See what I did with that title? Clever, eh? Well, maybe not.
So this rant…sorry, post…is in part inspired by a row I’m having on a Facebook group, regarding the reinterpretation of characters in Harry Potter for fan fiction writing. And its irritating me, so I’m going to clear my own chest and maybe get some creativity going in the process.
So, a bit of background. I write fan fiction, as I’ve mentioned in other posts. Since my forced unemployment I’ve written quite a lot more than normal. Net result is that I’m writing close to the peak of my powers, my fan base is exploding and I’m feeling very loved right now.
Well, I was. Until last night when I dared to start expressing a different opinion to one of the most popular writers in the specific corner of the fandom that we occupy. That corner is called many names, but the most popular is Harmony. Its an amalgam and of Harry and Hermione, then forced into a real word. In this corner of the dark world of Harry Potter fandom, a select band of rabidly passionate people – of which I’m up there with the very worst – support the concept of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger in a romantic relationship. This happens all over fandoms across genres and stories. Its called Shipping (relation-shipping, geddit?) and its a very satisfying, if oft difficult to explain to non-believers, way of enjoying a story in a deeper, more dynamic way.
And if anyone says ‘well, they didn’t get together in the real books slash movies’ then I will find where you live and come and cut you…with harsh words, obs. I’m a lover not a hater. Well, that’s not true. I hate a lot of things. The entire Weasley family if we stick to the Potter theme, but lets not go there. The epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows still makes me throw up a bit in my mouth.
So, how did you get into this weird and warped world of shipping in a fantasy novel series, as a gender straight heterosexual man who should know better, I hear you say?
I suppose the truth is, I’m a soppy romantic at heart. Favourite book? Pride and Prejudice. I could recite it line for line. Darcy and Lizzy? I cry like a baby every time. And I first read that when I was something like 12/13. And I feel in love with it then. Or, more specifically, in love with them then. It was a trend that followed from book to book.
So we have Harry and Hermione, but I’m going to delve into them later because I’d quite like to record my obsession with them for eternity and I’ve never written it down. But there are others in my favorite series. Lyra and Will from His Dark Materials, Tom and Hester from Mortal Engines (please, if anyone saw the recent film, don’t let that cloud your judgement. Pick up the books, they are superb) and others. My really secret one is Penny and Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. This may be based on the fact that I bear a slight physical resemblance to Sheldon, and some eerie character traits, and well, Penny is hot. Zero fucks given, its vacuous as hell. But there it is.
But Harry and Hermione is my first love. My phone cover is a fan art of them, which I would share but I’m concerned about copyright violations. Anyway, how did this madness start, something like 15 years ago?
I was in college. 17/18 at time time. And one lunchtime I was at my girlfriends house and we were watching the news. We didn’t have Sky TV then, so it was just normal BBC 1. Anyway, regional news comes on. And after the normal blah blah about a cat in a tree and a left-hand hammer store closing down on the High Street (and would Spatula City be next to fold? Duh Duh Duh!!) this section comes on about this new book being released.
And the kids in the shop were going mental for it. It was like Black Friday. People punching each other for shit TV’s that they didn’t want on Why The Fuck Didn’t I Buy That If It Was So Essential Thursday. Oh yeah, there’s a quid off today, but everyone’s going to start knee-capping each other to get to the bargain. Fuck me, where is society going.
I digress. The book in question was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Now, I’d never heard of Potter before this. Why would I? I was having a lot of sex and my voyage into borderline alcoholism was about to begin. Lets be honest, its not even borderline. My house is a microbrewery for fucks sake. Plus the fact that, since the age of about 14, I had become a pretentious little twat when it comes to literature. For my Year 9 Summer book report project I chose A Tale of two Cities. Dickens. I wasn’t going to have any of this Blighton, Dahl, Lewis, Tolkkien drivel. It was Dickens and Marlow and Milton. At Fourteen.
Pretentious as fuck. Great books, great writers, but I was such a knob.
Ironically, my obsession with trying to pretend I was forty at fourteen meant I skipped over my favourite genre, fantasy, for about a decade. Till I discovered Potter, then I had a sort of regressive renaissance. Now my entire bookshelf means no woman with any sense of pride would bring their friends round. Luckily, my long term partner has her own quirky obsessions so it all works. Maybe I’ll write about her one day.
I’d need whole new blog for that yarn.
So, this new report about Potter. Never heard of it, pretty much forgot it. Till a few days later I was in college, in a Media Studies class (yes its a real thing) and a friend of mine was chatting with the lecturer. We often had great little chats so I just elbowed my way into this one. And they were discussing the new Potter release, like it was the best thing sliced bread with marmite on it. Thats a risk. It could divide the room. But they were going as nuts for it as the kids on the news.
