The Women of Harry Potter:
A dedication to the women of Harry Potter, in the words of their author and the actresses who portrayed them.
"I am a female writer and what's interesting about the wizarding world is when you take physical strength out of the equation, a woman can fight just the same as a man can fight, a woman can do magic just as powerfully as a man can to magic and I consider that I've written a lot of well-rounded female characters in these books." - J.K.Rowling
J.K. Rowling: As an author non of the women ever gave me trouble actually. It was always the men that gave me trouble, never the women. But Harry came to me as Harry and I never wanted to change that because switching gender isn’t simply putting a dress and a pretty name on a boy, is it? A lot of preoccupations and expectations are different on men and on women, and so the books would have been incredibly different I think.
Bonnie Wright “Ginny Weasley”: Considering that the protagonist is a male, I don’t think it was so obvious at the beginning that she very much wanted to portray her female characters as very strong-willed and sort of admirable, but as the films went on I think you could really see it.
J.K. Rowling: It’s interesting for me with Harry because throughout the series he is so much a boy, in search of a father, and yet at these times of real stress its his mother that’s a place of refuge. And I think that it is not very hard to see the reason why. My mother died six month into the writing of Harry Potter and I became a mother to a daughter, so I just suppose that as a woman and as a daughter maybe I feel that that is a form of love that doesn’t get explored as much as it should do, given that it is so formative in everyone’s life, for good or for ill.
Funnily enough I founded a charity called Lumos which is about institutionalized children largely in eastern Europe and some of the many disturbing things that I found out from being involved closely with that charity is how much measurable brain damage is done when a child is taken from its’ mother and placed in an institution. And when I say measurable, you can scan the brain and you will see that pathways haven’t been made and you can never get that back. So in fact when I wrote about Harry being incredibly loved in his earliest days, is measurably true, that will literally have give him protection that no one an undo. His brain would have developed in a way that Voldemort’s brian didn’t because Voldemort from the moment of his birth was institutionalised. So I suppose that Lilly was the representative of safety, in a way that a father couldn’t be because he is constantly told ‘you look just like your father’ and that he has to live up to the expectation of ‘your father’. But Lilly is different. Lilly is the person who stood by the cot and tried to stop her baby dying. So yes, a mother’s love is hugely important in the books.
"What have they (Fred and George) done this time? If its got anything to do with Weasley's Wizard Wheezes."
Emma Watson “Hermione Granger”: I just think that its so cool that Jo has Mrs Weasley and really pays homage to this incredible mother figure and how key her role is in keeping that family together, to taking care of Harry and the whole of Dumbledore’s army really.
Julie Waters “Mrs Weasley”: Apart from the three main characters, Mrs Weasley is the greatest force for good, I think in it. She is the mother of that world and I think that is very female.
J.K.Rowling: What really impressed me with Julie was, she always had the sense, I felt, that this wasn’t just this warm and cosy 1950s housewife pottering around her kitchen, there was a real steel in there. Now you could there would have to be steel in a woman who raised Fred and George otherwise you would go raving mad. However, it was completely plausible to me when she stepped forward in the great hall and though ‘right you bitch, your getting yours’. And you thought ‘yeah she is about to get hers’, Bellatrix messed with the wrong woman.
Julie Waters “Mrs Weasley”: It comes from her womb, that feeling of defence, defending her child. She has already lost one so its the mother, the female lion or tiger depending her babies, so you know it is unstoppable, which is wonderful. I doubt whether that would have taken place if it had been a man, writing it.
J.K.Rowling: I really enjoyed killing Bellatrix, and I really enjoyed having it be Molly that did it. And of course you also have two very different kinds of female energy there pitted against each other. You have Molly who will mother the whole world if she can, and you have Bellatrix, whose idea of love is very perverse and twisted, and that was satisfying. But there was something else that I wanted to do with the way that Bellatrix ended and this was very important to me, because very early on I remember a female journalist saying to me that Mrs Weasley is ‘just a mother’ and I was absolutely incensed by that comment. Now I consider myself to be a feminist and I’d always wanted to show that just because a woman has made a free choice to say ‘well I’m going to raise my family and that’s going to be my choice, I may go back to a career or I might have a career part time’, doesn’t mean that that is all she can do and as we have proved there in that little battle, Molly Weasley proves herself the equal of any warrior on that battlefield. And I also loved that Professor Mcgonagall got her moment to really show what she could do.
"Hogwarts is threatend! Man the boundaries. Protect us! Do you duty to our school!"
Bonnie Wright “Ginny Weasley”: The teachers have really been repressed in how they see Hogwarts obviously form its new ruling, that you can see that they just are itching for their fight back against evil and I love that. For Professor Mcgonagall she really shows what she’s made of.
