Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reasons why I have not warmed up to the Harry / Ginny ship, Part I

Jo Rowling’s authorial intent was that the readers along with Harry would “gradually discover Ginny as the ideal girl for Harry.” This is a quote from her interview given after the publication of HBP in 2005.

Unfortunately, I didn’t respond in the manner which Jo Rowling had hoped. I’m going to explain why.

In my first post about the Harry Potter series I detailed my initial and subsequent response to reading the first four volumes sequentially.

I was so impressed by the series that I no longer would casually dismiss the books as simply “kids’ books.” After I had read a quote attributed to J.K. Rowling as saying that she wrote something that she herself would have liked to read as an adult.

I figured that it was marketed for children because the story starts with the hero being an eleven year old child. Concerns about marketing in the publishing world sometimes trump all other concerns, and therefore I was not treating the series as simply YA.

I was treating it as if it was a book written for adults, but that it was accessible for children as well. That meant that she would be cognizant of what would be inappropriate for children and avoid crossing those lines, but that it would live up to the standards of adult entertainment.

Are you seeing why I feel that I had unreasonable expectations now? I expected her romance to live up to the standards I had from authors who write for adults. That doesn’t mean that I expected explicit descriptions of amorous activities, but I did expect that I would be drawn into the romance and be allowed to feel a broad range of emotions in regards to love and attraction.

I didn’t experience those things, nor was I brought to the conclusion that Ginny was Harry’s equal. I would not have described Ginny's character as being “very warm and compassionate” and I especially would not say that we have seen examples of her being a “gifted witch” who does “pretty impressive stuff here and there.” All those things that JKR said about Ginny.

I don’t feel that way because in my opinion, JKR dropped the ball on developing Ginny’s character.

:Sigh: and it didn’t have to be that way.

Jo could have made me love Ginny the way that I loved Hermione in the first five books. It’s not that I hate Ginny’s character, it’s just that the Harry/Ginny (H/G) romance felt forced in book 6. As if Jo finally got around to dealing with Ginny and had to do massive catch up and couldn’t pull it off well.

Let’s start at the beginning now, shall we?

Book 1, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone / Sorcerer’s Stone (PS/SS)

Ginny has two cameo appearances. She’s at the train station when Harry leaves for Hogwarts and when he returns. She’s only ten years old and is still holding her mother’s hand. Once Fred and George come out and tell their mum that they’ve met the famous Harry Potter, Ginny becomes excited and pleads desperately to go onto the train to meet him, as if he was a rock star. Then when Harry returns from Hogwarts she’s pointing and squealing at him when he gets off the train.

Impression: little fangirl.

Book 2, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (CoS)

Ginny’s big book where she’s the unwitting villain because she’s possessed by Tom Riddle. We start out the story with Ginny being tongue-tied in Harry’s presence, blushing, diving under the table, putting her elbows in butter, and being teased mercilessly by her brothers. She’s got a BIG CRUSH on Harry. Everyone knows it and Harry tries to ignore the teasing he gets as a result.

She shows a little spunk when they are at Flourish and Blotts when Malfoy teases Harry, and she sticks up for him. In fact, it is specifically mentioned that it was the first time she had spoken in front of Harry.

Then we see precious little of Ginny, but we read offhand mentions of her. She is bullied into taking Pepperup potion by Percy, which then makes steam pour out of her vivid red hair making her look as if her head were ablaze. We also hear that Ginny was disturbed by the petrification of Mrs. Norris because she was fond of cats. She was distraught at what happened to her classmate Colin Creevey. I mean, those are natural reactions, why wouldn’t anyone be upset about those turns of events in the castle.

Then the singing Valentine. It’s cute and we see Ginny embarrassed again.

The constant theme throughout this book is that Ginny hearts Harry. Of course, she hasn’t really spoken with him at all, so she doesn’t know him. She’s infatuated with his legend. Harry’s uncomfortable about that, but doesn’t want to humiliate her either. He’s a gentleman about it, but he clearly would rather not be idolized.

He saves her life, she cries, and then she’s given hot cocoa and all is well.

She has precious little page time in the book, but is integral in the overall storyline of the plot for CoS.

Impression: she's a fangirl who now cannot find her tongue and blushes whenever she's around the object of her affection. She doesn't really know him, but is enamored of him. She was also a victim of Voldemort. Poor thing.