My pretentious response? “Its just a kids book.”
Well, If I did…
I spent the next thirty minutes being ‘educated’ about the value of Potter. My friend demanded I read it. So I did. I bought the first one, tried to read it on the bus to work. Couldn’t get into it. Put it in my bag and lamented the fiver I’d wasted on it. I didn’t work much, money was tight. What’s that they say about Self Repeating Cycles. Yikes.
But, a few days later, it was Bank Holiday Sunday. I was in the mood to do absolutely nothing. I was staying at my grandmothers house, it was a serene Sunday and I thought “What the hell? Lets give Potter another go.” So I got a coffee, sat into a reclining chair and opened page one.
By 9pm that evening I was a super fan.
And a frustrated one at that. For there were no buses on Bank Holiday weekend. I couldn’t get to town to buy book 2. When I did eventually get there I bought 2 and 3. By the Thursday of that week I was running back to town for Book 4. By Sunday, I was pressuring my girlfriend with violence to start reading book 1.
And I was in love with Harry and Hermione.
I don’t know what triggered it. The romantic element of GoF maybe? Triggered my mind to it? Who knows. But I love Hermione. I’ve always preferred strong female characters. So Hermione Granger is in an elite group with Lyra Belacqua, Hester Shaw, Elizabeth Bennet, and others in my mind. And there was just something there in Hermione’s relationship with Harry that stirred in me. Over the years I’ve rather come to think that its because she deserves the hero, I think. A lot of alternate Shipping factions often say ‘why should Harry get Hermione. The hero always gets the girl.’ As though that’s somehow become a bad thing. Its kinda the perk of being the hero, duh. You get the love too. Soz secondary characters, thems the breaks.
My point though, why shouldn’t Hermione – the undoubted Heroine of the series – get the guy?
Its really nothing to do with Harry. He doesn’t deserve Hermione. But he’s as close and damned to anyone in the series who does. And there’s a million reasons why. Or at least 101, as this video shows. Go check it out. Fall in love all over again. But Hermione deserves to get Harry. He is her prize, not the other way around. Why should she settle for poverty, inequality in marriage and the borderline neglect and abuse she can expect from Ron? It would happen, JK Rowling herself suggested it.
But this isn’t a Harry/Hermione rant. I’ll save that for another day. This about my descent in the murky waters of internet fandom. It was only burgeoning back then. Nothing like today. But, after reading, I couldn’t shake this Harmony (that’s my reference from now on) thing. I wanted Harry and Hermione to become romantically involved more fiercely than I wanted Harry to defeat Voldemort. It was as simple as that.
But was I weird? Alone? The internet would soon tell me I was not.
I cautiously googled Harry and Hermione romance. Actually, it was probably MSN or Yahoo back then. But whatevs. And my browser blew up. It was like beating Dr Robontic on Sonic. All sorts of beauty and prettiness came out. I had found my niche, found like minded souls. Lots of them. Lots and lots of them. There were fan theories, discussions, essays on writing to support the subtextual build-up (which blew my mind and improved my understanding of my craft overnight, even if they didn’t materialise in canon), fan art, fan music. I was like a pig in shit. A shit shaped around the beautiful love that our fandom saw in Harry and Hermione’s relationship.
And in no greater expressive way did I find this than fan in fiction. Stories, written by fans, which altered the canon world – or else imagined the future – with Harry and Hermione in a relationship as the core theme. And I was captivated. This was my medium. I could do this. I’d been trying to write and get published and have readers for years. And here was my chance.
So I wrote. And I was ok, but feedback improved me hugely. I reworked, rethought, learned to plot properly, develop character, write dialogue, deliver payoffs. All aspects of my craft were given a power up. And I’m still doing it today. And, right now, I’m off the chart in quality. I’m reading my own stuff for pleasure. There’s a narcissism in there that I should probably seek mental help for. But, moral of the story, fan fiction has made me a better all round writer and story teller. That’s a skill I’m hoping can translate to my own work.
Which brings us back to my row. I’ve been heatedly debating the portrayal of fringe characters in fan fiction. Characters like Lily and James Potter, Severus Snape, Susan Bones, Draco Malfoy and others. The crux of my argument is that we don’t see enough about any of them make proper judgements on their personalities so its pretty much open season. We know some aspects about all, but there’s enough to 100% sure.
So my argument is that I think James Potter could be a bully and Lily Potter could be a vacuous whore. Which is in counter balance to the most popular writer currently working in the fandom who thinks James is wholesome and Lily is a fucking angel. In my opinion, both versions are possible. But I made this claim in a specific, closed and private, Harry and Hermione loving Facebook group that I’m thrilled to be part of. I’m obsessed with it. But I challenged the Queen of the fandom with my opinion.
