful and it’s so different tried to talk to these people who you just hear in your ear all the time. So do it.
Beth: I’m so happy you feel that way.
Michael: What a wonderful thing to hear. Look at you being all Hermione. Speaking of what we’re what we’re doing next.
Alison: Yeah. Next time is a chapter revisit and it is from Half-Blood Prince Chapter 10 “The House of Gaunt.”
Michael: Yes, this podcast needs a lot more Half-Blood and Order the Phoenix love with some of these revisits we realized that in our last host meetings. So we’re going to be bringing a few of those chapters your way. And if you would like to join us after that wonderful ringing endorsement from Rita, how could you not? To be on the show listeners, you can visit our website at alohomorapodcast.com. Again that is alohomorapodcast.com. You may be going to our old address. Delete that out of your address bar because alohomorapodcast.com is where you want to head to now to find us and choose the be on the show tab at the top. Follow the instructions and send us your audition. You can also visit the Topic Submit page to tell us what you’d like to hear us talk about. If you do that we also ask if you want to be on the show for that topic that you also submit an audio audition because we want to hear how you sound. And speaking of, you just need a microphone and a pair of headphones. If you’re chosen to guest host we will walk you through the rest. We really do require, we know we say Apple headphones, and you’re all set. We are trying to kind of be a little more discerning with that guys only because we want to make sure and get the show going and we don’t want to have to worry about too many technical issues. But if you’ve got a mic and a set of headphones or a built-in mic to your headphones we can work with the rest and get you all the recording stuff you need.
Beth: Yeah. And I just want to add on to that Michael that if you do audition to be on the show please let us know what you’re most excited to talk about because we really take that into strong consideration when we’re picking guests. As we said we picked Rita because we knew how excited she was to talk about Hermione. So if you’ve got something you’re passionate about, especially if you know it’s a topic we have coming up please, please let us know that.
Michael: Yes absolutely. There is a drop-down menu when you audition for the topics that are coming up. So if you want one of those definitely select them because we’ve got a lot of room for some great topics including we’ve talked about Hermione. She’s the first in our trio set. We’re going to be talking about Ron and Harry as well. And we are also going to be visiting a few other chapters – as I mentioned – from Order the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince. So you don’t want to miss it.
Beth: Yeah. And if you would like to get in touch with us any other way we have lots of ways to do so. Get in touch with us on Twitter @AlohomoraMN on Facebook at facebook.com/openthedumbledore. Our website is Alohomorapodcast.com. And yes, we amazingly have a YouTube youtube.com/AlohomoraMN and our email is email@example.com. And I know as we’ve had a few problems with the website over the last couple of months, if you have any problems submitting your audition through the website please feel free to forward those auditions to that email.
Michael: And once again we want to remind you about our Patreon at Patreon.com/Alohomora. Thanks again to Caitlin Richardson for sponsoring this Hermione-centric episode. And again listeners you can sponsors for as low as one dollar a month. And be sure to check out our higher tiers for access to Dumbledore’s Office, episode sponsoring decals, chapter ratings with me, and vintage Alohomora! T-shirts. All kinds of cool gifties and prizes for helping us out with this show. And it’s because of you guys that we are able to have special episodes about Hermione like this one. But like Hermione we have to get to the library.
[Show music begins]
Michael: It’s back to the books for us. Thank you for listening. I’m Michael Harle.
Alison: I’m Alison Siggard.
Beth: And I’m Beth Warsaw. Thank you for listening to Episode 238 of Alohomora!
Hermione: Open the… Professor? Professor Dumbledore? Professor Dumbledore, are you there? I have a question about the house-elves. Professor? <[strong]>[knocking]
[Show music continues]
[Show music fades]
Alison: You should have read that like Stan Shunpike rattles off the prices for the Knight Bus.
Michael: [laughs] He doesn’t do it in the movie, does he?
Alison: [as Stan] “And for 15, you get hot chocolate and a toothbrush of your choice.” [laughs] I can’t do his voice. Anyway.