Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Ron and Hermione Problem

[Fan art by keerakeera]

Okay, I didn't plan on writing anything about this, and there's no point in explaining anything to anyone who doesn't already know everything that's going on, so let me sum up. Over the weekend, in a leaked snippet of an upcoming interview between J.K. Rowling and Emma Watson, Rowling said this (ignore the headline; it's inaccurate--just stick with the actual words):

"I wrote the Hermione-Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That's how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron....I know, I'm sorry, I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I'm absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility."

This has, predictably, spawned a huge range of reactions from the many and rival Ron-Hermione and Harry-Hermione fans out there amongst the millions of lovers of the Harry Potter books and films. (Those of you who delighted in Rowling's world solely because Harry's adventure was funny and thrilling and moving, and skipped all the subplots, can move along now.) As one who has been fairly obsessed with HP over the years, I have my own opinions. They are, in short: A) I'm a big fan of the Ron-Hermione pairing, and actually think it makes, in the context of the wizarding world Rowling created, good--if, admittedly, also somewhat complicated--psychological, romantic, and even moral sense; B) still, as it is legitimate to take seriously authorial intent and opinion, we should wait until the full interview is released so we can understand the context of the quoted comments and give it our full consideration; C) in the meantime, it's just a reality that all authors' understanding of their own works change over time, and this is obviously especially the case for those who, like Rowling, have invested years in seeing their stories adapted and transformed into film and media other media; D) to the extent that those of us who liked the Ron-Hermione subplot have to accept B) and C), we have some recourse in remembering that Steven Kloves, the screenwriter of seven of the eight Harry Potter movies, always tended to make Hermione out to be a super-woman, rather than the flawed individual of the books who needed her friends just as much as they needed her; and finally E), let's keep in mind the wise words of Nerd Fighter, geek book god, and YouTube sensation John Green, who simply tweeted in response to the leaked interview: "Books belong to their readers."

If you need more, you can read this thoughtful reflection on how Rowling implicitly treated love throughout her whole story (and why the pairing of Ron and Hermione is a persuasive reflection of that treatment). If you find the whole thing just funny (and maybe have a small Harry-Hermione hankering within you), well, enjoy Stephen Colbert's take:



And finally, if after all that you want more, may I suggest you do what I do: trust the best and most thoughtful and consistent fan fic writers, because who really exhausts the canon of a story better than they? St. Margarets, a great writer (and, perhaps not coincidentally, the one writer who made Harry-Ginny seem persuasive to me), finds Rowling's comment about Ron-Hermione being "wish fulfillment" rather bizarre: after all, what else are we doing when we write stories that actually have a conclusion, to say nothing of a "happy ending," then engaging in one kind of wish fulfillment or another? She then tartly imagines what other authors might have had to say about their perhaps "non-credible" pairings:

LM Montgomery regrets shipping Anne and Gilbert since she first wrote them during her long engagement to Ewen Macdonald when she was hopeful that she was marrying her intellectual equal to whom she was also physically attracted. (That had been an issue from her broken engagement to Edwin Simpson– she writes in her journal that she was repulsed by his “affections.” ) Ewen and LM were apart for most of their engagement, so LM did a lot of projecting. Anne and Gilbert were her ideals – friends who could talk non-stop for hours and then hop into bed – just what she hoped for during her five-year engagement. Unfortunately, LM Montgomery’s marriage/subsequent life was marred by her husband’s mental illness, her health problems, her money problems and her disappointment in her wild-oat-sowing son. Now that she knows just how difficult marriage would be, she wouldn’t pair Anne up with someone that unrealistically nice.

Louisa May Alcott regrets shipping Jo with Fritz Bhaer and having them run a boys home where everyone learned at their own pace and all lived in communal harmony. This idea was based on her father’s short-lived commune. The wish fulfillment part was that Jo and Fritz were equal partners in their relationship and they had food (unlike the grinding poverty of the commune). Louisa never married and she had to put up with her father’s tyrannical nature until he died. So Jo and her well-fed boys were totally unrealistic. (She does not regret, however, giving Amy a drama llama for a husband, mediocre artistic talent and a sickly daughter since Amy burned Jo’s manuscript.)

Charlotte Bronte regrets shipping Jane with Rochester – one, because it’s highly unlikely that the lord of the manor would take notice of a mousey governess (Charlotte, a one time governess, eventually married her father’s curate) and two, tragically, few in her world would live long enough to suddenly come into a family legacy and wait out Rochester disposing of his first wife for the happy ending. (She lost three immediate family members in the 8 months after Jane Eyre was published.) Charlotte died at 38 from pregnancy complications.

Stephenie Meyer regrets shipping Edward with Bella and having Jacob obsess over her – Wait. Stephenie Meyer regrets nothing! She’s laughing all the way to the bank.


Well said!

1 comment:

Rob Perkins said...

J.K. Rowling, perhaps, noticed that her cachet was diminishing, and so she said something controversial about her wildly successful books?

Nah.