Episode Λ (lambda): Live and Surprised at Nerd Nite YEG

Lady Nerd


Hey witches!

Our discussion of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince is on hold for a fortnight as we bring you our adventures at Nerd Nite Edmonton! We drank a bunch of wine and got up on a stage to talk about literary criticism, feminist criticism, and fan theories. It was the best.


UPDATE: If you’d like to follow along with the slides, here they are!

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7 thoughts on “Episode Λ (lambda): Live and Surprised at Nerd Nite YEG”

  1. Hey witches, I don’t have twitter so I’m just going to leave this here… I had just reread the books when the casting for the HP play was announced and I remembered:
    There is a description of Hermione’s skin colour in book 3 (chapter The Leaky Cauldron, page 46 the original UK edition). She is described as looking “very brown” (browner than usual presumably because why mention her skin colour just here and nowhere else?) and we know that she’s been on holiday to the south of France over summer. In the same sentence Ron is described as “incredibly freckly” and he’s been away in Egypt. If a more than usual amount of sun has made Ron extra freckly, could our unreliable narrator also be implying that Hermione has acquired a tan?

    1. Yup, they’re definitely saying she’s acquired a tan. Which doesn’t in any way automatically label her as white, because (as I’m sure you know) people of colour also tan.

  2. I’ve gotta throw in my favorite crazy fan theory, while you’re mentioning them. Once we found out in Book 3 that the marauders had all become animagi to support Lupin, it made sense to me that our parallel modern group of four (Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville) should also eventually become animagi. So my theory at the time was that Crookshanks was actually animagus Ron with a really good Time Turner. Think about it! He has a reason to have a grudge against Scabbers, as Crookshanks clearly does, and he’d get to sleep in Hermione’s bed every night. Perfect!

  3. Hi!
    Firstly I really loved this episode – the special thing about this podcast is just how academic it is! Applying theory to my favourite thing ever.

    I’d like to make an unpopular point about Hermione being played as a black woman. I know that you don’t consider authorial intent when doing a critique, but here I’d like to, as it seems so important to people’s opinions of the casting choice.

    You say in the podcast, “turning your brain off is not always an option”, and I believe that JKR is no exception. We are all affected by our social class, gender, general place in the world when it comes to the content that we consume. As you said a majority white readership will have no doubt (for the most part) imagined a white Hermione and JKR as the content creator will have probably also imagined her white. If she was anything other in her head, it will have been explicitly stated. Although she tweeted a lovely show of support for black Hermione, I do believe that she was envisioning a white Hermione as she was writing the series.

    I think if more people accept this then we can start asking the important question… which is DOES IT MATTER?

    The problem with going through the text in immense detail and looking for space in which we can stretch our imaginations to allow a black Hermione into our lives is that it feels an awful lot like asking permission to let a black woman in. What if rather than describing Hermione as “very brown” (referring to the comment above) JKR had chosen more explicit words such as “… her normally pale skin had started to to brown” or “she didn’t look as starkly white as normal…” etc etc… would we then be saying “Right! that’s proof! Hermione is white! There is no denying it now! Calling for recast please!”? – Absolutely not!

    What would have been much more refreshing would have been if someone had just said… “yeah JKR was probably picturing her white… so what? It’s unimportant to her character. Why can’t she be played by a black woman?”

    For goodness sake, the colour of Hermione’s skin is less important to the story line than the colour of Harry’s eyes which were green in the book and blue in the movie.

    If we can accept that the majority readership’s assumption that she was white, or the writing of her as a white character by JKR was as a result of the fact that it was written by a white woman, set in a majority white country, for a majority white readership and identify that that happens across all forms of media and it’s unfair and more representation of anything other than the white/cis norm is necessary, then we can start making active decisions to do just that.


    another rant

    i love you guys

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