Even HP haters might want to read that first link, Sady Doyle’s “In praise of Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger series.” In its alternate universe, “strong female character” Hermione got to be the protagonist.
The biggest problem with HP, I’ve always thought, is the “chosen one” stuff. The designation between hero and sidekick was so stark, and there was no good reason for it. Near the climax of the final movie, Harry, Hermione, and Ron show up at Hogwarts, where Neville and the rest of the kids have been holding down the fort under Death Eater occupation. They circle around Harry, thrilled to see him, and Ron and Hermione get ignored. Now that Harry’s here, everything’s going to be okay. *Eye roll* It made me happy to briefly step into a world in which things didn’t quite work like that:
Hermione is not Chosen. That’s the best thing about her. Hermione is a hero because she decides to be a hero; she’s brave, she’s principled, she works hard, and she never apologizes for the fact that her goal is to be very, extremely good at this whole “wizard” deal. Just as Hermione’s origins are nothing special, we’re left with the impression that her much-vaunted intelligence might not be anything special, on its own. But Hermione is never comfortable with relying on her “gifts” to get by. There’s no prophecy assuring her importance; the only way for Hermione to have the life she wants is to work for it.
And of course, this alternaverse fixes one of the things that bugged me most in the entire series:
Hermione, in her defining moment, became an activist for the enfranchisement of house-elves. The best thing about this development is Rowling’s lack of condescension; it’s easy to take potshots at youthful activism, and a lesser author would have played Hermione’s campaign for nasty comedy. Imagine that abomination; Hermione being the only character to notice that her sparkly, magical world relied on the creation of a goddamn slave race, and all of the supposedly sympathetic characters being like, “no, they like slavery! Stop being such a downer!”