The sexual politics behind Harry Potter


by Sunny
24th November, 2005 at 1:58 am    

As Harry Potter mania continues in the UK, it is worthwhile mentioning the fact that the latest installment has two young British actors by the name of Shefali Chowdhury and Afshan Azad, who play Parvati and Padma Patil.

But not everyone is impressed with how the film is progressing. Here we re-publish a recent piece by Ink Spill on the sexual politics behind Harry Potter.

——————
by Ink Spill

Harry and Ron are the ideal couple, balancing out each other perfectly. Harry’s rescuing Ron at every stage makes him the protector masculine partner, while the sporadic strength of the ‘help meet’ Ron makes him the feminine part of the couple.

Homosexuality being out of the purview of children’s literature, the figure of Ginny, Ron’s property in the Muggle-like patriarchal structure of Wizardhood, is the symbolic bearer of the Harry-Ron love. Her status as rescuee in book two cements her dependence on Harry.

Her diluted feminine wiles make her a post-Feminist romantic heroine who ‘plays the game’ to get her man.

Hermione Granger is the quintessential feminist figure stuck in a post-feminist paradigm. Being obviously too bright to play second fiddle as a hero’s love interest, her possible romantic link with Harry is ruled out.

She is symbolically kept out of the hierarchy of heroism by being made a ‘friend-figure’. In the triangular Harry-Ron-Hermione friendship, she has a two-step function. The first is to preclude the threat of a homosexual liaison between the two male figures, and the second is to formalise Ron’s heterosexuality by being pitched as his romantic partner.

As an individual, Hermione is interesting to explore. Lest her intelligence overshadow the male hero, it is made irritating through people’s responses to her words and actions.

As she passes into puberty, she is constructed as a hormonal wreck, being pulled towards the hysterical female stereotype by what are socio-psychologically constructed as her “impulses”, and being pinned in the masculine world of the intellect where she has always belonged as a ‘transgresser’.

Being a Mudblood, her racial ambiguity underlines her dubious performance of gender roles, and makes her a disturbingly grey and unsettled character. As the story progresses, her hormones take over her intellect more and more often, and one fears that she will dissipate into a helpless woman who underplays her intellectual prowess to fit the role of subordination to Ron, the non-hero.

Over six books, Rowling has turned her into ‘Hormonie’, which is a big letdown for the feminist cause.

——————–
http://inkspillz.blogspot.com/


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  1. neoplasm

    The sexual politics behind Harry Potter | Pickled Politics http://tinyurl.com/3ym9sj




  1. shihab — on 24th November, 2005 at 2:07 am  

    Notwithstanding the horror of realising Hermione will be on the cover of FHM in just over two years, I have to applaud her for raising the awkward topic of racial abuse with my daughter in the most harmless manner imaginable.

    ‘What’s so bad about being called a mudblood,’ she asked.

    People who are jealous of the way you look sometimes use stupid words like that.

    Hope she remembers that, if ever (said the father optimistically), she hears the word paki directed at her when she’s older…

  2. squared — on 24th November, 2005 at 2:28 am  

    I can’t get over, how, of all the beautiful Indian outfits they could have worn, they picked the WORST possible ones.

    It’s not all about clashing colours, you know. :(

  3. Robert — on 24th November, 2005 at 7:43 am  

    I’ve often wondered whether, in the interests of promoting diversity of thought worldwide, it was healthy for every single person in Britain to have their childhood defined by the same book about a wizard… but I guess fairytales of different types have been propagating sexual and racial stereotypes for centuries.

    I also think the way a hat decides whether you are good or evil when you arrive at Hogwarts, and pigeon-holes you accordingly into houses, is more evil a notion than any talk of the occult. But some people like seeing things in black and white, good and evil. Who are we to deny them their simplicity?

  4. shihab — on 24th November, 2005 at 8:30 am  

    Ah but harry is a good wizard with bad blood in him, the hat wanted him to join the dark side, but it was free will that made him see the light. Anyways, better kids grow up believing in magic than gollywogs, eh?

  5. Old Pickler — on 24th November, 2005 at 10:29 am  

    That’s nothing. Susan from the Narnia books went right off the rails and got interested in boys and lipstick. But at least nobody used the word paradigm in those days.

  6. Bibi khan — on 24th November, 2005 at 11:45 am  

    Its just a kids book that encouraged people to read, people dissectling it and being weird about thecaraters and their sexuality/race/religion just takes all the fun out of it. People should just relax and enjoy for a change rather than analyse all the fun out things.

