I’m a huge potterhead. I’ve got all the books and movies. Have re-read and re-watched them numerous times. I’ve done the quizzes, know my house, won harry potter trivia games, been to the Magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter twice and have the shirts to prove it, have eaten every flavor of Bertie’s and am currently wearing one of my many pairs of harry potter socks. I love me some potter.
And, initially, I was super excited that one of the leads is a strong female character. And, I still love Hermione. I love that she’s equal parts high-achiever-do-what-I’m-supposed-to-do-people-pleaser and I’m-stubborn-determined-and-am-going-to-fight-fiercely-for-what-i-care-for-and-the-consequences-be-damned. Well, and to be fair, it really isn’t the character herself that I find dangerous, but rather, how the general public has interpreted the characters and their strengths.
Hermione is described as clever, brilliant, smart, the genius of the trio. And she is all those things. But, aren’t Harry and Ron just as clever, brilliant, smart? Or what about Fred and George Weasley, for that matter? They were teenagers who developed their own products and followed a solid business plan with some brilliant marketing schemes to top it off. And yet, ask the general population to describe Hermione, and somehow she’ll be referred to as the smart one.
And therein lies the danger.
In the muggle world we think of smart kids as being the high achievers. We consider academic success to be the sign of genius. We believe the drive to learn and study means one is gifted. We mistake knowledge recitation as high intelligence. Yes, all of these things can be signs of giftedness, but the outside of the box thinking of the Weasley twins screams giftedness to me even more than Hermione academic prowess.
Media needs to start labeling the misfits, the troublemakers, the Rons and Harrys and Freds and Georges of the world in a different light. They need to call those characters gifted, intelligent, highly capable. It doesn’t matter if they like school, and it certainly doesn’t matter if they “succeed” in school.
Why does it matter?
Because media reflects and directs our societal norms and perceptions. Fiction tells our stories. It can challenge and move the status quo or it can be a device of stagnation and maintenance of harmful misperceptions. And the fiction of Hermione perpetuates a dangerous bias.
If not bound by HIPPA, I could provide countless names and human faces that are the real life Freds and Georges of the world, whose brilliance far supersedes the narrow constraints of their school. I’ve met numerous Rons who use humor and apathy as a way to fly under the radar despite an inner desire to have the confidence to stand out. And Luna Lovegoods who are operating on a plane of existence and understanding that seems bizarre but will usher in the next cycle of human evolution. And, yes, the Harrys who struggle with sorting out their own traumas and fighting for justice that the priority of school simply cannot compare.
So, sure. Lets identify the Hermiones of the world, but let us not allow that to be the only example and the end of the story.