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Rowling’s’ Harry Potter series has managed to capture a global audience for both print and film. This sensational fictitious tale has ensnared the hearts and minds of many children and adults alike. Mostly, the children read them right into adulthood, growing simultaneously with the famous Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermoine Granger as the heroes and heroines of the novel.
The implications of such passionate attraction to the literature may be grim if the literature in question is rigged with flaws such as gender bias mainly because the target audience is children. Naturally, these children are very impressionable because they are at a formative age (Fagot and Hagan 133). Most of them begin the series and immediately identify with a particular character that they feel most similar to.
Most of them then tend to read or watch and learn from this character’s behavior, and adapt it into their own. A few with stronger characters may manage to distance themselves from the influence of their favorite characters.
However, it is important that if the children and adolescents are going to be affected, it should stand out as a positive influence making gender one of the timeless societal problems that should be approached with due care hence forming the basis of this research on the gender roles as depicted in Harry Potter’s books and movies.
This paper will deal with three areas: impressionability of youth through literature, the role of socialization in gender inequality and the depiction of gender inequality in literature. To address these three areas, it will further refine its study to gender roles, sexuality, and power to narrow down the discussion.
The role of male characters in Harry Potter obviously overshadows that of female characters, at least physically. Harry Potter is male and the hero of the tale, with amazing magical skills and a male arch-rival-Lord Voldermont who gives Harry his purpose in the sequel, to slay him. Dumbledore, Harry’s mentor is male, as well as most of the professors at Hogwarts, and his friend Ron Weasley.
Hermoine Granger is also a very powerful character, a female. She is the last part of the trio that is part Harry and Ron. She is not depicted to be very strong physically and Ron and Harry push her out of the way of danger more than once in trying to protect her. However, she is a very intelligent and witty witch who is always getting the other two out of their own messes.
Ginny Weasley is another powerful female who develops along the series from simply being Ron’s little sister to a beautiful, and very defiant young woman who can hold her own against the dark wizards. She is capable of leading a group of students against the evil lot that siege Hogwarts and this is very noble of her. Other key male characters include Professor Snape, Draco Malfoy, Bill Weasley, and the Malfoy Twins.
However, the females remain also well represented, with Fleur Delacour being very potent sexually since she is partly vela. Veelas are similar to the mythical sirens whose songs were the cause of many sailors death. Fleur’s grandmother possessed adequate magical skills that she could employ on men for persuasion and deception. This is a negative depiction of women, as having the ability to apply sexuality to get whatever they want from men without applying much effort.
Had she been a male who could influence women thus, this would have been accrued to be strength. However, men can use their sexuality all they want and nobody will see them as any less able. Narcissa Malfoy is another woman we encounter in Harry Potter, who is terrified of Lord Voldermont.
When he demands to use her son Draco in his deadly endeavors, all she seems capable of is staring away, and hoping that her son would not end up dead, this depicts weakness. It is almost impossible to imagine her role being that of a male because it would be pitiful to imagine such a powerless male.
Bellatrix Lestrange is another evil female character. She is a death eater and seeks to destroy, rather than nurture life, as is the general perception of a woman’s nature. Molly Weasley is the total opposite. She takes in Harry Potter and treats him like her own child.
Later, she fights and kills Bellatrix when the evil death eater seeks to take Ginny’s life. She is the protective and care giving mother that everybody admires.
Harry Potter’s own mother loses her life trying to save him from Voldermont and leaves upon him a mark that will remain until he stops calling his aunt’s place ‘home’. This is evident of her protection of him even after death. Not to mention her intelligence in deciphering that Harry would not be welcome at his uncle’s place hence the mark.
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Male roles are definitely more physical and powerful as compared to women’s roles. They can wave their magic wand with exponential results, while simultaneously acting very thoughtlessly and causing major damage. They also have explosive tempers that usually result is disaster for both themselves and their victims. Generally, they are almost ‘clumsy’. However, women on the other hand are very well coordinated.
They clean up the messes of their male counterparts soothe them when they are angry, heal them when incapacitated, and take care of their households. They are the ones that enable the men to do what they do by ensuring that the required conditions are laid ready in advance, during, and after their encounters. Under this microscope, there seems to be a symmetrical balance between the male and female roles.
It is almost as though they are there to supplement each other; balance each other’s excesses (Fry 76). However, there are the usual extremes such as Voldermont and Bellatrix: those who cannot seem to fit in to the knitting of the fabric. These should not be used to pass judgment on the roles of men and women.
Since its publication, Harry Potter’s books have been researched on extensively with different scholars analyzing them from various perspectives recording their results on the same. Various scholars have dissected and viewed gender roles under the microscopic lenses (Fry 23). However, nobody seems to be keen to study both male and female roles together and their contributions to the series as a joint couple.
Most research is either from a feminist perspective, hence focusing on which non-traditional roles are allocated to women, or even more common, heroic: focused on Harry Potter as a character and his contribution o the series (Nikolajeva and Elizabeth 45). Some researchers have studied the role of key characters and their contributions but rarely does anybody model their research solely on the roles played by males and females in the series and the effect of this portrayal of socialization in the society.
Socialization is an old vice that haunts the society since time immemorial. The social roles that cut across boys and girls due to their biological engineering that seem to survive even the toughest philosophies of time, such as feminism. Apparently, it is impossible to change the way society thinks about what men should do and what women should not do.
This being the position, it becomes impossible to miss an aspect of male chauvinism in the Harry Potter sequel. However, this line of thought if taken as such will be biased and so to moderate its implications, there is need for an unbiased research, and in order to achieve that type of research, the best approach or perspective to take would be a neutral one (Berger 12).
