Can somebody please give Jo Rowling a hug? Like, STAT!
It’s become apparent to me that this amazingly talented and prodigious author may be in need of an intervention. First, there was the news that Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them was being turned into a film. Then came the news that there would be a Harry Potter prequel stage play on London’s West End that would cover his horrible childhood with the Dursleys. Because, you know, everyone was clamoring for that particular story to be told. They’re not even adding music, from what I understand, so I’m not sure why they thought this was a good project to undertake.
I get it. It’s hard to let your baby go off into the world and live his own life, but after writing what is arguably the best children’s literature series of all time, that was precisely what Ms. Rowling claimed she would do. Voldemort is dead; long live the King. In fact, her treacly epilogue wrapped up the world of Harry Potter so benignly that we pretty much could envision him wearing—not wizard’s robes, but rather—a nice suit and uncomfortable shoes on his way to work every day.
Ms. Rowling wisely let it all go, and her next project was a contemporary novel for an adult audience that was excoriated by the critics (The Casual Vacancy, a book that wasn’t nearly as bad as the reviews might have indicated). She then gave the critics a big middle finger by releasing her second non-HP title, The Cuckoo’s Calling, under a pseudonym (I imagine her publisher was fine with this since the book got solid reviews and then a huge number of sales when the bomb was dropped that the author was—pun intended—J.K.).
So what is with the return to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (in the non-theme-park sense)? Why can’t Ms. Rowling just move on? Is it simply a money grab?
I think Ms. Rowling is suffering from a bad case of Lucasitis, as in George Lucas, who decided to go back and screw up the entire Star Wars series (and I’m not talking Jar Jar Binks… he went back and re-edited his original three films, making them—to his mind—”better”).
I don’t want to be too audacious, but I know as a writer myself that I am never completely satisfied with my writing. It’s partially why I like writing for print magazines… there’s an editor for my shit. If left up to me (and I have no deadline), I will rewrite my work to death. To the point where even I don’t want to look at it ever again (on a side note, for those of you waiting for The Truth to resurface, it may yet happen this month!). So, I get it that Ms. Rowling probably is less in it for the money than because she’s not able to stop picking over her magnum opus.
The final evidentiary proof came out in today’s The Sunday Times London newspaper: They were previewing next week’s Wonderland Magazine, which is being guest edited by Emma Watson (the actress who played Hermione Granger) and wherein she has an exclusive interview with Ms. Rowling where the author admits she should have had Hermione marry Harry at the series’ end!
This to me is the literary equivalent of adding a CGI Jabba the Hutt to the original Star Wars (Episode IV). Ms. Rowling is now rewriting her own canon. And while I would never go so far as to tell an author that her fans understand better than she does, I will state for the record that Ms. Rowling is wrong wrong wrong about this latest fantasy she has concocted for herself.
Forthwith, here are six reasons why Harry and Hermione weren’t the better pairing:
1. Hermione and Ron have a very traditional coming-of-age relationship.
It’s practically a trope: Boy meets girl, boy hates/teases girl, boy gets crush on girl, boy gets jealous of girl, boy admits love for girl… and they live happily ever after. Harry never had the kind of bickering relationship with Hermione; he never felt romantically conflicted about her in the books; he never tried to manipulate her away from any potential mate. In fact, it wasn’t even clear that Hermione was his type, since he spent the better part of two books with a crush on Cho Chang, an Asian Ravenclaw a year his senior. And then ended up with Ginny, a device that seemed more about him having the family he’d always wanted than a deep abiding love for the girl.
2. Whenever anyone tries to match up Harry and Hermione they are profoundly hurt by the implication.
There are a couple of times it’s assumed Harry and Hermione are a “thing,” most notably when gossip columnist Rita Skeeter makes the implication publicly. This doesn’t confuse the two friends in that weird “yeah, we kinda do” way; it actually hurts them. I’ve seen this a lot in teenagers, where they really are “just good friends” and everyone wants to throw them together romantically. It typically destroys the friendship and, no, they don’t end up together. Now, I don’t have the time to do a line-by-line analysis of the first six books (some of which I haven’t read in several years), but I don’t recall there ever being a mention of Harry’s ambivalence about Hermione: he only views her as a friend. Juxtapose this with Ginny: When Harry sees her with Dean Thomas, he becomes very defensive of her—at first justifying his “older brother” relationship to her—and quickly recognizes his conflicted feelings.
