Nineteen years later
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Minister or Teacher, either way Hermione is still awesome

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Nineteen years later SPOILER WARNING! This page contains information from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk!

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"And that’s twenty points from Gryffindor to assure Albus Potter that I am this mean."
-- Hermione Granger (CC2)

Minister or Teacher, either way Hermione is still awesome

In the weeks since the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, there have been a number of criticisms of the story.  One, which I’ve already talked about has to do with the way time itself is presented to work.  Another has to do with one character,  Hermione Granger.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lets down women and betrays Hermione’s legacy” claims Kristina Grosspietsch on Mashable.  Kadeen Griffits of Bustle sets out to prove “How Hermione Granger Is Portrayed in Harry Potter & The Cursed Child is Offensive To The Fans & The Character.”

I’ve read these articles and some others, and while I understand where they are coming from, I wholeheartedly disagree with them.  Their base complaint seems to be that they think the play is implying that Hermione could not become Minister for Magic if she was not married to Ron Weasley.  They are basing this on what happens following the first change in the timeline 1what I call the Roseless timeline, for lack of a better name.

When Albus and Scorpius, disguised as Durmstrang students, travel back in time the first time, a young Hermione notices them and becomes rightfully suspicious of them when they sabotage Cedric Diggory in the first task.  Since they are dressed as Durmstrang students, she deduces that Krum, through them, is trying to cheat.  As a result when he later asks her to go to the Yule Ball, she refuses.  She instead goes to the ball with Ron as friends.  Ron and Hermione dance, but it is in a friendly platonic way, and when Ron gives Padma a dance, he finds that dance very different and starts dating her.  Fast forward back to the future and Ron marries Padma, Hermione marries nobody, and instead of becoming Minister for Magic, Hermione instead becomes a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts.  She also seems to become mean (“Psychopath” as Albus calls her) and even seems to relish in meanness “And that’s twenty points from Gryffindor to assure Albus Potter that I am this mean.” (CC2)

Grosspietsch, Griffits and others believe that this change implies that Hermione needs Ron in order to be successful, and that the play as a whole is sexist because of it.  J.K. Rowling has given us some of the most powerful female characters in literature I’ve ever read, and while their argument is that this change implies that Jack Thorne snuck sexism into JKR’s story, I find that ridiculous.  Everyone involved in the play claims that Jo was a big part of the story development throughout the process, if she thought this represented a sexist view of Hermione, she surely would not have allowed it in.

First of all, any change you make in the timeline will have ripple effects that could have vast repercussions to time as a whole, so the fact that Hermione went into education instead of politics might not have anything to do with Ron at all, but some other change in the timeline that resulted from Albus and Scorpius’ interference.

But even if it is that the lack of marriage to Ron was the reason she isn’t at the Ministry,  that does not necessarily mean the story is implying she couldn’t become Minister in this other timeline, only that she didn’t become Minister.  Why would that be?  What is it about this alternate reality where Ron and Hermione didn’t get married that also resulted in her change in career?  Well let’s speculate based on what we know, that is to say what happened in the Prime Timeline that might have happened differently in the Roseless timeline.

Following her encounter with Winky at the Quidditch World Cup, Hermione quickly becomes obsessed with the plight of the house elf.  This would of course have happened in both timelines.  Ron naturally teases Hermione about this, but pay attention to the way he teases her both before and after the Yule Ball.  Before the Ball, Ron’s teasing is basically concerned that she is wasting her time.  He doesn’t understand that even though House Elves like being enslaved, that doesn’t make slavery right.  Following the Yule Ball the teasing takes a very different tone.  Ron makes the entire idea of the plight of the House Elf sound stupid.

“Hermione’s obsessed with house-elves,” Ron muttered to Sirius, casting Hermione a dark look. (GF27)

“Hermione, will you give it a rest with the elf!” said Ron. (GF27)

“You couldn’t keep your mouth shut, could you, Hermione?” said Ron angrily as the kitchen door slammed shut behind them. “They won’t want us visiting them now! We could’ve tried to get more stuff out of Winky about Crouch!”

It was an irritable sort of day after that. Harry got so tired of Ron and Hermione sniping at each other over their homework in the common room that he took Sirius’s food up to the Owlery that evening on his own. (GF28)

“I’ll sponsor you to shut up about spew,” Ron muttered irritably (OP9)

Hermione is not one to let people get her down, so with each new barb from her friend, her resolve to do something about House Elf slavery becomes more resolute.  Following her return to Hogwarts to finish her education following the conclusion of the war with Voldemort, Hermione turns her attention directly to the plight of the House Elves, Goblins, Centaurs and other creatures that have been given a bad shake.  She works her way into the Ministry and up through the ranks in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.  She fights for new legislation to make lives better for everyone.  Eventually her name is put up for Minister for Magic.  Her hard work, not to mention her fame from her part in the downfall of the Dark Lord, makes her a popular choice for the big chair and she becomes Minister.

