Gender Role – Women
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 5 Stars
Hermione Granger is dedicated and smart. She’s far more educated in wizardry than Harry and Ron, and apparently most of the other children in their first year at Hogwart’s. She has a somewhat annoying tendency to showboat her intelligence, and even comes across as arrogant. But at the same time, this showboating is likely the only way for her to get any real recognition. Despite the fact that Hermione is a far more knowledgeable and practiced wizard than Harry Potter, Harry easily eclipses her due to his legendary encounter with Voldemort when he was an infant. It’s clear from the beginning that Hermione is destined to be a supporting character rather than the hero, but she is still a far more accomplished supporting character than most.
Friendship: 3.5 Stars
Harry, Ron and Hermione form a formidable team that knows how to work together and welcomes each other’s contributions. Although Ron clearly dislikes being upstaged and corrected by Hermione, Ron never discourages her from participating or questions her abilities. And in the end, the three characters equally support and trust each other, whatever the danger they happen to be facing.
Gender Roles - Men: 2.5 Stars
Harry Potter is a somewhat unlikely boy hero. He’s small and awkward, without much confidence or talent. But it’s clear that there is something special hidden inside him. He isn’t overly ambitious. He’s not egotistical or vengeful. And when he has a clear opportunity to walk away from Ron, who may not come from the most impressive line of wizards, he stays loyal to his friend, choosing substance over status. Harry is also comfortable sharing his spotlight with Ron and Hermione. He openly relies on both of them to solve the riddles he encounters at Hogwart’s.
Harry is typical, however, in the sense that he’s ushered into stardom without much effort on his part and rarely displays much emotion. Even in the opening scenes, when he’s clearly mistreated and unloved, Harry never seems lonely, sad or insecure. In general, Harry is something of a blank slate, without much personality to him, and seems to be destined for greatness based on his lineage alone.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 3 Stars
Hermione is still a young girl who wears the same uniform and wizard robe as the boys at Hogwart’s. She’s never distracted with pretty shoes or dresses, but dedicates her time to schoolwork and research instead.
The film also includes one other notable female character, Professor McGonagall. Being one of the professors at Hogwart’s, she doesn’t play as large a role as Hermione in shaping expectations for young girls. But at the very least, she is an influential and respected member of the faculty, and one of only a few authority figures at the school that the children can trust.
Plot: 3 Stars (Spoilers)
Hermione is given more than one opportunity to contribute to the search for the philosopher’s stone. She opens locked doors with her magic spells, notices a critical trap door in the floor, and she’s also the one who finds the passage regarding the philosopher’s stone in an old book. Hermione even rescues Ron and Harry from being twisted and strangled by black vines as they near the end of their quest. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone gives each of the children, Harry, Ron and Hermione, a fair chance to shine. And even though this is ultimately Harry’s story, there’s little doubt that Hermione makes a memorable mark in solving the mystery of the sorcerer’s stone.
Character Development: 2 Stars
Sadly, Hermione has no backstory. We don’t know who her parents are, whether they are married or divorced, famous or infamous. We don’t know if she has siblings, or other secrets. We can guess, based on her intense focus on academics, that she has dreams of becoming a powerful wizard. But we don’t know what sort of magic she craves the most, or what she intends to do with all that power.
Near the end of the film, Harry tells her that he hopes to be as great a wizard as she is someday. But rather than accepting the compliment, she chooses to downgrade her own accomplishments. It’s difficult to tell if this is a true moment of insecurity. It’s possible that the writers felt she had to humble herself in order to be a more likable character. This scene alone could send an unfortunate message to young girls that it’s a good idea to hide or downplay your own talents if you want to make friends. While there’s something to be said for practicing a bit of humility, balancing these messages can be a tricky undertaking, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone leans a bit too heavily in the wrong direction. This scene might have worked better if Harry and Ron had acknowledged her talents in the open, and assured her that she didn’t need to flaunt them anymore.