If Hermione were the Main Character in Harry Potter

Harry PotterWhile this blog post doesn’t contain uncensored swearing or sexual references, it does refer to a website story that does (and a related topic that features some random what-the information). So if you’re easily offended, now might be the time to temporarily click away.

The sweary/sexual innuendo website story in question is BuzzFeed’s If Hermione Were The Main Character in ‘Harry Potter’. Because, frankly, she absolutely should have been. I mean, really. Who among us hasn’t been frustrated that she had to constantly play second fiddle to two friends who, though sweet enough, had nowhere near her smarts or nous?

This post is essentially a feminist reading of the book, with Hermione forced to fight the Patriarchy. But it’s much more genius than that. It enables us to envisage an alternate reality, where we readers see the story as it could and probably should have played out. Plus, there’s plenty of pathos and sass. Often all at once.

First instance as case in point: It shows Hermione’s parents being proud they have a witch for a daughter, then Hermione feeling forced to wipe their memories of her in order to protect them from the Voldemort return-inspired war. Below the images of this harrowing scene is a note below the image saying she shipped them off to Australia ‘where nothing dangerous ever happens’.

BuzzFeed is occasionally criticised for collating content rather than producing original work. In recent times, it’s expanded its repertoire and sophistication by creating works such as this Hermione tale slash meme. It’s bang on subject- and execution-wise for me. I love, love, love it.

In the Harry Potter reworking, Hermione, the girl who ‘literally gives zero f&#ks’ learns such things as the skill of ‘throwing shade’ (she threw some excellent shade over the course of the films and BuzzFeed does well to pick up on and run with it). The reworking also taps into the thing that while reading the books most drove me wild: ‘Without Hermione, The Boy Who Lived would be dead as sh%t’. About 10 times over, to be precise.

The tale says if social media had existed when Harry Potter was released, Hermione may have inspired the #BossWitch hashtag. I’d like to think she’s inspiring it now. (As a side note, BuzzFeed Books has obtained information that the 16 weirdest Harry Potter-related searches include that ‘Draco should never use tampons’. That search alone confounds my mind. If anyone has any suggestions for that search’s purpose, I’d like to know. No, really. It’s puzzling me. I did, however, like that people wondered if the sorting hat was a horcrux. Those who thought of that are super cleverer than me. I mean, imagine if that had come to play out?)

Truly, though, this story touches on some significant and timely cultural tropes about women and feminism. And pervasive, ingrained, often invisible sexism. And how we’re judged and boxed in even when we’re supposed to these days be considered equal. The ‘not all wizards’ and ‘destroy the joint’ references are eminently clever.

I won’t ruin the ending for you, but I will say it offers an alternative to the incredibly unrealistic Hermione and Ron ending JK Rowling gave us that continues to completely, utterly, aneurism-inducingly infuriate me. This ending made me fist-pumpingly proud.

So, although the story is significantly sweary, I’d highly recommend checking it out. It’s an important and insightful and inspiring re-imagining of Rowling’s tale.

The Stupid Country

Destroy the JointI was fortunate enough to attend a literacy forum yesterday at which Jane Caro was the keynote speaker. I’ve long admired her from afar (mostly through my TV as she appeared on The Gruen Transfer and through the recently released Destroy the Joint: Why Women have to Change the World book she steered to great success).

Caro is, as I was discussing with my colleague at morning tea, the kind of woman I’d love to grow up to be. That is, incisively intelligent, pragmatic, and cutting a firm but fair line between warm and fuzzy and necessarily angry (an extreme too many of us are at either end of, rather than combining the two for best effect). Oh, and she’s funny. Just when we were deep into theory, Caro lightened the mood and drove her point home with some brilliantly timed humour.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Caro was there to discuss literacy and, in a wide-ranging speech, managed to blow our metaphorical socks off. I’m still grappling with getting my ahead around much of it, but here were my favourite parts and takeaways:

  • ‘a life live literately leads to a well-stocked mind’ (this may be Caro’s quote or someone else’s, but either way I like it)
  • equity and wellbeing are key to ensuring literacy. Put another way, before children can perform well in school, they need to feel a sense of wellbeing
  • our current system sees children as ‘vases you stuff with information’; the one who regurgitates it best wins. Caro advocates subversion rather than compliance will see people succeed in the long run
  • a ‘user pays’ society is more aptly expressed as ‘youse pays’
  • literacy acts as the ‘keys to the kingdom’ in an increasingly information-led society
  • Australia is the third-lowest funder of public schools (only Chile and Belgium are behind—and Chile’s working to change that now)
  • we’ve created a ‘publicly funded arms race’ whereby private schools must do ever-increasing peacocking to attract desirable parents and students. It doesn’t equate to better education
  • it’s important to know the business you’re in. Her message to the largely librarian audience was that they weren’t in the business of loaning books, but one of providing ideas, imagination, information, learning, and inspiration. She also showed us this brilliant, brilliant ad by The Guardian, a newspaper that understands it’s not in the business of selling newspapers, but instead providing the whole story, information, analysis, and more.

The Stupid CountryThat list doesn’t do her eloquence and inspiration justice, and I’d recommend seeking her out to hear her speak on this topic and, frankly, any other. I’m not sure how soon that will come about again for me, but I am inspired to pick up a bunch of her books and devour them, stat.

That includes the aforementioned Destroy the Joint: Why Women have to Change the World and fresh-off-the-printing-press The Stupid Country: How Australia is Dismantling Public Education. Two light reads they won’t be, but invaluable ones that strike the right balance between outraged and incisively witty they will be, I’m sure.