This is a fashion blog, not a media analysis blog, but as a near-rabid Harry Potter fan, I’d like to take a moment, in honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, to take a few moments to discuss fatness in the world of Hogwarts.
On her website, J.K.Rowling, author of the series, has posted a rather long rant against the obsession, in most corners of “the media,” with “emaciated” women, and the way that, often, women judge each other based on weight rather than on smarts or other accomplishments. It is rather difficult to find the text – upon entering the site, click on the hairbrush for “Extra Stuff,” then on “Miscellaneous,” and then on “For Girls Only, Probably” – but here is an exerpt:
“Maybe all this seems funny, or trivial, but it’s really not. It’s about what girls want to be, what they are told they should be, and how they feel about who they are. I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin.’ And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons . . . . “
After she posted this, a rather ill-informed reporter wrote an op-ed piece to the effect that Rowling has no right to complain about media images of thinness, since she makes Harry’s loathsome cousin Dudley fat – and therefore Rowling herself is part of the problem.
The good people at Mugglenet.com wrote a refutation, posted here, showing that in the Harry Potter books, being called fat is not a moral judgement. It is simply a statement of fact, and indeed there are several fat heroes and several fat loathsome characters (though the truly evil characters, Voldemort and the Death Eaters, all are apparently of regular size, as are the four main heroes: Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Dumbledore).
From their list:
Fat and Good:
Rubeus Hagrid: Not much needs to be said here. Hagrid is the Keeper of the Keys and Care of Magical Creatures teacher at Hogwarts, and the highest-profile good adult character in Book One. He is, despite a conspicuous lack of common sense, a genuine Gryffindor hero, and fat with it.
Pomona Sprout: The highly-skilled, respected and well-liked Herbology teacher at Hogwarts and Head of Hufflepuff house.
Horace Slughorn: An eminent potioneer who was held in such high regard by Dumbledore that he went to great lengths to persuade him to return to Hogwarts for a second spell as Potions teacher.
Molly Weasley: The lynchpin that holds the Weasley family together in times of crisis, the closest thing to a mother that Harry has got, and an active member of the Order of the Phoenix.
Neville Longbottom: Whilst unsure of his own magical ability and initially portrayed as a bumbler, Neville’s bravery and loyalty has since come very much to the fore. Far from being an incompetent buffoon, he has in fact twice been involved in deadly battles against Death Eaters, fighting courageously (if not always successfully) in each case.
Olympe Maxime: The Headmistress of Beauxbatons. If you want to find a character in the books who is graceful, intelligent, handsome, and a fine dancer, whilst also being overweight, look no further.
The Fat Friar: The jovial Hufflepuff ghost.
While I notice that, at first glance, a few of the overweight characters are stereotypically written as “bumbling” or “jovial,” on the whole the overweight good guys blend seamlessly into the good-guy group. No one can deny that Molly Weasley is one of the most stable and trusted characters in Harry’s life, though she would never be chosen to grace the cover of Vogue. Madame Maxime has risen to a top academic position among the wizards of France, Pomona Sprout is one of the best-liked and senior teachers in the school, and though Hagrid is bumbling, he is also courageous and loyal. One more reason to love the Harry Potter franchise. Thank you, JK, for the inspiring stories and for producing heroes and villians of all shapes and sizes!
In the comments: No spoilers please!