But the Harry Potter books are more archetypal than typical, and the female roles are problematic at best -- devoted old maid figures like McGonagall, self-sacrificing mothers like Lily Potter and Molly Weasley, swooning women desperate for mates like Tonks and Merope Gaunt. And, of course, damsels in need of salvation, whether they're more self-sacrificing mothers like Narcissa Malfoy or incompetent Tri-Wizard competitors like Fleur Delacoeur.
And in that environment, I have to ask: Why for once can't the hero end up with the smart girl, the bookish girl, the girl who often contradicts him? The girl who came into his world as much an outsider as himself and overcompensated? The girl who really knows him and has never had any false hero-worship? Why must he end up with the popular girl, the girl who didn't need to have her teeth straightened, the girl who swooned over him while she was still a child and played a major damsel in distress role during his formative years?
And why can't the smart girl end up with the hero instead of the boy who ignores her, mocks her, taunts her for the qualities the hero most values in her? Why is she portrayed as wanting to be with a boy who will never be as clever as she is, and resents it, and inspires her to lie and cheat just to bolster his confidence? Why that boy and not the boy who treats her as an equal, who freely acknowledges that he couldn't do what he does without her?
I know people are going to say chemistry and attraction, and I'm not dismissing those things. There's no indication that Harry and Hermione feel any strong physical craving for one another. Maybe that's just because they're so close that they take each other for granted, or maybe there really isn't that sort of oomph that they both seem to feel when they're around red-haired purebloods who make them do rash things. And given that they're sixteen, all that makes perfect sense. But in this series, so far as we can tell, people mostly marry young and they marry for life. There's not a lot of room for mistakes, unless people want to spend their lives relying on love potions and spells to recover a lost spark. In that world it makes sense that Hermione didn't waste much time dating Krum, because she had decided he wasn't the one even though he appreciated her brains and self-possession and, apparently, her independence.
But Ron? Aside from looks and loyalty, I literally cannot see what Hermione sees in him. Sure, attraction means a lot when you're her age and devotion is a crucial quality in a mate, but how is she going to keep from boredom, or worse, from trying to turn herself into what he wants -- a girl who appreciates Quidditch and doesn't talk about eggheaded studious things? Are we going to be told the worst thing of all, that Hermione is only a smart and bookish girl because she came in from outside and, once she's fit herself into that world and helped to save that world, she's going to lost interest in the intellectual things that have sustained her?
Give me Harry and Hermione growing in love and realing that their committment to one another, while perhaps less ooh-ahh than their interest in other pretty faces, can encompass careers and marriage and children if they want them, rather than the superficial attractions of Harry with Ginny and Hermione with Ron any day.