~ “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” ~
Now, I have to hold my hands up. I allowed the film adaptation to colour my perception of the book. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a flawless piece of work despite the worrying plot hole that is Fred and George Weasley’s lack of concern, being the OG owners of the Marauder’s Map, regarding their younger brother, Ron Weasley, sleeping in the same bed as a boy/man named Peter Pettigrew. Either Fred and George Weasley are pro-LGBTQIA/did not check the map at night (doubtful)/believed Ron was afraid of the dark which is why he shared his bed with a possible Gryffindorian named Peter to alleviate his fears/J. K. Rowling made an oopsie (most likely). Regardless, I rate Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban with five glorious stars.
I have a couple of thoughts on both the book and film that most interested me which I will tackle in three separate posts, and the first of my thoughts are based on the differences between the book and film and how it changed the narrative of the series.
Why the Film Pales in Comparison to the Book
I’m not particularly a huge fan of time-travel and the second-half of the film primarily focuses on this element. The book, on the other hand, has one small chapter dedicated to the time-travel storyline towards its end choosing to give us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the wizarding universe instead. Where the film performs better is the Care of Magical Creatures lesson on hippogriffs where we see Harry fly on Buckbeak – truly enviable.
The film not only takes away Ron Weasley’s best moments, but delivers Hermione one of Ron’s best moment which doesn’t go unmissed by keen-eyed HP fans. This trend continues throughout the rest of the Harry Potter films effectively diminishing and reducing Ron’s character to a completely unrecognisable comic relief. Much of this can be attributed to Steve Kloves approaching the Harry Potter series and the trio differently to the original narrative, but evidence suggest that Kloves was granted J. K. Rowling’s approval. An excerpt from the article ‘When Steve Met Jo’ supports this:
Firstly, Steve turned to me while food was being ordered and said quietly, “You know who my favorite character is?” I looked at him, red hair included, and I thought: You’re going to say Ron. Please, please don’t say Ron—Ron’s so easy to love. And he said: “Hermione.” At which point, under my standoffish, mistrusting exterior, I just melted, because if he got Hermione, he got the books. He also, to a large extent, got me.
This struck me as rather bizarre because it strongly suggests that J. K. Rowling believes that, to fully appreciate and ‘get’ the Harry Potter series, it is imperative to like Rowling’s self-insert: Hermione Granger. Ergo, you are not a Harry Potter fan if you aren’t a fan of J. K. Rowling and isn’t that rather imposing, overbearing and, sadly, entitled as well as an an unrealistic demand given her latest bout of ‘informative’ tweets regarding wizards taking dumps (which nobody asked for) or her controversial decision to cast Johnny Depp in her film, an action that, at the time, silenced domestic violence victims in favour of the star power of Johnny Depp and the bonus financial gains he would potentially bring to the Fantastic Beasts series. Why care about domestic violence victims when there is money to be made, right, Joanne? A for effort, Joanne, but I can tell the wrong sort for myself, thanks.
George R. R. Martin, in contrast, does not demand readers and viewers to like any of his characters; Martin doesn’t attempt to tell the readers what is right or wrong, who is good or bad, or tell us that we aren’t true fans if we aren’t the greatest fans of Tyrion Lannister or Daenerys Targaryen. George R. R. Martin lets readers and viewers decide for themselves. With this in mind, it makes it very clear as to why Kloves changed the narrative and characters – to suit his own agenda and interpretation of the series rather than simply faithfully adapt the series.
In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Ron receives detention for defending Hermione when Snape calls her a “know-it-all,” whereas, in the film, this is changed to Ron agreeing with Snape.
“That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Miss Granger,” said Snape coolly. “Five more points from Gryffindor for being an insufferable know-it-all.”
Hermione went very red, put down her hand and stared at the floor with her eyes full of tears. It was a mark of how much the class loathed Snape that they were all glaring at him, because every one of them had called Hermione a know-it-all at least once or twice a week, and Ron, who told Hermione she was a know-it-all at least twice a week, said loudly, “You asked us a question and she knows the answer. Why ask if you don’t want to be told?” – p. 181, PoA
Ron instantly comes to Hermione’s defence against a teacher. An act that is admirable and is completely removed in the film. It also whitewashes the impact of the severity of Snape’s remark on Hermione. Some parts of the fandom take issue with Ron and other classmates for calling Hermione a “know-it-all” and even, strangely, paint it as emotional abuse despite an absence of malicious intent on the part of Ron and other classmates. If we take a real-life example, my sister calls me annoying once or twice a week, but it’s never intended with malice and I wouldn’t regard it as emotional abuse. It more so points toward an exceedingly delicate constitution to take something like this comment very seriously. Moreover, Ron, between Harry and him, is the only one to take both note and concern in Hermione’s heavy workload and her clashing timetable. Ron isn’t perfect, he can be insensitive, but anyone with adequate reading comprehension skills would be able to realise how very much he cares about the wellbeing of his friends – unless, of course, the friend he cares for demonstrates a lack of care towards him, but we’ll get to that in another post.
One of the moments stolen from Ron and transferred to Hermione is when Ron risks damaging his sprained leg to, very literally, stand up for Harry:
“If you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us, too!” he said fiercely, though the effort of standing up had drained him of still more colour, and he swayed slightly as he spoke. – p. 361, PoA
It was understandable that Hermione was given the Devil’s Snare moment in The Philosopher’s Stone as the riddle was removed from the film, but it was rather unnecessary to give this moment to Hermione in the film adaptation of The Prisoner of Azkaban as Hermione has some great moments anyway such as figuring out why Professor Lupin was missing classes – though Snape did everything he could to push that realisation onto Lupin’s students, I count this as a great moment for Hermione as I couldn’t figure it out at all.
This moment from Prisoner of Azkaban is when the film began seriously relegating Ron into a comic relief role. In the film adaptation of The Chamber of Secrets, we see Ron transformed into a blithering mess when he and Harry follow the spiders, whereas, in the book, Ron steels himself to overcome his fear of spiders when he realises that it will help Hermione who is petrified.
This decision to relegate Ron into a comic relief figure was a wasted opportunity to tackle gender stereotypes. Hermione exhibits a strong masculine energy, whereas Ron has more stereotypical feminine qualities, and it makes one question whether Steve Kloves subconsciously fosters internalised toxic masculinity. Ron is sensitive – in both positive and negative ways -, and he repeatedly provides emotional support to his friends e.g. defending Hermione in this book, breaking the ice with Hermione. Often, he displays typical insensitivity like any ordinary teenage boy, but for the most part his feminine qualities stand out. Hermione contrasts Ron with her capacity for logical deduction and is very much fact-focused. The book series challenges gender norms and constructs and Steve Kloves whittled away this narrative in order to make a Mary Sue out of Hermione Granger. While I’m not always the biggest fan of Hermione, Book Hermione is infinitely more interesting than flawless Film Hermione thereby restricting the character from being human and that in itself is a worrying message to impart to viewers: that women and young girls must be perfect to be accepted instead of simply being a human being with both flaws and virtues.
What are your thoughts on changes made to the film adaptations and the characters? What are your thoughts on J. K. Rowling’s comments about ‘getting’ the series? Do you agree with Steve Kloves decision to alter both Ron and Hermione’s characters in the films? What do you think is the reason why Fred and George did not mention Peter Pettigrew to Ron? Let me know in the comments!
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