Book 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PoA)

Ginny is shown again as being red-faced and tongue-tied when she sees Harry. This is not a secret; Ginny still has a crush on Harry. We also see her giggling at Fred and George’s jokes as well as sharing a laugh with Hermione and Mrs. Weasley about love potions. There is also a nice exchange where Ginny and Harry exchange a look and a laugh at Percy’s expense. If only Jo had done more of these exchanges with Ginny. Shortly after that, Ron dismisses his sister when the Trio goes in search of a compartment on the Hogwarts Express. Ron could have stuck up for Ginny and insisted she be included, after all she had survived possession by Voldemort. He didn’t and she was gone.

Ginny was “shaking like mad” from the dementor attack, but she didn’t faint like Harry. She did not join the Trio in their trip to the castle. We don’t read about her again until the flight of the Fat Lady when Ginny has the immortal line of, “What’s going on?”

She’s gone from sight again until Harry’s in the hospital wing and Ginny comes blushing and bearing a shrill singing get well card that he keeps under a bowl of fruit. No dialogue, just a quick narrative mention in a single sentence.

And then she’s nowhere to be seen for the rest of that volume.

Impression: still a fangirl.

Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (GoF),

Ginny’s first mention is once again prefaced with her having “been very taken with Harry” and blushing. Once again, there is no mystery. Ginny-> Harry. (Fandom shorthand for the direction that love arrows go in. Ginny -> (loves) Harry.

We know that, we’ve known that at least since CoS, if not in PS/SS.

Then we see Ginny talking with the Trio. This is a good sign if we want Harry and Ginny to get together (also known as Harry/Ginny or H/G). Ginny has got to be a part of their inner circle. Yet, as soon as Ron makes reference to Sirius, he’s shot a look from Hermione to shut up. Ginny doesn’t know and she’s not going to be taken into their confidence.

The Quidditch World Cup shows the Trio walking amongst the fairgrounds without Ginny. There is one brief mention of her being horror-struck during the game as she sat near Charlie. Then she falls asleep and spills her hot cocoa as the boys re-hash the highlights of the game. When the chaos happened with the Mugglebaiting, the Weasleys got split up and once again it is only the Trio who are together. Ginny is not with them, and so we do not get her reaction to Winky’s inquisition.

That’s the pattern that Jo established. Have a bare mention of Ginny in the narrative, show her blushing around Harry, and then make her disappear.

The best example of Ginny’s character building I think was in GoF when she was trying to soothe Ron’s feelings after his rejection by Fleur Delacour as a date to the Yule Ball. Ginny was comforting to him, once she heard Harry asked Cho Chang to the dance she stopped smiling. It hurt to hear that he liked someone else. She was also protective of Hermione and challenged Ron when he said insensitive things. Ginny also showed integrity by not reneging on her promise to Neville in order to be Harry’s date for the dance.

That was good. Really good. If Jo had only kept up with scenes like that for Ginny, I might have felt that indeed Ginny was the “ideal girl” for Harry. Unfortunately, right after that, she went back to the same pattern of mentioning Ginny in passing. We have no idea what Ginny’s dress robes looked like, for there is no description whatsoever. All we know is that Neville stepped on her feet while they were dancing making Ginny wince.

The next mention of Ginny was in the luncheon before the third task when she once again is mentioned in the narrative as simply being there. Then I do not think she appeared again in that volume.

Overall impression: Ginny as a character was pretty skimpy on detail because she lacked page time.

She has cameo appearances in books 1 and 3, is the key to the mystery in book 2, but is not shown very much, and in book 4 she has one good scene. That was what I had to really work with once I was hooked on the series. Little fangirl sister, and not much else.

Hermione on the other hand had hundreds of pages of characterization and dialogue, etc.

Book 5 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (OotP)

For the first time we have Ginny’s introduction as a character without her blushing or overtly saying that she’s “taken with Harry.” I noticed that immediately from its omission. She also showed some spunk by interacting with Fred and George while admitting to using Dungbombs. Then she unblushingly lies to her mother about Crookshanks being the culprit behind using Dungbombs. We also see Ginny and Hermione joking with Tonks, later Ginny playing with Crookshanks. So we see a playful and jesting side to Ginny. This is good, too bad Jo didn’t keep up with this.

Page 100 of the Scholastic paperback version shows how Jo started to slip into using hearsay evidence to advance Ginny’s characterization. I hate this literary choice with a passion.

