Harry Potter fans, those who live with Harry Potter fans, or those who just know Harry Potter fans – and that includes all of us, doesn’t it? – may have heard that Emma Watson interviewed author J.K. Rowling for Wonderland magazine (in case you’ve been living under a stone for the past thirteen years, Emma Watson is who plays Hermione in the movies). In this interview, Rowling mused about Ron and Hermione’s relationship, and even suggested that Hermione and Harry would have been the better pair.
Naturally, that bit of the interview leaked before the rest was published, and the Internet had a reaction much like the reaction that someone who is allergic to tree-nuts has when they eat a handful of tree-nuts: it blew up.
Some people may scoff at the level of feeling Rowling’s statement produced in Harry Potter fans, but keep in mind that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the Philosopher’s Stone, in England) was published in 1997; the first movie came out in 2001. These characters have been around for seventeen years, longer than many of Harry’s fans (and Ron’s, and Hermione’s) have been alive. So it makes sense that there would be some debate over a “revelation” like this one.
Except that it wasn’t really a revelation, or if it was, it was rather mild as revelations go; you can read the whole interview for yourself from the link in the first paragraph. However, there were some really excellent responses. Book Riot published a post on February 10 called “The Conversation We Should Be Having About J.K. Rowling’s Big Reveal.” That conversation is not about outrage – after all, Rowling hasn’t actually gone back and re-written the books; nothing has changed there – but about the author’s continued engagement with and openness about her work. Book Riot’s Peter Damien writes, “It is such a level of openness and honesty with you, the fan, that you should treasure it. Here is Rowling talking about pondering Harry Potter in as much detail and careful thought as a devout fan might do on a forum somewhere…except she’s the author. You are not only getting a remarkable amount of opinion and useful information to think about, you are getting an underlying message that is priceless, which is I care about this precisely as much as you do, and I think we should discuss it thoroughly. That honesty is exciting and rare.”
An earlier piece (February 4) from Think Progress took a closer look at the relationships in the series, and concluded, “For a series of young adult novels, the most childish idea in the series is that everyone ends up with their first love, or ends up alone.” Alyssa Rosenberg writes, “There’s no question that some people do meet the loves of their lives as teenagers. But not everyone does. And Rowling’s refusal to acknowledge that has the effect of freezing a part of all of her characters in their adolescent years, at a moment when their emotions are most intense and their perspective on love is most exalted.”
I think Rosenberg makes a pretty perceptive point here, and that Damien also provides an excellent perspective about the author-as-fan/critic. Personally, I don’t feel strongly about Hermione-and-Ron vs. Hermione-and-Harry; I think she may well have ended up with someone else entirely, someone who could keep up with her a bit better intellectually and make her laugh.
Or, Hermione’s attraction to Ron (or Harry) could have less to do with his looks or personality and more to do with the fact that they found themselves in life-threatening situations together time after time, which could have led to misattribution of arousal. After all, one’s adrenalin levels are sure to shoot up when faced with trolls, dragons, dementors, Death Eaters, and Voldemort himself, and the elevated adrenalin caused by terror could be mistaken for romantic feelings (see the Capilano Suspension Bridge experiment, Dutton & Aron, 1974).
As John Green says, books belong to their readers. So, dear readers, what do you think?
“I wonder what happens at wizard marriage counselling? They’ll probably be fine.”