J.K.Rowling: I don’t like the marginalisation of women when the fighting breaks out. You know we get to fight too. I really wanted that and in fact there was an earlier draft where it was Harry that took on Snape in that confrontation and I really didn’t want that to happen. In the book Minerva Mcgonagall was the one, and it was very important that she does that.
"I was the Dark Lord's most loyal servant. I learned the Dark Arts from him, and I know spells of such power that you can never hope to compete!"
J.K.Rowling: I felt that I had a lot of fully fledged members of the Order of the Phoenix that were female who were fighting along side the men and I really needed to show some female Death Eaters, and Bellatrix is the female Death Eater par excellence.
Helen McCroy “Narcissa Malfoy”: Bellatrix is not a great advertisement for prison, if this is what its done to her. But she is doing everything for Voldemort and she follows him.
J.K.Rowling: There’s an interesting thing about female psychopaths isn’t there? They often need to meet a male counterpart to release that part of themselves and that’s how I see Bellatrix.
Helena Bonham Carter “Bellatrix Lestrange”: She is the only true follower. Bellatrix thinks she went to Azkaban: she’s prepared to die. So, she’s pretty convince by his supremacy and superiority and his worthiness.
J.K.Rowling: I mean Voldemort really is her idol, her obsession. He is the only person to whom she feels subservience. She has that curious personality disorder or quirk that is peculiarly female and I think that Helena portrays that with such gusto which is fabulous to watch. However, its my strong feeling, of the two sisters, Narcissa and Bellatrix, Narcissa is a much more decent person.
"There is nothing I wouldn't do any more!"
Helen McCroy “Narcissa Malfoy”: It’s interesting that J.K.Rowling decided to do that. She decided that the woman that would risk her own life to save her son understands loyalty and understands preservation of life.
J.K.Rowling: Well I think one could argue that Draco who is ultimately revealed not to be an evil character, Draco got his goodness from his mother and ultimately, there is an echo of what Lilly did, a quite conscience echo of what Lilly did right at the start of the story, at the very end of the story. At the start of the story Lilly dies to keep her son alive. At the end of the story Harry lies pretending to be dead on the ground and its a mother who saves him again, because she is trying to get to her own son. So that was closing a circle. He was saved there by Lilly and he’s saved there by Narcissa.
"The Ministry places a rather higher value on my life, than on yours, I'm afraid."
J.K.Rowling: I do strongly express my world view in the books. One of the things I find most revolting is self-righteousness which coverts self interest. And that was Umbridge from beginning to end. And she’s actually quite as sadistic as Bellatrix but it all “justified because I work for the Ministry”. A horrible woman.
Emma Watson “Hermione Granger”: She has this kind of like horrible side to hear where on the outside she’s all fluffiness, pinkness and niceness, and then on the inside she’s just evil, just pure evil.
Imelda Staunton “Dolores Umbridge”: I think this is just making the most of what little power she has, but she will hang on to it and keep clearing people out as long as she can.
J.K.Rowling: Power for me is a very difficult issue. I’m suspicious of people who want power, which I think comes across quite strongly in the books. But I have come to accept that if you are in a position to give for example a lot of money to a cause, then that gives you power because money can be a very powerful tool. If you have a profile which means you can give a voice to a cause that otherwise wouldn’t have such a large voice, than that is also power. But for me its a slightly more difficult issue than that because I think as an author, I chose a career path that traditionally does not lead to a position of power and so I really, not being disingenuous when say that any form of power that has come to be through Harry Potter was very very unexpected.
Emma Watson “Hermione Granger”: I really admire her Grace. She’s definitely been an inspiration and a role model. I mean I just feel so blessed that I was given a chance toexperience all these amazing women. Helena was also a really important mentor to me on this last movie. Se very sweetly invited me over for dinner and we talked about books a lot and just being a woman. I feel as if somehow I have been under the microscope even slightly more than the boys just by being the girl. Whether its what I’m wearing, whether its what I’m going, where I’m going to school, just in every sense, the public are just so much harder on women. So I think we both know how that feels, being under that kind of scrutiny. We talked about how to absorb criticism and absorb flattery and knowing what’s genuine and what isn’t and knowing who to trust. It was such a big evening for me, I don’t know whether she knows how important it was for me but after I had my evening with her I went home and wrote down everything that she said and I actually have a book important encounters to me where I right down things that they say. Because I think one day I’ll really want to remember what that incredible person said and what they though about things and I just don’t want to forget so, Jo has a page too.
"To Miss Hermione Granger, the cool use of intellect when others were in grave peril; 50 points!" -Professor Dumbledore.
J.K.Rowling: I wouldn’t say that I based any of these women on specific women that I knew, but Hermione is an exaggeration of me. So Hermione really did come from a really deep place inside me. I was very insecure, still am quite insecure in a lot of ways but I was very insecure person for longer than I like to admit. And I think writing about the time in Hermione’s life that I write about, growing from childhood into womanhood, literally because when we finish the books she’s 18, I think it bought back to me how very difficult it is. So much is expected of you as you become a woman and often you are asked to sacrifice parts of you in becoming a girl, I would say. Hermione doesn’t. She doesn’t play the game if you like.