  7. shihab — on 24th November, 2005 at 12:04 pm  

    …thereby making everyone here redundant…

  8. blue mountain — on 24th November, 2005 at 12:13 pm  

    I suspect this Harri Potter is being turned into a formidable money – making juggernaut like James Bond

  9. Vikrant — on 24th November, 2005 at 12:24 pm  

    I bet even Indian girld from India dont wear those outlandish contumes.

  10. sonia — on 24th November, 2005 at 12:47 pm  

    a feminist paradigm is all very well but individuals should never expect to be sacrificed to any paradigm, feminist or not.

  11. Old Pickler — on 24th November, 2005 at 1:18 pm  

    I’d rather be sacrificed to a paradigm than to a meme or a trope.

  12. blue mountain — on 24th November, 2005 at 1:51 pm  

    what is this Harry Potter No. ? 3 or 4 ?

  13. leon — on 24th November, 2005 at 2:14 pm  

    I don’t know if it was just me but the inclusion of them so prominently in the film (along with the lingering shots on other BME kids) felt a little to PC to me…

  14. Bibi khan — on 24th November, 2005 at 2:17 pm  

    Hermione is a teenager, and remembering my time as a teenager it was full of angst and hormones and stress. If hermione didn’t loose it and be weird and tetchy she wouldn’t really be a realistic teenager and the kids that read the book wouldn’t identitfy with her. HAs anyone ever met a teenage girl whose is so calm and poised, she is helpless, boy obsessed emotional wreck because that part of what being a teenage girl is, people have forgotten what its like to be young……

  15. Bibi khan — on 24th November, 2005 at 2:18 pm  

    People would get annoyed if there weren’t people of all cultures etc in the film but they seem to get annoyed if they are, the indian girls are in the book, they looked cute in their costumes….and the problem is?????

  16. sonia — on 24th November, 2005 at 3:14 pm  

    yup looks like quite a PC attitude – featuring indian stereotypes! not many young kids about who go around waltzing in saris if you ask me. but then hey i havent seen the move..

  17. sonia — on 24th November, 2005 at 3:14 pm  

    movie

  18. Lurker — on 24th November, 2005 at 3:24 pm  

    Blue Mountain said – “Potter is being turned into a formidable money – making juggernaut”

    being turned into? I think part of the sentence is rather redundant. Which planet were you on for the last few years?

  19. Bikhair — on 24th November, 2005 at 3:34 pm  

    The real sexual politics, among racial and social politics will be when in her next role she is humping a black man. LOL!

    I should stop laughing at my own jokes.

  20. shihab — on 24th November, 2005 at 3:40 pm  

    “yup looks like quite a PC attitude – featuring indian stereotypes! not many young kids about who go around waltzing in saris if you ask me.”

    Teenage Asian girls hate having to wear Asian clothes unless it’s to an Asian do (I doubt 14-year-olds buy into the Asian cool thing). And Hogswort being a place where parents play no part, it’d be unlikely they’d rather wear Asian gear without parents forcing them to.

    It’ll be interesting to know whether the Patil sisters come from muggle parents.

    ‘You must have an arranged marriage to your cousin Parvati’

    ‘Zap, you’re a frog’

  21. Rohin — on 24th November, 2005 at 3:51 pm  

    At what age can an over-18 year old fancy Hermione?

    God it’s like Leon all over again.

  22. Bibi khan — on 24th November, 2005 at 4:00 pm  

    I genuinely think that whatever race is potrayed in Harry POtter people will get Narky about it, so what if they wore clothes that indian kids wouldn’t wear out and about, it was a fictional ball, at a fictional boarding school of wizards, I wouldn’t wear what hermione wore to the ball in a million years but wouldn’t say they were socially stereotyping white kids..

    ANd yeah am 23 and I fancy the guy who played Krum..total tragic!

  23. shihab — on 24th November, 2005 at 4:04 pm  

    Rohin, I know. It’s so so wrong. Magic up a time machine please someone

  24. Robert — on 24th November, 2005 at 5:03 pm  

    Its just a kids book that encouraged people to read, people dissectling it and being weird about thecaraters and their sexuality/race/religion just takes all the fun out of it. People should just relax and enjoy for a change rather than analyse all the fun out things.

    I read a great quote a while back from the guy who set up Dreamworks, the makers of Shrek. He defected from Disney, fed up with the mantra that ‘There is a child inside every adult’. He said his company was founded on the premise that ‘There is an adult in every child’.

    As Hermoine’s hormones demonstrate, children don’t mature into adults overnight. They develop. I’m not sure there is ever a point where something can simply be ‘fun’ and not have implications on the way a child thinks. We question and dissect Harry Potter because we know that even young kids pick up meanings and symbols, and learn morals, through the books they read. It’s why art is referred to as ‘culture’.