Now let’s look at the alternate reality.  Ron and Hermione (along with Harry of course) remain good friends.  Ron and Hermione go to the ball together as friends and have a good time, but Ron never realizes the bickering chemistry the pair have.  Since they are just going as friends, they don’t really feel the need to dance exclusively and Ron gives Padma a dance and without being distracted by jealousy of Hermione and Krum, Ron finds he actually enjoys the dance and the two of them start to date.  Hermione, who was always much smarter than Ron and had before this point realized that she did have feelings for Ron, does not react with outward jealousy like Ron did to Krum, instead she acts much the same way she did when Ron was dating Lavender in the prime timeline, she lets him make his mistakes, and perhaps even goes to date others just to spite him2I wonder if the people who are upset about Roseless Timeline Hermione would be as upset if in this timeline Hermione had ended up married to Cormac McLaggen..

Unlike the Lavender relationship though, since this relationship started before Ron ever had a chance to be jealous, Ron never reacts with jealousy, he’s in a relationship and actually happy (for now).  Of course in the future this relationship was seen to be rather poor, Padma walks all over her husband, but that’s not what we are here to talk about.

Ron and Hermione remain good friends but it never progresses into romance or jealousy from Ron.  Now all those S.P.E.W. conversations probably sound a lot different when not colored with spite on Ron’s part.  Hermione I’m sure always feels for the plight of the less fortunate, but she’s no longer teased as if she will never succeed.  So following the downfall of the Dark Lord, when she starts to really think about her future, politics is no longer the first and most foremost thought in her mind.  Instead she thinks of what she is best at and Academia is the most logical thing for her logical mind.

As for her choice of subject to teach, there is naturally once again an opening for a good Defense Against the Dark Lord teacher, and who would be a better DADA professor than Hermione Granger.  I would argue that she’d be a better DADA teacher than even Harry, in spite of his limited success teaching Dumbledore’s Army.  Hermione not only was one of the main soldiers in the final stretch of the Wizarding War of the 1990s, but her extensive book knowledge gives her the grounds to teach at an intellectual level as well.

Becoming a professor isn’t being less successful, it is simply applying her talents in another way.  I may not like that she would become mean in this alternate reality, but I can see where that might happen depending on the circumstances.  Considering some of the horrible DADA teachers we’ve seen3Quirrell who clearly was no match for the dark arts since he succumbed, Lockhart who was an idiot, Umbridge who was pure unadulterated evil, why wouldn’t Hermione want to improve upon that.  Those who think she has not been successful, would you consider McGonagall less successful or less powerful since she chose a “lifetime of education?”

Women, especially strong independant women like Hermione Granger can do any job they set their mind to, and both politicians and teachers have difficult but vital jobs that Hermione would have found equally challenging and equally rewarding.  Minister or teacher, either way Hermione is still awesome.

Notes   [ + ]

1. what I call the Roseless timeline, for lack of a better name
2. I wonder if the people who are upset about Roseless Timeline Hermione would be as upset if in this timeline Hermione had ended up married to Cormac McLaggen.
3. Quirrell who clearly was no match for the dark arts since he succumbed, Lockhart who was an idiot, Umbridge who was pure unadulterated evil

Commentary

Notes

Super big shout-out to Hilly Minne who made this awesome piece fanart to go with my post.  This image is perfect, thank you!

Pensieve (Comments)

  • Iain Walker

    I’m afraid I don’t find this very convincing. One can come up with any manner of head-canons for why alternative!Hermione ends up as the Uber-Snape, head-canons that don’t just depend on her not getting together with Ron. That’s fair enough. But the play itself doesn’t give us any such nuanced explanation – all we get is “Hermione didn’t marry Ron, and voila, she’s a complete shrew”. That is the problem – that the script links the former with the latter in a cause-and-effect relationship. And having made that link, the unavoidable implication – intentional or otherwise – is that Hermione’ success and happiness is dependent on her relationship with a man. The trope, with all its sexist implications, is in full play here, and handwaving it with unsupported speculations about what else might have happened in her life doesn’t change this. It’s what we’re presented with on the page and on the stage.

    And your own explanation has its own problems relating to Hermione’s character, since it depends on the rather dubious assumption that her SPEW campaign is ultimately driven by pride more than a genuine sense of social justice. Now while SPEW gets off to a rocky start due to Hermione’s own unexamined privilege, her sense of social justice is nevertheless portrayed as one of her most constant characteristics. The idea that she’d let that slide just because Ron doesn’t goad her quite as much with his insensitivity and incomprehension makes her out to be far more superficial than her characterisation in the books suggests.

    (Oh, and it’s also noticeable in Cursed Child that Hermione doesn’t seem to be a terribly effective Minister of Magic, either. She certainly doesn’t seem very good at managing the public meetings she keeps calling – people keep interrupting or taking over the proceedings or simply wandering off en masse.)

