Should an artist be able to go back and revise their own work after it's been officially presented? Star Wars fans might have something to say about that. J.K. Rowling's recent comments about her current feelings over Ron and Hermione's relationship, and whether or not Harry and Hermione should have ended up together have ruffled feathers, and understandably so. To be fair, commenting on her work isn't the same as repainting pieces of her masterpiece. But her opinions do still carry weight, however, so I don't blame fans for the verbal uproar. But if we look at the full context of what she actually said -- and what she actually didn't say -- I'm coming out in support of her opinions, or her right to express them, anyway. And I think we might have overreacted a bit.
How this all started...
The Sunday Times website published a partial article headlined "JK admits Harry should have wed Hermione," along with the following quote from an interview Emma Watson did for Wonderland Magazine that said...
I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That's how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron. I know, I'm sorry, I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I'm absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility.
The quote and the headline combined suggested that Rowling regretted Ron and Hermione's relationship and thought Harry and Hermione should have ended up married. At least, that's how I interpreted it, and judging by reactions around the internet, I'm under the assumption other fans took it the same way, or had some similar interpretation.
But wait a second...
My own initial reaction to the excerpt was something along the lines of "What? Why would she say that? How can she possibly...." However I wanted to wait until we heard the rest of the interview before I went on record with my own rant, because for one thing, the listed quote didn't strike me as a full thought or explanation of Rowling's thinking here. There had to be more to the point, and considering we knew there was more article, I held onto a sliver of hope.
Also, it seemed like what she says there is that she thought Ron and Hermione's relationship was a form of wish fulfillment and that maybe in retrospect she forced the relationship to play out for her own personal reasons. There is no mention of Harry and Hermione's relationship at all in that quote. So the quote didn't entirely support the headline. But again, it's an excerpt and meant to tease the rest of the interview, which it did effectively.
Only, it doesn't look like Rowling said Harry and Hermione should have wed.
Rowling does talk about her feelings about Harry and Hermione's relationship, however Mugglenet.com, a well known and respected Harry Potter fan site, posted what is presumably the full interview from Wonderland Magazine and Rowling doesn't actually say she thinks Harry and Hermione should have gotten married.
First, to add some context to the originally published teaser quote, what Rowling started out saying was to address a question Watson asked her about how she (Rowling) relates to Hermione, to which Rowling responded:
I know that Hermione is incredibly recognisable to a lot of readers and yet you don't see a lot of Hermiones in film or on TV except to be laughed at. I mean that the intense, clever, in some ways not terribly self-aware, girl is rarely the heroine and I really wanted her to be the heroine. She is part of me, although she is not wholly me. I think that is how I might have appeared to people when I was younger, but that is not really how I was inside.
Then she goes on to talk about how Ron and Hermione's relationship was a form of wish fulfillment and probably more for personal reasons than literature or "reasons of credibility." From there, she goes on to say that it was a "young relationship" and while the attraction between Ron and Hermione was plausible, the combative side of it might not have worked in an adult relationship. "There was too much fundamental incompatibility," she explained. "I can't believe we are saying all of this -- this is Potter heresy!"
As a fan, I'm actually far less frustrated by her talking about her characters from a more realistic -- and even doubtful -- perspective and questioning whether or not their relationship was plausible. That makes a bit more sense to me, as I don't feel like she's trying to correct herself. Merely debating the choices she made as it relates to her characters and how she views them now. And lets face it, whether you're a reader or a writer, if you've done enough of either you're probably aware that your perspective on the characters you love can evolve over time, especially if you put some distance between yourself and the story and then revisit it and really consider how things happened or how they could have happened.
What she did say about Harry and Hermione's relationship is a bit more hypothetical...
In the discussion, Rowling goes on to say:
In some ways Hermione and Harry are a better fit and I'll tell you something very strange. When I wrote Hallows, I felt this quite strongly when I had Hermione and Harry together in the tent! I hadn't told [Steve] Kloves that and when he wrote the script he felt exactly the same thing at exactly the same point.
It's a matter of wording, sure, but I don't think saying "in some ways, Hermione and Harry are a better fit" is exactly the same as saying Harry should have wed Hermione. As I interpret it, she's talking about how things could have happened, hypothetically. Not how they necessarily should have happened. There's a difference, at least from a fan perspective.