    The books that children learn to read with are the most important on the planet. We should question them more, not less. If it was suggested that since Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories is just a children’s book, we shouldn’t bother to dissect it’s meaning, what would your reaction be?

    Kids can simply read the book and have fun doing so. But it is a parental and societal duty to critique children’s literature.

  25. Maharajah Ranjit Singh — on 24th November, 2005 at 5:55 pm  

    Shihab and everyone else – the pictures of them in saris take place at a posh party where they all dance like a prom.

  26. sonia — on 24th November, 2005 at 6:48 pm  

    yeah yeah whatever. not many people are off to the prom wearing saris. some might be!

  27. Sunny — on 24th November, 2005 at 7:21 pm  

    I think the girls look cute in saris, however garish they might be. Hell, the more garish the better! Its more Indian-fied then. Though it would be good if the girls were shown as not being too pleased about having to wear those saris, so it shows that most Asian girls only wear them for special occasions. In the the UK anyway.

    I still have to watch the film to comment on the sexual politics but….
    At what age can an over-18 year old fancy Hermione?
    God it’s like Leon all over again.

    It’s annoying isn’t it! aargh! I’m trying to stay away from looking at HP posters.

  28. Vikrant — on 24th November, 2005 at 7:37 pm  

    most Asian girls only wear them for special occasions. In the the UK anyway.

    Sames with India i believe atleast in urban area.

  29. j0nz — on 25th November, 2005 at 12:34 am  

    I feel compelled to comment here at PP. I think I might be…… asian.

  30. Fe'reeha — on 25th November, 2005 at 12:52 am  

    Who is Hermoine?

    I have serious objections to Hermoine’s portrayal.
    JK Rowling has often admitted as seeing herself in the character of Hermoine and she indeed has become the most powerful girl’s character ever written in a children’s series.
    The analysis says:
    Being obviously too bright to play second fiddle as a hero’s love interest, her possible romantic link with Harry is ruled out.
    First of all, why the centre of a hero’s platonic attentio has to play second fiddle is beyond my comprehension.
    Even in Shakesperian tragedies, which are based on typical; Greek pattern of one central male character, the female counterpart always has a major hand in making or breaking of a hero, for example Lady Macbeth is considered one of the most dominating characters of all times.
    The only heroic films where I can think of the heroin as playing a secondary part are probably Bond films ( apart from Pakistani crap of Sultan Rahi films).
    But again, Harry is no Bond. One of the main reasons why he is so popular among people of all generation is that almost everyone can associate with some parts in Harry’s life.
    At his age, most of teenagers feel they have a duty to make the wrongs of life right, and more than that, most will believe they actually can!
    It is the realisation that not everything in our worlds will stay the same forever, and also that we cannot change everything that brings maturity. Ideals can hardly be achieved but at the same time should we give up the struggle towards perfection? It is this conflict precisely which confronts Harry at the end of the last book, HP and the half blood Prince.
    But coming back to Hermoine, true, her intelligence indeed outshines others, but I doubt it challenges any of her two friends’ maculinity. If anything, Hermoine’s character becomes more feminine with the passage of time, and her intellignece is only to compliment her feminity. How openly and wrongly, the above analysis projects that feminity is not synonym with inetlliegence.
    Contrary to being a transgresser in the “male world of intellect” as you have said, Hermoine seems to rule the microcosm of her male dominant group. I think she is a typical example of the “star female student” in every class. Who ideed are always looked in awe by the male counterparts, but due to extreme intelligence are mostly made to feel an outcaste by other “female members”. Hermoine hardly has a female friends and she is often target of female envy due to her closeness with Harry. (Order of Pheonix).
    In my opinion, Hermoine is also not their to break any homosexual vibes between Harry and Ron. Their’s is a perfectly chemistry-free relatioship.
    If anything, she is to bring in the voice of reason and order to the otherwise boysih and chaotic world of Harry and Ron.
    She is also the much needed fiminine precence in Harry’s life, to a point, where Ron starts feeling her intrusion irritatingly motherly. She constantly gives Harry advice about his relationship with girls, tension-packed conversations with Snape and how to control his powers.
    Hermoine also has a lot of traits in common with Harry’s mother (being a mug-blood, extremely intelligent and caring like making clothes for house-elves so they could be freed), hence her precence in Harry’s life has strong reasons, and it was a wise decision on Rolwing’s part not to make Hermoine’s relationship with Harry platonic. For first crushes often pass with time, but Hermoine’s influence on Harry is meant to stay.
    Also, it is hard to say Hermoine’s intelliegnce is irritating. If anything, it is endearing.
    “Harry, you could die, or even worse, get expelled”. She retorts in the first film, Philospher’s stone.
    “You need to get your priorities right.” Ron chides her.
    Throughout the series, Ron and Harry are continually impressed by Hermoine and rely on her wisdom and not to forget her school homework to steer them through.
    It is unfair and unjust to label them being “threatened” by her in anyway. While she is the stereotype miss perfect, she is no goody two shoes. While she remembers to do her homework on time, knows her petronuses and reads herbology books in her spare time, she is willing to go out and take chances, breaking a rule or two, trying spells not allowed.
    She, in her place, is always the first one to welcome real intelliegnce from her friend. She is the first one to step forward and encourage Harry to teach Defence against the dark arts to the rest of the class because she feels Professor Dolores Umbridge is depriving them of essential knowledge, and in doing so, defies the Principal’s orders.
    It is this independence of spirit precisely that always keeps her with Ron and Harry, and in this regards she breaks free of the usual teacher’s pet character.
    She does not flinch when she tells Harry he is the best in DA, however, the same Hermoine rolls over in irritation when she finds Harry outdoing her in potions classes by cheating (reading the half blood Prince’s astonishingly reliable notes).
    Why is she afraid? Not because she is afraid of being outshone, but because she hates foul-play. And in this way once again, she retians her individuality.
    As to: her racial ambiguity underlines her dubious performance of gender roles, and makes her a disturbingly grey and unsettled character
    I think this is an aboslutely misjudged remark. First of all racial ambiquity (whatever it is, I don’t even understand this term, how can racial diversity be called ambiguity?) will hardly lead to questionable performance. This statement will mean that racial clarity should lead to sane and intact performances. This is not true at least in Rowling’s world, where Slitherings the pure-bloods are the most evil of all.
    Almost all the pure bloods are not even wizards of intelect. Snape, Voldemort and even Harry himself, all come from mixed races, and if anything Hermoine is atleast not ambigous about her race.
    She is a “pure” mud-blood, just like Harry’s mother. Also, she is far from being grey. She is turning into a normal teenage girl at heart, as the other two characters have turned into usual teenage boy characters. Why is it expected of Hermoine to be detached from her feminine harmones just because she is brainy, is beyond my comprehension.
    Hermoine has been with Harry at every step in Hogwarts. It will be interesting to see as she and Ron join hands and step backwards from Harry’s dangerous path at his own insistence, where our little hero heads to without the motherly, caring, persistant but extremely wise influence of Hermoine Granger.