Well, if I did…
I have virtual bullet holes in me. Her army of fans has ranged against me. Not because I’m wrong, or because they think my opinion is invalid, its because she has said her opinion is superior and mine is essentially wrong, based on her interpretation of internal motivation for said characters. Which is bullshit. We are both reinterpreting from the same base source and we are both right.
Now, let me just say, I’m a big fan of this woman’s stories. She is talented, creative and thoughtful. But she’s also popular to the point of obsession for some people and that’s dangerous. As part of her creative process she has looked at potential, more realistic ways things can go, and run with it in her stories. Perfectly fine, I’m onside and it works. But she’s now essentially saying that she is unequivocally right. Which she isn’t. She has no textual basis for her assumptions, just a rational breakdown on the possibilities the text throws up. Its clever, outside the box thinking and I’m down with that.
But she’s also so popular other people also think she’s right, just because she says so. They have crossed the line from canon to fanon.
Its an oddity this one. Its a phenomenon where readers take an element from fan fiction that works, rave about it, others copy it, and it somehow enters people’s mind that this has come from the original text. Which it hasn’t, but people will readily believe that it has. It’s sort of like a constructed Mandela Effect. Don’t want the Mandela Effect is? Blow your mind with this.
In Potter, this is most commonly attached to Draco Malfoy. He is so often portrayed as a misunderstood bad boy who’s seeking redemption that they forget he’s nothing more that a racist, xenophobic sadist who wants to be a Death Eater slash Wizard Nazi but not do being a Death Eater slash Wizard Nazi. He watches violence, but doesn’t get his hands dirty, unless he’s fornicating with himself while remembering the violence he watched.
The movie portrayal of Malfoy certainly fuelled this. Yes there was some text basis for him being potentially attractive but not much. He ends up with Pansy Parkinson at some stage and we are told that she’s a serious minger. If Draco was so suave and handsome he’d never downgrade like that. Not with his family name to uphold.
This one particularly irks me because very often Draco’s redemption comes in the form of Hermione, in what is known in fandom circles as Dramione. Yep. Draco Malfoy, the racist, blood supremecist, fringe Death Eater, in a romantic relationship with Muggle born Hermione Granger, best friend of said Death Eater-slash-Wizard Nazi-slash-Hitler Youth Reject (I mean, come on…did she have to make him blonde?) – slash – racist blood supremecist’s mortal enemy, one Harry James Potter. A guy who is all of the above, where Hermione is concerned, from the first page of book one till that hideous epilogue.
And I’m not going to entertain an opposites attract thing here. This isn’t rowing, or underlying sexual tension. Its xenophobic hatred, pure and simple. Draco suggests Hermione should be killed on more than one occasion. That’s hatred folks. And it works. It makes Draco a bad guy, gives Harry and the readers more reason to dislike him, and it works. The fact that he has cutting quips and a dry sense of humour doesn’t mask the fact that he would happily see Hermione Granger butchered by evil wizards or wild magical animals, without having the balls to do it himself.
Who the fuck writes a romance between them when that is canon fact?
Dramione fans will hate me for that. And I don’t care. You’re wrong. End of. No argument in my world. There is zero, and I mean sub-zero, evidence of a romantic connection at all. It belongs in the same category as Harry shagging The Giant Squid in my book. Draco hates Hermione, and Hermione hates Draco, double powered because Draco also hates Harry, and Hermione hates anyone who hates Harry. And people use that as a basis for underlying sexual and romantic tension?
Who basis sex and romance on hate?
I mean seriously? Its like people who find werewolves and vampires sexy. That’s bestiality between you and me. Having sexual desires about wolf-people and bat-people, and the bat -people are also dead bat-people! Sun kills them. They eat flesh, drink blood. I’m sorry but that’s not for me. And I’ve eaten at Wetherspoons.
I had a point. I’m sure I did. But I’ve started ranting so I’m going to stop that. The point was, character floors. It was so clever I used it twice, see? Depths, possibilities, floors. And in fan fiction anything goes when it comes to secondary or tertiary characters. I mentioned Susan Bones earlier. Daphne Greengrass is also a good example for this. Daphne who? Wasn’t she in an exam? With Hermione? Once? In book 5 or something?
But now she has a legend in fandom. Totally an original character for whoever popularised her. No textual evidence of personality at all. Don’t even know what she looks like. But she pops up wherever you look these days. And shes always the same. Sexy and sassy. Is she? Who told you that? I’ve not heard that. Or heard of anyone who’s heard that. JK Rowling didn’t say that. Or maybe she did and I missed it. Tagged onto that bit about Professor Sprout being a lesbian. What didn’t you care about that?
No, I didn’t either. So I just made it up. Why not. Its the going trend.