Rowling admits the thought of Harry and Hermione together crossed her mind when she wrote the tent scene in Deathly Hallows. This was presumably during the time Ron took off, leaving Harry and Hermione alone together. She also liked how it was adapted for the film...
And actually I liked that scene in the film, because it was articulating something I hadn't said but I had felt. I really liked it and I thought that it was right. I think you do feel the ghost of what could have been in that scene.
Rowling talks about how she thought Deathly Hallows screenwriter Steve Kloves addressed Harry and Hermione's connection during the tent scene in the film. My mind goes right to the scene where they dance together...
It's sweet and a little awkward with a hint of romance that doesn't necessarily need to be acknowledged as romance. The scene suggests the alternative in a way that doesn't actually drastically change the course of either relationship (Ron/Hermione, Harry/Hermione). It simply notices it and then the story moves on. I get the sense that's what Rowling was doing with her recent comments. Pondering the other direction she could have taken with Hermione. The direction she didn't take but was there among the options.
The interview actually closes with hope for Ron and Hermione...
After discussing how polarizing the tent scene was in the film, Watson and Rowling go back and forth about Ron and Hermione's journey. Throughout the series Ron struggled with insecurity, being the youngest male among mostly brothers and then going on to be the best friend of "the boy who lived." It got to him from time to time and led to him being especially affected by the locket horcrux, which led to him abandoning Harry and Hermione for a little while during Deathly Hallows, whereas Hermione stayed with Harry. She was with him for his whole journey. And then it comes back around to Rowling's thoughts about Ron and Hermione's chances in an adult relationship, at which point she says:
Oh, maybe she and Ron will be alright with a bit of counseling, you know. I wonder what happens at wizard marriage counseling? They'll probably be fine. He needs to work on his self-esteem issues and she needs to work on being a little less critical.
She goes on to say that Hermione, "just like her creator," has a weakness for funny men. Watson agrees that uptight girls do like them funny.
So maybe humor proves to be the bonding factor between Ron and Hermione. Maybe Ron will outgrow his insecurities. Maybe Hermione will be less critical. These are things Rowling discusses near the end of the interview, suggesting that she doesn't think it would've been impossible for them to work through their differences.
What it comes down to...
Rowling has every right to talk about her books, and for as long as she lives, fans like me are going to hang on her every word in an effort to know the Potter universe better. That's one of the great things about being a fan of a series that's of our lifetime and written by someone who's available and willing to share her thoughts on it.
The Harry Potter series may be finished, but there's still more to the world Rowling has created -- a stage play and a movie included. And what Rowling says on record about the original books and characters probably falls somewhere between canon and bonus material. It counts on some level or another as it affects our perception of the original books. When she revealed that Dumbledore was gay, it made it true. Never mind that it was never mentioned or even alluded in the books -- I don't think it contradicts anything in the books either -- because she says it, it's true. And people can apply it to what they know about the character and consider it when examining Dumbledore if they so choose. The point is, that addition doesn't change the context of anything in the original story, so as far as I'm concerned, it's a great little add-on fact about Dumbledore.
This love-triangle situation isn't quite the same scenario as the Dumbledore fact, even if we were only taking into account the originally published quote and very loosely paraphrased headline. Because it's not an addition or alteration to the story, just some comments in retrospect from the writer. However, Rowling's thoughts on her characters do have a lot of value to her fans. Rowling expressing any kind of regret over a major aspect of her story carries weight and it could feel like a revision after the fact. So I get why people -- myself included -- reacted negatively to the initial article. However, in the context of how she and Watson were talking in the full interview, factoring in the other things she said, I don't think Rowling was out of bounds in admitting she looks at her characters and her own thought process as a writer differently now than she did when she was writing the books. It's some interesting and updated insight and there's a lot of value in that.
But given the backlash, which seems to be an overreaction when we take into account the full interview, it's evident that people are sensitive to the idea of having to reconsider aspects of the story that they really liked, which does raise the question of how freely an author should speak about their work once it's finished. I guess that's an open-ended question, but I'm glad to see the full interview clarifies this particular situation.
Does the full interview make you feel better?