Open Letter to Disappointed Shippers
HBP has been published now, and it has had quite the effect. The book did something no other book in the series has done: it sunk some ships and let others sail.
Some people were jubiliant, others were sorely disappointed.
It is to those who were sorely disappointed, and specifically to a subgroup of them that will become clear soon, that this letter is addressed.
I probably can't, and don't even want to, imagine how you feel. But I do know how some of you reacted, and I am appalled, even disgusted. I saw you saying that HBP was a "pile of rubbish", or worse. I saw you saying that JKR wilfully mislead you with the intent to hurt you. I saw this, and yet I couldn't believe it.
So I'm going to set you straight about some points.
First, let me introduce myself. My name shall remain no secret. It is Sebastian Redl, CornedBee in the fandom. I am 20 years old, though I will turn 21 shortly. I am not so cowardly as to use the anonymity of the web for my advantage - there are enough references to me on the web that you can probably track me down if you really want to.
I became a Harry Potter fan two years ago, about two months after OotP came out. I read the series twice in quick succession, but never really cared about relationships. If asked, I'd have said Ron and Hermione, and perhaps Harry and Ginny.
It was over half a year later that I really became active in the fandom and declared myself a R/Hr and H/G shipper.
I will not deny that I felt ecstatic
when I read about Harry being annoyed at Dean. Why should I? But I liked the background information about Voldemort even more, because that was what the book was really about. The shipping was filler.
Other people felt far less ecstatic. In fact, they must have been devastated. They spent the last five years or more in the hope and assumption that Harry and Hermione would get paired up. They got emotionally invested, they wrote long posts and even longer essays on it - and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong.
They are entitled to feel sad, disappointed, even angry for a bit. It's just human. But I wish people would think
before they reacted publicly.
But they don't. And therefore we get travesties such as the parting message/rant by the owner of hermionepotter.net, a fansite that was entirely dedicated to the H/Hr ship, and decorated with a beautiful image of Emma Watson.
It is this rant that I'll mostly be quoting from, because it comes from a high-profile page and author, and because it is a prime example of how ugly obsession with a failed concept can become.
To be frank, I am absolutely disgusted with what the owner wrote. S/he (I'm going to just write she from now on) blames JKR for all her own misconceptions, and accuses her of willfully hurting the fans, of being a sadist. She writes:
but when [Rowling] saw that there were readers out there who were in love with the idea of H/Hr, instead of going ahead and being honest with the readers she willfully mislead H/Hr shippers by writing in H/Hr clues, writing Hermione as the lead girl in the series, the one most important to Harry for the sole purpose of fueling shipping wars, which she admitted to enjoying. This is fucking sick in my opinion. She purposefully played with the hearts of so many loyal readers, INTENDING to hurt them with book six. She strung us along for YEARS intending to hurt us and I deeply resent her doing that. It's unimaginably cruel. The only motivation I can think of, aside from obviously enjoying stringing along thousands of faithful readers, is monetary gain. She wanted this series to sell and when she saw she had such a large following of H/Hr shippers out there she didn't want to lose their dollars so she waits until book six to pull this garbage. It's disgusting. I rue the day I ever heard of this series or JK Rowling, and I'll be damned if she gets another penny from me. Fuck the movies, fuck her seventh book. I refuse to finish this series. It would be a waste of time. If she has no more respect for her readers than to have been honest YEARS ago with us about what she intended to do instead of stringing us along and bragging about how she enjoyed sparking a shipping war then I have no respect for her or what she stands for.
Emphasis in bold is mine.
I emphasised the parts were the poster attacks JKR personally. Not only is this unbelievably childish, she is also plainly and objectively wrong
about her accusations.
She claims that Rowling intentionally put H/Hr clues in the books, never letting on that H/Hr wasn't going to be.
She couldn't be more wrong.
How often in the shipping war have R/Hr and H/G been ridiculed or otherwise attacked for repeatedly bringing up Rowling's interview quotes? How many words have been written about the particular one everyone knows I'm going to post now?
J.K. Rowling: Nah ... don't like that one. Oh I like this one: "Do Harry and Hermione have a date?"
No! They're, they're very platonic friends. But I won't answer for anyone else, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
This interview is as old as October 20th, 1999, from the National Press Club author's luncheon.
You really can't say you haven't been warned, can you? Even before GoF was even published, Rowling officially stated that H/Hr was not to be.
Since then, people have reinterpreted, doubted, ignored and trivialised this answer. The reinterpretations in particular were, without exception, ignorant of at least one of: rules of grammar, language semantics, colloquial usage, and context.
I'm not saying this to gloat. I'm saying this because it's true, and because if you were a proper shipper (and I do believe the owner of a shipping site can be called that) you knew of the existence of this quote. You cannot, with good conscience, claim that JKR never warned you.
So where does all this resentment come from? Or perhaps I should rather ask, where is this obsession with H/Hr coming from?
Of course I'm speculating here. This speculation is based on the rant by the owner, so it reflects at most the opinion of a fraction of the actual readers, but I still think there is something to it.
I'm bitterly disgusted and disappointed, so much so that I can't even finish this series, because for me relationships were too important to the story. I firmly believed that LOVE would be what Harry needed to conquer Voldemort, and JK had written that with Hermione.
Emphasis in bold again mine.
My guess is that this is the fundamental misunderstanding that destroyed the clear view for many people who firmly believed in H/Hr, and especially those who are now so disappointed. Harry Potter was, from the very first sentence on, a mystery and adventure book, paired with a story about growing up. At no point was it ever a book about romance or relationships.
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
The first sentence of Philosopher's Stone tells us that something abnormal is going to happen, and leaves us wondering what that is. It firmly establishes Harry Potter in its primary genre, mystery.
