Let’s be real: The women of Harry Potter are straight-up amazing. From everyone’s favorite adolescent witch Hermione Granger to her antithesis Luna Lovegood and Harry’s fiery main squeeze Ginny Weasley, the series has no shortage of strong female characters to look up to and relate to. Thanks, J.K. Rowling!
But my personal favorite Harry Potter female, who is also my favorite Harry Potter character period, is one who is a bit underrated in my opinion but someone whom all the aforementioned girls, particularly Hermione, look up to: Minerva McGonagall. As Transfiguration professor, Deputy Headmistress, and Head of Gryffindor House at Hogwarts, McGonagall is always in the wings making sure everything gets done and as few people get hurt as possible. She takes NO crap, and continually fights hard to ensure equal treatment among her fellow humans, both magical and non-magical.
Here are just a few more reasons why we’re spotlighting Minerva McGonagall for this week’s #WCW!
She nails the stern-softie combo
Harry’s first impression of McGonagall is when she welcomes him and the other first-years to Hogwarts in 1991, right before he’s sorted into Gryffindor. He notices that “She [had] a very stern face and Harry’s first thought was that she was not someone to cross.” This turns out to be true, as throughout the series McGonagall is seen as a woman who doesn’t allow nonsense in her presence – in fact, she doesn’t hesitate to dock points from the houses of or otherwise put everyone who tries and break the rules in their places, even if it’s just with a witty comment designed to make everyone uncomfortable.
But she also has a softer side – especially when someone shows great bravery or skill, or is being mistreated. For example, in the first book, her initial reaction at Harry, Ron, and Hermione fighting the troll is to punish them, but she ends up awarding points to Gryffindor instead because of their bravery. In the fifth novel, she shows great compassion and stands up for Professor Trelawney when Dolores Umbridge tries to kick her out of Hogwarts, even though McGonagall isn’t Trelawney’s biggest fan.
McGonagall is also fun and competitive, with a deep-seated love of Quidditch and a dry sense of humor that makes her a surprisingly hilarious character. One of her best quotes is:
“Ah, of course. There is no need to tell me any more, Miss Granger. Which one of you will be dying this year?” – Talking to Hermione about Professor Trelawney’s predictions in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
And one of my all-time favorite McGonagall moments?
Harry witnessed Professor McGonagall walking right past Peeves, who was determinedly loosening a crystal chandelier, and could have sworn he heard her tell the poltergeist out of the corner of her mouth, ‘It unscrews the other way.'” – Encouraging Peeves the poltergeist to wreak havoc under Dolores Umbridge’s reign in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
She’s an Animagus (and her form is A CAT)
McGonagall is one of only a handful of known registered Animagi, which are witches and wizards who can transform themselves into a specific animal at will without the use of a wand. Other examples include the Marauders – though they were never registered, because rebels – and Rita Skeeter, who also wasn’t registered because she’s a terrible person. The process of becoming an Animagus is long and tedious, so of course McGonagall could handle it.
And if that wasn’t cool enough, her Animagus is a tabby cat. In fact, Cat!McGonagall is the first main magical character to be introduced, as she spies on the Dursleys before Dumbledore and Hagrid arrive to deliver baby Harry to their doorstep. She even narrows her cat eyes at Vernon Dursley when he tries to shoo her away. I think she may have been my favorite from the first chapter of the entire series.
She is a huge part of the Battle of Hogwarts, and becomes Headmistress shortly thereafter
Who could forget this badass moment right before the Battle of Hogwarts, when McGonagall steps in like, “Step aside, Harry. Nope, not gonna happen, Snape. Kinda at my limit with you, tbh.”
I don’t know about your theatre, but everyone in mine cheered and I may have cried. And then she goes and fortifies the entire castle with defensive spells, brings inanimate objects to life to help fight, and even finds time to MAKE A GIDDY JOKE TO MOLLY WEASLEY ABOUT IT.
After the Battle of Hogwarts, McGonagall succeeds Albus Dumbledore (I don’t really count Snape’s term here, sorry) as Headmistress of Hogwarts. In doing that, she makes history as one of the few women to hold that position. Not much is known about what she did after she left the Headmistress position but hopefully she retired somewhere quiet, with season tickets to Montrose Magpies games.
Her movie casting was flawless
Let’s talk Dame Maggie Smith for a second because if I had my own Patronus, it would probably be her. This woman has had a career with so many amazing roles, including Granny Wendy in Hook and obviously Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey. But aside from her impressive body of work and general poise and talent, Smith is RIDICULOUSLY strong. Case in point: She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and while she was undergoing chemotherapy, she continued filming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I REPEAT: This not-so-young woman filmed a fantasy movie while undergoing chemo.
And not only did she film – she made jokes about the experience. According to the Daily Mail, she stated the following about her McGonagall wig: “I was hairless. I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg.” The hard-on-the-outside, super-strong yet hilarious McGonagall would be proud.
(Images courtesy of Warner Bros.)