“Yeah, size is no guarantee of power,” said George. “Look at Ginny.”

“What d’you mean?” said Harry.

“You’ve never been on the receiving end of one of her Bat-Bogey hexes, have you?”

--

We have never seen a Bat-Bogey hex cast by Ginny. Not once, but we’ve heard that she’s cast them several times. In that example in passing, then she did one on Malfoy at the end of OotP. We didn’t see it. We only read that he had “giant flying bogeys attacking him.”

Then JKR repeated the hearsay testimony in HBP as to how wonderful that hex is by having Slughorn invite Ginny into his compartment because “I saw this young lady perform the most marvelous Bat-Bogey Hex as I was passing her carriage! I wouldn’t cross her!”

Okay. Can we just her cast it already? I mean, I loved reading about Dudley’s incredibly long tongue which was the result of the twins’ Ton Tongue Toffee. Why can’t I read about flying boogers emanating from someone’s face? As well as Ginny's look of defiance after she cast it?

It is hearsay, and I feel cheated. And Jo has done this three times!

Similarly, I thought it was a bad sign for the Harry/Ginny ship in OotP when Hermione kept telling us information that might have better come from elsewhere.

We heard Hermione tell us what Cho’s emotional state was. It could have come from Cho. She could have broken down in front of Harry and told him what her jumble of emotions were as she sobbed and made his shoulder wet, making him feel uncomfortable and inadequate.

Nope. We had Hermione say everything that Cho was feeling as well as a report that Cho was flying poorly and worried about being kicked off the Quidditch team. See my previous post as to why Hermione didn’t care about the sport of Quidditch unless it related to Harry. That detailed analysis helped convince that Hermione was keeping close tabs on Cho because she saw Cho as a romantic rival for Harry’s affections. I never thought it was because Hermione wanted to keep tabs on Cho on Ginny’s behalf.

We then learned from Hermione that Ginny had been dating Michael Corner, and that they met at the Yule Ball. We also learned from Hermione that Ginny “used to fancy Harry” but had given up on him. To Harry, all that meant is that he now understood why she could actually carry on a conversation in front of him.

Another example of hearsay evidence where it should not have been used to further Ginny’s characterization is when Fred and George were wondering how Ginny had gotten so good at playing Quidditch.

“She’s been breaking into your broom shed in the garden since the age of six and taking each of your brooms out in turn when you weren’t looking,” said Hermione from behind her tottering pile of Ancient Rune books. P. 574 Scholastic paperback.

I mean how much more difficult would it have been for the question by Fred and George have been said in Ginny’s presence and for her to give a retort, then flounce her hair and leave the room? I would have liked that. Similarly I would have liked to have seen Ron’s evolution from team goat to team savior in the Quidditch Cup final. We didn’t.

Harry could have used his omnioculars and shown how Ron screwed up his courage, fought his self-doubts, and was victorious. Instead, we learned second hand that Ron’s character made some leaps and bounds but it was done off the page.

I know, I know, OotP was long enough, and we didn’t need another blow by blow Quidditch game to fatten up the page length, but still…Ron is a major character in the series and this was a major change in his characterization from the beginning of the book to the end and we did not get to read it. Instead it was summarized for us. I felt cheated.

The best scene in OotP to advance Ginny’s characterization was the eating chocolate in the library with Harry. It moved the plot and it showed her being worthy of being Harry’s confidante for the first time. It was a good scene, I just wish there were more of them showing Harry and Ginny interacting together for me to warm up to Harry and Ginny as a couple.

Ginny had some good lines in wanting to leave Hogwarts on the rescue mission, but so did Luna. In fact, I think that Luna in the space of one book was a more completely drawn character than Ginny's who spanned five books.

Another bad sign for H/G for me in OotP was when Ginny became the Bellatrix’s taunting and threats to torture, Harry’s reaction when he caused a diversion wasn’t to try and make sure Ginny was safe, instead he grabbed a fistful of Hermione’s robes and pulled her forward. As the sextet became separated, Ginny was with Ron and Luna and not Harry.

Overall impression: I liked Ginny better because she was no longer a silly fangirl, but I still did not feel that she was up to the task of being Harry's girlfriend.

