Proud2Bme | 5 Ways Harry Potter Characters Reinforce Body Positivity and Feminism

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5 Ways Harry Potter Characters Reinforce Body Positivity and Feminism

By Palmer Hipp--If you’re like me, you’ve read each Harry Potter book multiple times and you live for ABC Family’s Harry Potter Weekend. The story of Harry, Ron, Hermione and friends captivates readers; it’s relatable, yet it also plays with our imagination.

Somehow, J.K. Rowling made the world of witchcraft and wizardry a fantasy as well as a reality for every child, teen and adult. It is easy to reread the books now that I’m older and see how the issues in Harry Potter are no different than the issues we face today. J.K. Rowling addresses real-world issues including racism, classism, terror, gender inequality, bigotry and fat-shaming, to name a few. Rather than criticize Rowling, specifically for her depictions of fat bodies and sexism, I want to praise her for representing reality—and doing it well.

While Harry Potter is not perfect, as the series goes on I find it to be a powerful story illustrating body positivity and feminism. Here are five specific examples:

1. Celebration of individuality

Luna Lovegood unapologetically stays true to herself and does not care what others think. She is the best definition of what self-love, self-respect and female empowerment look like. Luna’s individuality never falters. Even when she is bullied for being different and odd, she continues to portray kindness, compassion and constant unconventionality. Luna takes pride in her eccentricity, and her individuality makes her an empowering female character.

2. Personal strength

Neville Longbottom is by far one of my favorite characters. He is shy and passive and throughout the series he is constantly teased and bullied—usually for comic relief, but he manages to steal our hearts nonetheless. He is loyal, kind, hardworking and always willing to stick up for his friends—even when it ends poorly for him. Neville teaches us the power of perseverance and resiliency. He always chooses to fight the fear that’s trying to hold him back in order to do the right thing. His bravery and willingness to get up after falling down proves he may be the best wizard in Hogwarts—sorry, Ron.

3. Female inspiration

Hermione, Ginny, Luna, Mrs. Weasley, Professor McGonagall, Tonks, the list goes on and on. Harry Potter is filled with intelligent, selfless, strong and passionate women. Take, for instance, Hermione, the most prominent and most important female character. She goes on to create the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare and works to advocate for house-elves. She is often snubbed, as the brainy take-charge-and-save-the-day hero, but the most endearing and inspirational characteristic about her is her passion for equal rights and social justice.

4. Size neutrality

Although J.K. Rowling occasionally associates fat characters (mainly the Dursleys) with being lazy, ugly or mean, more often than not she uses size descriptors in a neutral tone. My favorite example of this is with The Fat Lady, who guards Gryffindor’s common room. The term ‘fat’ is purely used as a descriptor—the painting was of a fat lady; it has nothing to do with her personality, or with her role in the movie. Fat is not used to employ a positive or a negative meaning. Throughout the novels, J.K. Rowling describes the size of her characters,—Hagrid, Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, etc.—using thinness and fatness as neutral adjectives.

5. Don’t let the bad outweigh the good

Remus Lupin is my favorite body-positive character in Harry Potter, because he shows that self-acceptance goes beyond physical appearance. Lupin’s storyline is one of the darkest: bitten by a werewolf, resulting in a life riddled with rejection and loss until he finds love and has a baby…until he is murdered by Voldemort. Harsh. But in a lot of ways, I believe Lupin is a metaphor for other socially marked ‘taboo’ topics like mental illness, LGBT, HIV/AIDS, etc. He has a condition that is not talked about and is dealt with behind closed doors—or, in his case, at night. But he doesn’t hide; he manages it (with potions and chocolate…YUM). Although he meets with tragedy in the end, he lives his life on his own terms and finds happiness along the way. Lupin teaches us to not let negative feelings or people control our life.  

Image via The A to Z Review 

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