Emma Watson “Hermione Granger”: The type of teasing that Ron gives Hermione is something I’ve had to deal with all my life, guys giving me a hard time for doing well and being smart so I can totally relate.
J.K.Rowling: From the very first conversation I had with Emma I just though ‘oh thank Christ’. I did because you knew who they were going to cast as Hermione, you know I was more worried about Hermione than anyone else. I thought you know, are you going to get
a girl and put her in glasses because that shows she’s clever? You know how many times have we seen that? And I spoke to Emma on the phone, she was very young, I think she was ten and I thought you are going to be able to play a very bright, articulate girl who has conviction because that’s who you are.
Emma Watson “Hermione Granger”: I felt like I had the most pressure in a way because if I screwed up Hermione I would somehow being screwing up a part of Jo, and it just would have been awful. But I remember that she sent me a letter after the third movie. She wrote me a letter and she said, “To My perfect Hermione” and to hear that from the creator of her was obviously the biggest compliment I could receive and that was when I really knew that I had done a good job.
J.K.Rowling: I think that the main three really work together because of their gender and I had fun with that. I had fun with that in Deathly Hallows when its the three main characters alone in a tent. And Hermione says “I notice that I’m the only one who gets to do the cooking because you know I’m the girl I suppose” and Ron says “no its because your the best witch and your the best at magic”. So it was fun to play with that.
Emma Watson “Hermione Granger”: They couldn’t get through a day without her. She really is, she’s the brains, she’s the best at spells, she’s always two steps ahead; she’s very much part of the action.
"Anything is possible if you've got enough nerve".
Emma Watson “Hermione Granger”: The main female characters aren’t there as an added bonus which I feel like so many female characters are. Even Ginny is this incredibly powerful, stubborn, intelligent, quick-witted woman. She’s another kind of girl power figure.
Bonnie Wright “Ginny Weasley”: Obviously as Ginny’s character develops you really see her as very independent and I think people portray female characters as very loud and chatty and needing to show maybe their sexuality, although its not really needed, so that’s what’s makes Jo’s female characters very strong because they’re a bit more naturalistic and a bit more down to earth.
Emma Watson “Hermione Granger”: She is just completely true to herself no matter what and I think that’s a really important message.
"The girl gave off an aura of distinct dottiness. Perhaps it was the fact that she had stuck her wand behind her left ear for safekeeping, or that she had chosen to wear a necklace of Butterbeer caps, or that she was reading a magazine upside down."
Emma Watson “Hermione Granger”: Even Luna who is this sort of airy-fairy, in her own world type of character, still has this amazing conviction in her beliefs and she is still incredibly smart and is very emotionally clever.
J.K.Rowling: The key to Luna is that she has that unbelievably rare quality of actually not giving a damn about what anyone else thinks of her. Now if we as adults say honestly how many people we have known like that, I think very many of us would say none. And Luna is like that, she doesn’t actually care. She is so comfortable with being different; she’s fearless. And I loved writing scenes where Luna and Hermione were together, because Luna and Hermione are the absolute antithesis of each other and yet I love them both equally. It is sometimes very difficult as a woman to say “well actually this is who I am and I’m not going to pretend otherwise”, but that’s the only way to be truly happy so that’s what I would want to say to girl particularly.
Emma Watson “Hermione Granger”: I’ve had countless mothers come up to me and say “thank-you so much for giving my daughter a role model, she absolutely idolizes Hermione” and I feel really privileged to have been able to play her.
J.K.Rowling: I would like to think that Hermione is a role model for girls. You see I was a plain, and that is relevant, that’s not a trivial thing when your a kid, I was very plain, bookish, freckly, bright little girl. I was a massive bookworm and I spent a significant part of my reading looking for people like me. Now I didn’t come up with nothing, you know I remember Jo March who had a temper and wanted to be a writer, so that was a lifeline. There’s a heroine in a book called The Little White Horse who I who was plain and wow that was fabulous, you get to be a heroine and you get to be plain, not a raving beauty. But you know, these were pretty slim pickings and I feel in creating Hermione I created a heroine who wasn’t sexy, nor was she the girl in glasses who entirely sexless, she’s a real girl. She’s a girl. She fancies Ron but her hopes are initially pretty low; she’s a real girl. But she never compromises on being a smart girl, she never compromises in acting dumb, she never tries to make Ron feel better by pretending to be less than she is, which is why they don’t get together a lot sooner, but I’m proud of Hermione. She is who is she. And if that spoke to girls like me then of course I am hugely hugely proud of that. That is what it is all about.