It seemed once again that it was Harry and Hermione sharing adventures together. I truly thought that if there was a mystery to be solved as to whom Harry would fall in love with that it would be his best friend who had always been there by his side from the beginning. A girl who was dedicated to him to the point of obsession and that he had taken for granted. I thought he would have the realization that no one could ever understand him and love him the way that Hermione did. That is one of the underlying premises that I had in thinking that Jo Rowling was writing Harry/Hermione. Then again, I saw lots and lots of evidence from the text that confirmed my assumption of Hermione ->Harry and Harry being clueless until the end.

Like I said before, I was wrong. And I know because JKR told me so in an interview.

This post is getting too long and I haven’t even started discussing HBP in earnest. I shall finish my thoughts Ginny next time. I shall also in a subsequent posting talk about the Interview from Hell and why I characterize it in that manner.

If anyone wishes to chime in on the subject in the meantime, feel free.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everything you said about Ginny in this essay is everything that I have felt about Ginny. Well, actually I come very late into this whole Harry Potter, shipping & fandom thing. I started reading Harry Potter about a year before HBP came out, which means I read book 1 through 5 straight out. And I only started shipping & going into the Internet after HBP came out. And I ship Harry/Hermione because of the implausibility of HBP. I can't understand why JKR wrote HBP the way she wrote it; and not only that, the quality of writing in that book is really poor compared to the first five books. Even the proofreading was bad. Like I mentioned in Portkey, the word 'apparation' was changed to 'apparition' throughout the book. Somebody forgot to correct the automatic spell-checking correction there!

I have a question about Ginny. In COS, it is said that the chamber is opened again because of the return of the heir to Slytherin to Hogwarts. And Ginny was the one who opened the chamber. My question: doesn't that mean Ginny is the heir of Slytherin? The Weasleys are pureblood after all, even though they are not in the Slytherin house.

Another question: why Ginny, though? Before her, all the Weasley kids [and the parents] had been attending Hogwarts, and the chamber was not opened. If by 'heir' means it relates to bloodline, shouldnt' all these Weasleys be heirs to Slytherins, too? Or is it simply because the Riddle diary [one of the Horcruxes] was passed into Ginny's hand?

Why is that heir of Slytherin plot was never mentioned anymore in COS [and in subsequent books] after it was found that Ginny was the one who opened the chamber and after Harry had done his hero thing?

Do you think this is going to mean something in book 7, or is it something that JKR puts in and then forgot about completely in subsequent books?

I love your writing as usual.

Warmest regards,
winnie

L.C.McCabe said...

Winnie,

I'm glad that you liked my analysis. To answer your question, the Heir to Slytherin was indeed Tom Riddle. He was the one who opened the chamber both in 1992-3 and previously in 1942-3. It was only his malevolent spirit that was possessing Ginny that allowed the Parseltongue passwords to be uttered and open the chamber.

Ginny could not have done it on her own. She cannot stroll down to the loo, walk up to that sink, start hissing at it and expect anything to happen. Other than stares from anyone else in her vicinity.

Thing is, and I should expand on this theme in my next installment, that if Ginny and Harry share this bond of being touched by Voldemort's evil, then you would think it would be a bigger deal. A good friend of mine had this lovely theory that involved Bram Stoker's novel Dracula and how Mina had used her diary and mental connection with Dracula to help those who were trying to vanquish the vampire. She thought that Ginny might prove to be an important element in understanding Voldemort psychologically and possibly serve as a secret weapon.

I liked that theory a lot, and hoped that JKR might utilize something like that, but she didn't. Basically Ginny's whole experience with being possessed by Voldemort as being helpful to Harry was dismissed in the span of a few paragraphs in OotP.

It was as if JKR felt she had to address that topic and get rid of it, otherwise people would be wondering and theorizing their hearts away down wrong rabbit holes.

There will be more later on this topic...

Linda

mary said...

Good post! I, too, had no particular feeling for Harry/Ginny in HBP, and the reason is precisely that Rowling has done far too much telling, and nowhere near enough showing, where this character is concerned. I don't really have a clue who she is. Where I disagree (slightly) is here: I also think what we do see of Ginny is not especially attractive, at least in HBP and parts of OOTP. She lies, she seems to have a mean streak, she manipulates and uses people - the only positive things are that she does seem to have some common sense and can stand up to Harry! I far preferred Harry/Hermione (at least through the end of OOTP - I don't like the way she's developing, either), and now Harry/Luna.

Ponderous said...

Yeah. Good post. It's possible that Jo will do H/Hr in Book Seven - after all, Jo does know about flawed first relationships from personal experience - but unlikely.