  31. Siddharth — on 25th November, 2005 at 1:07 am  

    I feel compelled to comment here at PP. I think I might be…… asian.

    LOL. Hey Jonz wassup. After a round of posting on HP, I started thinking I was Jewish or gay.

  32. Siddharth — on 25th November, 2005 at 1:12 am  

    and lovin’ it!

  33. Siddharth — on 25th November, 2005 at 1:16 am  

    Fe’reeha thats got to be the definitive comment that gazumped the original post.

  34. Sunny — on 25th November, 2005 at 3:24 am  

    Whoa! That is some hardcore analysis. I feel I should watch the film now just to join in the discussion :(

  35. blue mountain — on 25th November, 2005 at 6:46 am  

    Post no. 18 ….Lurker

    Sorry mate

    I never kept myself updated on Harry Potter Business

  36. Tanvir — on 25th November, 2005 at 6:35 pm  

    wicked…. bangali girls representin…
    i think the ‘freshh’ attire is quite cute… kinda following the same ethod as Rohin’s appreciation of Apu from the Simpson’s character

  37. Peter — on 2nd December, 2005 at 2:01 pm  

    A good piece and interesting discussion. I’ve just posted a link here from the Apollo Project blog.

    I´m considering writing a piece on political satire in books 4 to 6!

  38. ALIZA — on 24th December, 2005 at 8:40 pm  

    THIS IS ABSURD! FOR ONCE CANT PPL JUST ENJOY SOMETHING WITH OUT LOOKING DEEPLY TO FIND PROBLEMS POLITICALLY SEXUALLY OR ANY OTHER WAY. THE HARRY POTTER MOVIES AND BOOKS ARE A MAGICAL AND ENCHANTING FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY SERIES. TAKE IT AND LEAVE IT AT THAT. SAME WAY YOU PHSYCHOS TAKE OUT THE FUN OF ERNIE AND BERT AND SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS. ITS YOUR OWN WARPED MINDS THAT MAKE IT INTO SOMETHING DIRTY, POLITICALLY INCORRECT OR SINISTER, I WISH PEOPLE LIKE THAT WOULD GROW UP OR AT LEAST LEARN TO NOT SPOIL IT FOR THE REST OF US!

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