    • I agree with this entire post SO HARD. Bravo!

      • Thanks!

        • Erm… referring to the above comment, that is. Sorry!

          • Strangely the comment didn’t show for me only yours… weird.

    • First of all, the script does not make her out to be a complete shrew, it makes her out to be a stern teacher who takes points from students who cause a disruption in class, like pretty much every other teacher actually, especially McGonnagal. Albus sees her as a “psychopath” only because she is different than he remembers her from growing up with her as a member of his extended family (by marriage). To Albus she would seem to be a psychopath because she is different, but different is not necessarily worse. A teacher who takes points away, even while being slightly sarcastic about it is simply being ordered.

      As you point out, perhaps she is a bit harsher as a teacher than she was as Minister, but that doesn’t make her a shrew and it isn’t out of character. How many times did Hermione rebuke Harry and Ron throughout the series, she was always stern, always strict and always disapproved of them.

      I keep going back to the same thing, read Teacher Hermione’s lines but associate them with McGonnagal instead of associating her with Snape and the lines take on a whole new context. McGonnagal would be just as severe when punishing, or have you forgotten what she said in Harry’s very first Transfiguration lesson “Anyone messing around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned.” (PS8)

      I never said that SPEW depends on pride, I’m only saying that without the various interactions between Hermione, Harry, Ron and various House Elves, or with different interactions due to different interpersonal relationships her eventual goals might be different. Time is something you can’t mess with without there being repercussions.

      Would you feel less bad about the way Hermione’s character is portrayed if she wasn’t Minister first but had been a Defense against the Dark Arts teacher in the original timeline? Of all career choices Hermione could have chosen, a career in education makes sense, in fact a great deal more sense than politics.

      • Iain Walker

        Cheers for responding. This is going to be a horribly long reply (oops).

        “the script does not make her out to be a complete shrew”

        I’m sorry, but I can’t help but notice that you focus on my (mildly hyperbolic) choice of language, rather than my actual point. I.e., that as presented in the play, the implication is that Hermione’s happiness – and alternative!Hermione is not happy – depends on how her relationship with a male character panned out. The problematic nature of this trope, and whether the play falls victim to it, was (I thought) the topic being discussed.

        “I never said that SPEW depends on pride”

        But you do say “Hermione is not one to let people get her down, so with each new barb from her friend, her resolve to do something about House Elf slavery becomes more resolute.” and “Now all those S.P.E.W. conversations probably sound a lot different when not colored with spite on Ron’s part. Hermione I’m sure always feels for the plight of the less fortunate, but she’s no longer teased as if she will never succeed.” In other words, you explicitly link Hermione’s political activism with a personal sense of achievement – call it pride, call it ambition, call it obstinacy or whatever. Again, the precise word isn’t the issue.

        The point is that your proposed alternative has Hermione abandoning her commitment to making Wizarding Britain a more equal, tolerant and just society, simply because of a lack of negative stimulus (from Ron) for her ego to react against. This doesn’t seem credible to me, partly because it makes Hermione out to be more superficial in her activism than the books suggest, and partly because Ron isn’t the only person being obstructive about house elf rights (e.g., she comes close to falling out with Percy over it). Making Ron less of a git about it isn’t a big enough change – her political activism is still a major part of her character, and she still has the rest of magical society to kick against. For Hermione to abandon her political career needs a lot more explanation than this. It’s not plausible as a sufficient condition on its own.

        “Would you feel less bad about the way Hermione’s character is portrayed if she wasn’t Minister first but had been a Defense against the Dark Arts teacher in the original timeline?”

        Well, if she was a DADA teacher and happily married to Ron, then the sexist “female character’s fulfilment depends on relationship with male character” trope would have been averted, which would have been a distinct improvement. But then it would also mean that she’d abandoned her ambitions to reform magical society, which is very hard to see without some serious explanation. Ultimately, I’d have been happier if Hermione had been portrayed as a competent and successful Minister, and alternative!Hermione had been shown to be a lot less bitter.

        “Of all career choices Hermione could have chosen, a career in education makes sense, in fact a great deal more sense than politics.”

        Well, if she’d made a point of trying to reform Hogwarts’ more socially and educationally harmful features (e.g., by abolishing the Sorting, getting rid of Binns etc.), then she could have done a lot of good. But we don’t see this in the play – we see a lonely, bitter woman still hung up on her juvenile crush. What I don’t get is your perception of Hermione as more academic than political. This is the woman who, as a child, begged the Sorting Hat to put her in Gryffindor rather than Ravenclaw, for whom “bravery and friendship” ultimately trumped “books and cleverness”, who was willing to break the rules for a good cause (and not just personal advantage) time and time again. Rowling’s Hermione is defined by two main things – her intelligence and her activism. A non-political Hermione is a Hermione shorn of half of her original characterisation. It’s not impossible to imagine, but for it to happen would nevertheless require some major explanation, character development-wise.

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