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The Hermione Granger Franchise

Today's Must Read
If you're interested in the Harry Potter series or gender you must read this editorial "In Praise of Joanne Rowling's Hermione Granger Series". As most of y'all know I'm not really a Potter person and this article gets at my biggest problem with it. Honestly I hate the "Chosen One" crutch in genre stories... from Potter to The Matrix to Star Wars to The Bible it's so hard to escape. It usually excuses lazy characterizations and plotting. Even two franchises that I could hardly love more (Terminator and Buffy) rest on it. I wish I could declare a cross medium moratorium on it for at least 5 years. Wouldn't you love to see what kind of fictional heroics might emerge if writers couldn't use it? And wouldn't it be better for our global character if we defined heroism & specialness through something other than accidents of birth or (the worst!) predetermined fate?

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Reader Comments (9)

I actually have significant issues with this article and it's not just because I have a significant affection for this series from childhood. For one, I think Rowling more than many other children-teen based writers did a more than effective job of subverting the chosen one trope because the ultimate crux of Harry Potter's specialness was that he was only BECAME special because Voldermort allowed himself to believe so. I don't know if she meant it that way but it became a nice meta-way on how we define "chosen" one because all the "special" features which seemed intrinsic to him only became so because of a potentially inaccurate belief that he was special to begin with.

And, loathe as I am to criticise a writer calling for more great female heroines (never a bad thing) I feel Harry Potter is the wrong franchise to hold up for scrutiny. The power of three trope sometimes becomes over-extended but the series' effectiveness was always that despite the title the trio each had qualities that the others didn't which is why they needed each other to succeed ultimately, I never felt that Rowling was dulling Hermione's strength as a character to make the text appeal to a male audience, but I suppose that point is debatable.

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

While I do agree its been overused, I don't think it's a terrible device... if done right. If the hero is fighting against or questioning said destiny - Like The (first) Matrix, T2, etc - then you can have a strong emotional journey. It's only when the characters just blindly follow this course that the "Chose One" story becomes a problem... Or if the "Chosen One" story is very ill-defined (like in The Star Wars Prequels).

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

Ah, Sady Doyle. She is also the author of the "In Defense of Betty Draper" piece that circulated awhile back. Great writer.

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

The weird jabs at the rest of the series' female cast is bizarre, because the HP books/films had a very well-developed and diverse group of female characters.

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

As witty as the piece is, it seems like the writer tries hard not to see anything positive.
I mean, Hermione is created as smart and talented and organised and resourceful and with high morals (she's kind of like Babs in The Way We Were) but no, she has to have a perfectly likeable personality too? Come on!

March 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

Love this piece and it does provide some food for thought. I always thought a Hero's Journey told from the point of view of a "supporting character" would be incredibly interesting, if perhaps not quite as satisfying as following the hero.

Everyone should also read her response to the response, which is linked at the bottom of the article. Very well-thought-out.

March 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I think this is a rich little nugget of an essay. I am unapologetic in my love of Harry Potter, but I don't think that renders it faultless. She makes a lot of salient points here that I will reflect on next time I read the series. I'd actually like to see her expand on Lavender Brown, because I think Doyle really hit the nail on the head there. Thanks for sharing, Nathaniel.

March 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

@ Denny Orson Scott Card's politics aside, you should read Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow for a great story in the first, told even better by a supporting character in the second.

March 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Eh, I don't love the "Chosen One" crutch much either but Rowling's take on it is more nuanced and interesting than others. Dumbledore's rant in the sixth book draws attention to the inherently self-fulfilling qualities of "prophecies" -- Dumbledore points out that Harry being "the Chosen One" isn't particularly significant and it wasn't predestined; what's significant is that Voldemort produced his own worst enemies with his atrocities and ironically gave Harry some of the weapons needed to destroy him. The fact that Neville Longbottom could have readily been in Harry's shoes as the "Boy Who Lived" and later becomes a hero in his own right because of a mixture of accident (losing his parents as a casualty of war) and will (turning his own tragedy into triumph) generates a fairly interesting discussion over the intersection of fate and will that has probably elaborated on with more philosophical eloquence elsewhere. I know I'm nerding out right now but tl;dr I think the HP series could actually be viewed as a subversive examination of "The Chosen One" rather than a traditional iteration.

March 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

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