3. Not every literary triangle has to be a love triangle.
Maybe Ms. Rowling always planned to marry off Hermione to Ron (she has gone on the record that she wasn’t always sure about Ron’s narrative as the series progressed), but whenever there was tension between the trio of Ron, Harry and Hermione it was typically between two of them (often Ron and Harry with Hermione being the go-between) but never between all three. The three friends were friends first and foremost, with the defeat of Voldemort their priority, not finding love in the triangle. In other words, Hermione Granger is no Bella Swan (and I mean that in the best way; Bella’s character is apparently only desired as an entree, since everyone in that book comments on her scent and is primarily attracted to her sexually, even if there’s no sex in Twilight).
4. Not every hetero-male character is attracted to every hetero-female character.
Think about this for a minute: What if Mr. Darcy had gotten between Jane and Bingley not because he was elitist but because he actually wanted Jane all to himself? Not buying it? Nope, me neither. So why must we assume a physical attraction between Harry and Hermione? Why not between Harry and Luna? It actually is possible for two people to be friends without a physical attraction. By inferring otherwise, Ms. Rowling has robbed her tale of one of the most incredible literary friendships of all time. Because, you know, boys have penises and girls have vaginas and they necessarily must be drawn to one another. Quelle sigh…
5. The books are not the films.
Movie chemistry is a funny thing: Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe have it. Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright (the actress who played Ginny) do not. As in, at all. As in, when he kisses her, you’d be less creeped out had Rupert Grint (who plays her brother, Ron) done the kissing. It’s easy to imagine a world wherein Harry would fall in love with Hermione when you envision the actors. That said, it’s easy to imagine a world wherein a Hippogriff would fall in love with Hermione when you envision Emma Watson, who went from being cute-ish mousy to elegant beauty over the course of the film shoot. Who wouldn’t want Emma Watson to end up happily ever after? But the actors are not the characters as they were written; and to judge the characters by their actors’ various degrees of chemistry does those characters a grave disservice.
6. The notion that Hermione would have been happier with Harry is spurious at best.
Okay, so now we are crossing over into the bizarro world of “these characters are real people.” But Ms. Rowling started it! So, let’s just assume that these characters are real people. The odds are overwhelming that Ron and Hermione will end up divorced. But it won’t be because of Harry. It will be because Hermione is a high-maintenance woman who will probably not be satisfied sitting at home raising a bunch of kids (okay, even the two they have by the end of book seven). Hermione strikes me as a “Hilary Clinton” type of woman; was there ever a female Minister of Magic? Hermione would be likely to run. It’s questionable whether or not Ron could deal with another overly ambitious person in his life; he went through that in high school and all he got was a lousy horcrux.
So, to get a bit Hitchcockian here: What about Harry? Perhaps Harry was ready to settle down and lead a quiet life, but he could very much have been Bill to Hermione’s Hilary. Which means together they would have been a power couple, but maybe not the poster children of a happy marriage.
And if we’re going to imagine these characters as real people, we need to think about them in their 40s and 50s, you know… midlife crisis time. Maybe Ginny dumps the boring Harry and goes off to live in a dragon commune in Romania with her brother Charlie. Maybe Hermione gets sick and tired of not having nice things in Ron’s shabby home (there was no evidence that Ron gets to be rich at the end of the books; the Weasley’s are notoriously poor… thank God Hermione was muggle-born and knows a thing or two about contraception!). So, one night she storms off in a tiff and cuckolds her husband with his best friend. How very British!
But then she goes back to Ron, and Harry (being raised by muggles himself) lets her go, knowing it was just an affair. Not of the heart so much as an inevitability.
Which doesn’t validate Ms. Rowling’s desire to pair the two of them off; if anything, it would only show that they really weren’t meant to be anything other than the best friends that they were created to be. And this constant revisionist look at the canon does no service to her or the work she created.
Leave it be, Jo. “All was well” just as you wrote it.