Forget about how society programs us to think about gender roles, forget about our own disagreements and biases with feminism and chauvinism and then think about the Harry Potter series in particular. Think about what each character’s role in the sequel is and whether or not they are able to execute the said role to the best of its potential while being of the gender that they are.
Then imagine if they had been of the opposite sex and judge whether they would have created a better story line if so. This way of thinking is bound to achieve an unbiased result and conclusion because it is unbiased in its direction right from the beginning.
The youths stand out as very impressionable making it worth noting that what they watch or read can influence them. The social learning theory is what advices this thought train. Individuals learn a great deal about the world outside of their immediate setting through what they see and hear, particularly through television exposure (Bandura 67).
This theory also applies to grownups although for them they have preset notions that are probably definitive of their personalities. However, that does not change the fact that they will act in reaction to external factors according to how they are wired and therein lays the cause of all prejudices that different researches harbor (Berger 54). The key to an unbiased research is in the approach guiding it.
Since time immemorial, it has become apparent that a picture is worth more than a thousand words, or actions speak louder than words. Now more than ever with the onslaught of the digital age and extensive developments in technology, children are at more risk of being affected by what they see (Fagot and Hagan 43).
The publication of the Harry Potter’s series saw to the influence of millions of young minds through Rowling’s’ creative writing. However, the production of Harry Potter as a sequel saw to the demonstration of what he captured in words on the big screens and more minds became ensnared. Programs such as wrestling nowadays come with disclaimers of “Please, Don’t’ Try this at Home.”
Advertisements of alcohol contain the minority age for drinking. These are evident of their awareness of the need to warn impressionable youth. Clearly, there has risen a need to study the implications of this work of literature, if for nothing else, to judge its suitability for growing minds, hence the overwhelming research in the field.
The key elements that are apparent from the trend of most researchers are the effects of the work on society’s view of violence, evil and occult, and gender. It is indeed important to look into the depiction of these themes to prove that they will not influence negatively on the youth that are being influenced by them.
Gender inequality is a vice that is still plaguing our society and socialization is just one of the major elements that fuel it. Socialization refers to how a society brings up its boys and girls into different personalities whose roles and position is society seems clearly cut after the society’s fabric (Fagot and Hagan 33). This simply means that in a male dominated society, boys will grow up knowing that women should be subjugated and girls will grow into shadows of their true potential, always hiding behind the mean in times of a crisis.
“The media is a major agent of socialization” (Berger 77). It influences culture and lifestyle, and sometimes it presents an ideal image of the society where films like Harry Potter’s come in.
It is important that what is being aired be of healthy value to society, and that is why it becomes necessary to understand the message that the audience gets from watching the sequel and reading the series. The films, based on the gender message depicted therein, provides an advice on any concerns of damage control if need be, or to provide a path for future writers and producers of similar works of literature.
The depiction of gender inequality in literature as mentioned above could be either because of the writer’s personal convictions about gender, or because of the society’s own understanding of the gender roles. Either way, this depiction has the potential to influence viewers into mimicking the implied behavior, much to the chagrin of society.
There is therefore a need for a standardized depiction of both gender roles, one that will not build any prejudices about the other gender in the minds of the viewers. Quite understandably, such a standard needs to be established and cultivated if at all it is to take root among the world of literature. “…Classical writers such as Shakespeare who lived in the Victorian age or earlier are irrefutably male-oriented” (Nikolajeva and Elizabeth 53).
The unfortunate bit is that most modern generation writers aspire to be like them, hence emulate them, even in their flaws. Extensive research on the gender roles in Harry Potter has been conducted with the results spurring heated debates over the domination of male roles.
However, this paper aims at providing a different perspective of the opposite sexes and their different or maybe even unequal roles in the sequel. The hypothesis of this paper is that women are given different roles from men and not necessarily unequal roles in their magnitude, just on a different sphere altogether from the male roles.
Rowling knows what he is doing in the sequel and the series. At this point, it is important to note that that there is no significant difference in gender roles between the films and the novels. The films are less graphic, and so whatever contrast rises in gender roles in the book are not furthered by the films.
The author has presented his characters in a manner that is ‘correct’ by society’s standards and the gap between males and females seems socially correct (Fry 34). Women are given traits that no man could possibly pull off without appearing ‘queer’. Men on the other hand are given physically dominative roles that would seem out of place if appointed to women.
To that extent, this research has proved that the depiction of gender roles is in no way inappropriate to impressionable minds. Opportunities of success have received an equal share in both the books and the movies. This research proves that it is okay for women to be depicted as they are without necessarily translating this to gender inequality.
In the simple roles presented, there is massive strength required to execute their tasks. Strength of character is also prevalent among the virtuous implementation of their roles. Does Rowling stick to traditional gender roles in this sequel? The answer is two way: Yes and no. Ginny provides a good example of a revolutionary female who authorizes a group of students to defy authority.
This research proves that trying to compare between the magnitude of the male and female roles from a level standing is futile. The strengths of each role extends from different dimensions altogether and such uni-level comparison is inaccurate.
Bandura, Ann. Social cognitive theory of mass communication.” (Eds), J. Bryant & D Zillman. Media effects: Advances in Theory and Research. Mahwah: NJ: Erlbaum, 2002.
Berger, Aggrey. Media and Communication Research Methods: An Introduction to Qualitative ad Quantitative Approaches. London: Sage Publications, 2000.
Fagot, David and Hagan, Ryan. Observations of Parent Reactions to sex-stereotyped behaviors: Age and Sex Differences, 1991.
Fry, Mull. Heroes and Heroines: Myth and Gender Roles in Harry Potter Books. London: Word Press, 2003.
Nikolajeva, Maria and Elizabeth, Heilman. Harry Potter-A Return to the Romantic Hero. Harry Potter’s World: Multidisciplinary Critical Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2003.