Lessons From Air-ee Paw-Tah

You already know how I feel about science fiction and fantasy as a genre, so you may not be surprised when I tell you that on a recent Tuesday night at 12:01am I lined up at the movie theater to see the newest Harry Potter movie at the very moment that it opened. You could tell my friends and I were excited as we walked to the theater and I made everyone within a 2 block radius feel embarrassed for me by yelling “Harry Potter” in an accent like “Air-eee Paw-tah” over and over again. I smuggled in some treats and purchased some popcorn and snuggled in between Kim and Scotti for over two and a half hours to get my fix. I won’t spoil it, but I’ll tell it was scary, and exciting and overall very entertaining and enjoyable. Purists say it wasn’t close enough to the book, but I thought it did a great job of leading us into the final book/two movies of the series.

What I didn’t realize until after I saw the film was that there is quite a controversy over Emma Watson’s character Hermione Granger. Apparently some devotees feel that Hermione’s physical appearance in the movies does not correspond with the way J.K. Rowling wrote her in the books. This sect of fans believe that Hermione should be dowdier, plainer and buck-toothier. Most importantly, her hair should be frizzier.
After reading these initial critiques, I took to the internet and did a bit of looking and I found that the cry for an uglier Hermione was met with an even more fanatical response by those who disagree. Entire message boards devoted many pages to this discourse. My favorite feminist website even devoted an interesting entry to this conundrum. I spent far longer than I would ever care to admit reading the arguments and the counter-arguments. I read cited passages from the book that seem to prove that J.K. Rowling herself wrote words that gradually brought Hermione out of her pre-teen awkward stage and saw pictures that show Emma Watson personifying that progression. At the end of this maze of mysticism, feminism, fanaticism and criticism I could only muster up two relatively clear thoughts.
1. What this argument really boils down to is our deeply ingrained societal law that leads us to believe that pretty and intelligent are mutually exclusive. The two can’t exist in the same room let alone the same woman. Harry, despite being both described and theatrically portrayed as skinny and bespectacled with a facial disfigurement (ok, ok, it’s a lightening bolt shaped scar that is mostly hidden by his man-bangs, but still), is considered both a hunky heart-throb and a wizarding genius. Hermione, on the other hand, has to be a non-threatening a-sexual counterpart to a couple of dudes who need her desperately to fix their problems with her superior intellect but don’t notice her appearance until she wears a sexy dress to a party. Figures.
The irony of this controversy that surrounds this stereotype is that I sat through the sixth Harry Potter movie sandwiched between two women who embody what Hermione is being brought to represent. Kim and Scotti, both intelligent, educated, witty and well-read. Simultaneously, both total knock-outs when it comes to looks. Both a bit “nerdy” with a love for sci-fi and fantasy and an affinity for mathematics. Both know the importance of a bit of mascara and a properly fitting bra.
Without going back and re-reading all the books, I cast my vote for appreciating the way Hermione is portrayed, as an ingenious and awkward teen transforming into an intellectual and attractive woman. The 13-year old me could have used the reassurance that such a change is possible. The 28-year old me can use the reminder of my responsibility to girls now that I’ve come through the other side.
2. Why is it always about the hair? If you take time to read the message boards (don’t do it, but just IF you did) you’d see that most of this controversy over her appearance centers around her hair. See, it was frizzy and unruly before. Then when it was smoothed and straightened for the ball the first time that Harry and Ron and the rest of Hogwarts really noticed her, she was suddenly pretty. The younger Hermione in the first movies had poofier, crazier hair. And according to all of the most learned Harry Potter fans, you can tell by the fact that her hair is smoother and more tamed in the later books/movies that she is growing up and becoming more beautiful.
Before–frizzy and allegedly not cute

After–smooth and pretty

You know, it’s always the same with these people. The straighter, sleeker hair makes someone more polished, more pretty, more sophisticated. Some of us just don’t have that choice, unless my stylist moved in with me. Let the girl have some big, kinky, crazy hair and a giant brain and STILL be the pretty one, that’s what I call a role model.

3 thoughts on “Lessons From Air-ee Paw-Tah

  1. Totally agree. I hate all the messages that curly girls with NORMAL curly hair (aka actually have a bit of frizz) are not doing it right. Sorry – but curly girls are gorgeous!!! Harumph!

  2. As a girl with straight hair, I always wanted curly hair and never thought it looked frizzy. I haven't seen/read Harry Potter (I KNOW!) but this would bother me too. Also, have you seen her Burberry campaign? It's all the talk over here because she looks so grown up and stunning. She won't be Hermoine forever!

  3. I am with Caitlin here, I have straight hair and have always wanted curls. Could not be happier that Una took after her father and has gorgeous curls even though he brushes her hair religiously every day (hoping to straighten it I guess :)) and her aunts (both curly hair girls) look at her with pity :).

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