At all times, the deepest debates were about what was going to happen in the next book. At all times, the question of how Harry was going to defeat Voldemort was first and foremost in our minds.
We were given one big clue: love would play a part.
The owner completely misunderstood this clue to mean romantic love exclusively.
I cannot really understand how someone would get to this conclusion. Was it romantic love that gave Harry Lily's protection? Was it romantic love that made Ron and Hermione accompany Harry on his quest for the Philosopher's Stone, that made Ron sacrifice himself? Was it romantic love that made Harry go after Ginny into the Chamber of Secrets? Was it romantic love that made Sirius escape from Azkaban in order to save Harry from Peter? Was it romantic love that made it impossible for Voldemort to possess Harry?
H/Hr shippers called their ship "Harmony". They called it a pairing "made in heaven", "the perfect fit" and "soulmates". They felt that Hermione was the one who would stand by Harry in the end, their love enabling him to defeat Voldemort somehow.
Never have I seen one H/Hr shipper that thought Harry and Hermione would get together simply because they liked each other.
Yet this is exactly what Rowling wrote for Harry and Ginny: a typical teen romance, of the kind that may fail or flourish. It is realistic. It is exactly what I expected. It is, to quote Rowling, "nothing too gritty."
I think it's a failure to appreciate the possibility of romantic love not being the most important aspect of the books that leads to such deep disappointment as we have seen.
But, and this leads me to my main message, you have to understand that this is your
failure, not Rowling's. It is your failure in understanding the way JKR writes. It is your failure in not seeing the correct clues as to what she is going to write. It is your failure to disregard the things she said in interviews in favour of what you call "book canon", but which really is simply your interpretation of a not entirely unambigous text.
It is in no way appropriate to blame or criticise Rowling for any of it. If everyone was fooled, then we could collectively claim that Rowling had deviated from what she had written previously.
But you are a minority.
The majority either got the clues to the romantic relationships right or understood that romantic love would never play so central a role in the series that it was worth getting this emotionally invested in it, or both.
The owner of hermionepotter.net goes even further than to just blame JKR for mistakes the owner made. She also blames JKR for not going through with concepts that were never there in the first place. She writes:
In books 1-5 (especially book 5), Hermione was THE girl in Harry's life. Ginny was filler, rarely seen. It was Hermione who was by Harry's side the most in the last book. It was "Harry and Hermione this and that".
Now all of a sudden, after five years of it Hermione being the lead female of this series, Jo has replaced her in Harry's heart with Ginny.
For her to write the kind of relationship H/Hr had in the first FIVE books and then to completely discard all of that as if it had NEVER happened in book six is shocking and appalling to me.
What happened to the Hermione who created the DA for Harry's peace of mind, to give him an outlet for Umbridge's injustices? What happened to the Hermione who blackmailed a reporter to get Harry's story out? What happened to the Hermione who longed to spend time with Harry and was so sorely disappointed that he was not made prefect with her? What happened to the Hermione who was Harry's number one confidant? What happened to the Hermione who was always Harry's first choice as a backup, to lean on when he needed someone he could really trust at his back?
All of these speak clearly of a complete misunderstanding of Hermione.
Hermione was never the lead female of the book. There never was a lead female of the book, and even with Ginny as Harry's girlfriend, there still isn't.
Hermione never was the number one girl in Harry's life. She was one of his two best friends, for all intents and purposes asexual. There was never a single romantic hint at the two of them from a reliable source - on the contrary, the sources we got were specifically displayed as unreliable and even vicious.
It had rarely been "Harry and Hermione this and that". This selective amnesia concerning Ron, however, was a widespread disease among some people.
And most of all, Ginny has not replaced
Hermione in Harry's heart. She has replaced Cho. Hermione never was in this position in Harry's heart, and her position as best friend is unthreatened, as the end of HBP clearly shows. The Trio, the amazing friendship that H/Hrers talk of (but usually without including Ron) is still there and strong. It was not discarded. It was put on hold, like pretty much everything else in HBP, while Dumbledore showed Harry Voldemort's backstory and then died.
Ron and Hermione, Harry's best friends, are there. They will be out Horcrux hunting with him in book 7, there is no doubt about that. Will Ginny be there? We don't know. She is not part of the Trio. From the first to the last book, the Trio, their friendship and their mutual love, have always been the driving force and core hold of the good side. In HBP, there was no adventure to get into, no task to accomplish: the Trio's activities were put on hold and thus the romantic relationship between Ron and Hermione was allowed to progress.
All that HBP has proven is what R/Hr shippers have said all along: that Ron and Hermione are equal in Harry's mind, and in the series. Hermione is not more important than Ron.
Do not think I wish to deny anyone the right to dislike HBP. I can well imagine people not liking it. It is very different in style from the earlier books: there's far less filler, it's much more fast-paced, and there are loads of things that could be considered poorly or not at all handled.
But these are JKR's choices as a writer, and as long as the majority likes them - and the majority does - they cannot be considered mistakes on her part. If you don't like HBP, say so, or don't say so, but above all remain civil, and remember, "de gustibus non est disputandum", you can't argue about preferences. If HBP is not your preference, this is nobody's fault, not even the Romans'. (Sorry, had to put that here.) It is not Rowling's fault, because she cannot please everybody. It is not your fault, because there's no objective "good" that everybody must like.
But because of this, it does not entitle you to throw insults and false accusations at Rowling. You are a Muggle, not a baboon with a keyboard. Take a step back, think about your attitudes and views, perhaps even reread the series. What you find may surprise you. You may actually find you enjoy what Harry Potter is about: the mystery plot.
I think an apology is in order.
Sebastian "CornedBee" Redl
Rowling's man, through and through.