In honor of Emma Watson's birthday, a love letter to Hermione Granger
It isn’t possible to be bigger fans of Emma Watson than we are at Hello Giggles. The child-star-turned-full-blown-feminist-activist, who turns 25 today, has made a huge impact on Hollywood and the world at-large, by promoting equality on a global level. But she’s also enriched our lives personally through her choice to portray empowered girls and women who stand up for their beliefs. And yes, we’re talking about one role in particular. Here, one of our contributors reflects on all the ways Watson’s Hermione Granger has inspired her.
Hermione Granger taught me everything I needed to know about being a strong person. She is this perfectly imperfect woman. When she accidentally colored outside the lines, her strokes were as deliberate and vibrant as the ones within them. She was there for all of us young women in the third grade who didn’t quite fit in. She was there for the girls who didn’t have shiny hair and preferred reading to anything else. You didn’t have to be bookish to appreciate Hermione and her unintentional wisdom. Whatever your personality, whatever you liked or disliked, you could stand by it without question—thanks to Hermione.
So many young women are taught to apologize for being good at something, or explaining away why we have some sort of talent. It’s like we are scared of taking the credit. Perhaps we feel it makes us seem conceited or snobby. Not Hermione. She didn’t give two figs about what others thought of her. She never once apologized for wanting to follow rules, for obsessing about her academics, or for thinking Quidditch was a stupid thing to get upset over.
And while she never apologized, she never bragged about being the smartest in her year or for figuring out things way before anyone else either. She just was true to herself. To this very day, whenever I question something about myself, I think about Hermione. “Well, Hermione did the same, and she turned out alright,” I say to myself. “Hermione would never apologize for just being who she is.” This thought, this mantra, is instantly soothing.
The best part of this wonderful woman, introduced to us by the magnificent J.K. Rowling and portrayed by the pitch-perfect Emma Watson, is that she was in no way perfect. She could not simply be defined by one quality. She assumed them all at different times. She was smart, brave, independent and strong. She understood all the nuances of female thinking (and explained it to the boys on many occasions), and she cared for her friends deeply. But she wasn’t always the bravest, or the strongest in every instance, and that made her even more lovably human.
She also didn’t prescribe to outdated gender norms: she didn’t obsess over her hair, she could take on Malfoy if she needed too, and she didn’t simply serve as a love interest—but rather as a heroine all on her own.
She embodied the idea that women don’t have to be one thing or the other. They can just simply be.
While she never apologized for being smart and excelling in class, she still had feelings that were hurt when other students would make fun of her for these qualities. Ron, or any number of Gryffindor girls (Pavarti and Lavender I’m lookin’ at you), would mock her and tears would fill her eyes. She would yell and scream and stamp her feet when she was upset or frustrated. She taught me that showing emotion does not make you weak, it makes you honest.
Just because you cry, that does not mean you’re not strong or brave. She got watery eyed all the damn time, but you know what? She never apologized for that either! Was there ever a scene in which she apologized for overreacting? No. Because she had feelings, and she wasn’t afraid to show them. She found strength in this so-called weakness. She could understand things because she was able to feel empathy. She, as a result, was wise beyond her years. (Remember when she told Harry that friendship and bravery are more important than books and being clever? Yeah, she got it.)
Speaking of bravery, there were a hundred moments in which she showed an incredible amount of bravery, but again she wasn’t some cardboard cutout superhero who never faltered. She couldn’t beat the boggart, nor could she beat the dementors. Sometimes, however rarely, she faltered. She even struggled in love. Remember how long she harbored feelings for someone without being brave enough to say anything? How many of us have gone through the exact same thing? In effect, I could easily relate to Hermione and her inner-struggle to be, at once, outspoken and protective of her feelings.
While I can look at her and all the amazing things she did (saving Harry and Ron’s lives a thousand times, discovering the basilisk, figuring out a plan to protect her parents, sticking by Harry and their journey no matter what, the list goes on and on) and aspire to be more like her, she also made enough mistakes and stumbled enough times to make me believe that being like her was not an unreachable goal. She was a person, like me. If she could do it, so could I.
Perfect people don’t exist, so why should perfect characters? We don’t always want to see people who are constantly succeeding while we’re struggling. Sometimes, we want to see someone try, fail and then succeed alongside us so perhaps we can appreciate our triumphs together. And for me, Hermione was, is and always will remind me to that it’s brilliant to succeed, and it’s also OK to struggle. Most importantly, the goal is to be yourself and not apologize for it.
So thank you Hermione, and thank you Emma Watson, for teaching me so much.