Authors have often dropped the ball on their fics ; Doyle hated Sherlock, Robert Jordan did it with Wheel of Time after book five or so, and I'm told Anne McAffrey did it with her dragonsomething series.

Personally, canon has become irrelevant for me; it's largely a series of guidelines. Fanfiction is more interesting. I don't intend to read Book Seven unless I'm told it ends up Harmonic, and I don't intend to watch any more of the Potter movies either.

genealogygirl said...

Well, you already know how much I agree with you on this particular topic!

I had not actually considered the idea that JKR simply didn't know how to effectively write the romance angle in a way that adult readers would anticipate where she was going. I thought the R/H thing was far too obvious from the standpoint of Ron ---> Hermione from CoS onward. If you're going to bang the reader's head with anvils regarding the affections of one of the two characters, it stands to reason that you either need to be sure the reader fully gets that the other character is equally enamored of the first one OR you let the readers know that you are setting up a love triangle situation. With H/G, well, as you so fully explain here, it seemed abundantly evident to me that Ginny was nothing more than a fangirl and the little sister of the Hero's best friend. Nothing more.

Now, with OoP, I thought Rowling had begun to set the stage for a possible H/G ship. Ginny was taking on many Mary Sue-ish qualities, but there was at least the chocolate eggs in the library incident and no fangirl in residence. But, H/G didn't seem the strongest way to go as of the end of OoP, even if it was still a possibility. But, since that was where she was going, she failed completely at carrying through in HBP to be sure that readers were all cheering it on when it happened.

Instead, I was left wondering why on earth my sweet Harry would want to date such a nasty, shallow girl. Hermione didn't fare too much better in HBP, mind you --- it was as though Rowling decided to give all the major teen girls a huge case of PMS. Characterization did not proceed smoothly from prior books for Ginny starting in OoP (she was suddenly, astonishingly transformed from shy fangirl to Ginny-Sue in the interval between GoF and OoP). But, the most glaring issue was Hermione's dramatic makeover in HBP. It simply didn't flow *at all* between OoP!Hermione and HBP!Hermione.

I wonder if Rowling really believes that she achieved a Jane Austen-esque result with her romances; I somehow suspect this is what she was going for. But, as you pointed out, it's things like the reader not having enough information to suspect that Hermione was meddling in Harry's love life with Cho in support of Ginny rather than for her own purposes. We simply didn't have that information, and in a Jane Austen novel, it might have been subtle, but the reader could have figured out that there was enough friendship between the 2 girls to support that theory.

No, I think Rowling simply failed to deliver on that angle, and I think it's a shame that she was not more sensitive to the emotions involved for her fans. She's either let herself be lulled into thinking that H/H shippers and others not favoring R/H and H/G are a teensy minority OR she just didn't have the energy or empathy to handle the matter with more sensitivity and compassion. Either way, it's a disappointment.

L.C.McCabe said...

Ponderous,

I'm sorry to hear that you have become so disenchanted with the series that you have decided not to read the last installment.

It won't be H/Hr. Why? Because Jo said so. She didn't intend for anyone to fall in love with the idea of her hero falling in love with his best friend Hermione. It happened, but that wasn't her intent. She wanted us to love the R/Hr "tension" and feel that Ginny was the ideal girl for Harry.

That was not my reader response, and this blog is where I'm trying to explain why it didn't work for me.

Whether or not you watch the movies is almost irrelevant, because those are totally different mediums. It is story telling with a different purpose and well, it's a book brought to life by means of a committee. Much more than books where the author has to weigh input from editors at their publishing house.

Thanks for commenting.

Linda

L.C.McCabe said...

genealogygirl,

Ginny-Sue.

You're right, I should have used that term because it does fit.

All of a sudden in Book 5 we are introduced to a young witch who can fly and play Quidditch with the best of the boys, cast Bat-Bogey hexes (which we never get to see, she's got a boyfriend, and she's seemingly popular.

By HBP we hear there are boys queuing up to be with her.

As if Ginny is simply perfection on wheels.

Yeeesh.

Yes, I think the matrimoniathon which was posited by OBHWF advocates is true. JKR liked the everyone being paired off happily as the best resolution for stories a la Jane Austen. Not the subtle plot twists, but the convenient pairing up of everyone.

I think I'll go brush my teeth. They seem to be hurting me, as if I ate an entire tin of peanut brittle.