Okay, I'll admit it. I have been reading the boards and journals of the H/Hr shippers who are angry -- angry at J.K. Rowling, angry at Melissa and Emerson, angry at everyone who makes fun of them or tells them to quit whining or fails to sympathize with their pain. And one comment I have seen over and over again is that the worst part of it is that people are misunderstanding
them. People think, they say, that they're upset because their ship didn't sail, but that's not the problem
. It is much deeper than that, they say. It's about deep moral values, the meaning of love, the effect that the Harry Potter books will have on impressionable youngsters, and the "destruction" of the Hermione character as a viable role model for girls. It's about the insult to the deep, meaningful and beautiful HARMONIAN WAY OF LIFE.
Obviously I do not share the HARMONIAN PHILOSOPHY. I am a "Heron," a "mo'Ron," a non-believer, a known enemy. But I suspect that I know as much about it as any non-Harmonian alive today.
In my five years of lurking and posting in this fandom, I have read nearly every one of the essays so often referred to by these believers -- essays by JenniferM/AlexisM
, Mad-Eyed Mike
, Pallas Athena
, Gil/Galigad/Remulus Lupin
, Dark Rune
, Grace Granger
, Jim Ferer
, and others . I have read the "Phoenix File" -- 213 pages in Word on my computer. I have read the ship debates on HP4GU, the DT at FAP, the LT at CoSForums, the New Clues Forum, and other places, often participating myself. I have read thousands
of posts at places such as PumpkinPie.org, Portkey, A Mad World, HMS Harmony, harryhermione
, and the SCUSA Pumpkin Pie, Can't Stand R/Hr, and ARGH threads at FAP. And I am familiar with the fanfiction, fanart, icons, banners, backgrounds, poetry, parodies, in-jokes, references, and photo manipulations of H/Hr shippers in general, and "Harmonians" in particular.
Setting aside the obvious conclusion that I have no life, weird preferences in entertainment, way too much time on my hands, and an unhealthy level of obsession both with HP and with trio-shipping, I think I am in an almost unique position to attempt to convey to the non-Harmonian believers what the "Harmonian Philosophy" is all about. In this post I will try my best not to be sarcastic or snarky; instead I will describe as objectively as possible what I have observed. Perhaps this will lead to greater understanding, perhaps to greater wank... I won't make a prediction about that. Whatever I have failed to understand, whatever I misinterpret or distort in this post, it was not for lack of trying. THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE HMS HARMONYPart 1 - Good and Bad Love Relationships
Perhaps the most basic tenet of Harmonian thought is that there are desirable and undesirable types of love relationships
. The best
type of love relationship -- possibly the only type that is truly good -- is one that grows slowly out of friendship.
In this ideal relationship, you will find a male and a female (generally) who trust each other, work well as a team, have a mental rapport, and get along peacefully. Their friendship will not involve physical attraction or lust for quite a long while -- years, ideally -- so that they can get to know each other on a higher plane of being. At some point, through shared experiences, adventures, and sacrifices, their platonic love for each other will cross the line and blossom into a true, deep, lifelong, exclusive romantic love.
In contrast to this preferred ideal, the Harmonians define many other types of love relationships as inferior and undesirable. Paramount among these are relationships which involve:
- bickering or other conflict
- romantic jealousy
- lust or excess physical attraction
- rapid development
In the Harry Potter world, a relationship between Ron and Hermione is bad because of bickering and conflict, and because it involves jealousy of other suitors. These are extremely
serious flaws in the Harmonian world view, flaws which make the relationship absolutely invalid and a terrible example for children . Similarly, Harry's relationship with Ginny is unacceptable because it contains too much physical attraction and physical affection, because it happens too rapidly without being preceded by enough non-romantic interaction, and because it involves Harry being jealous of Dean. It is too frivolous as well, as Harry and Ginny seem to share more jokes and Quidditch than they do dangerous adventures and discussions of Harry's quest. Again, these are not minor flaws, but serious moral shortcomings that make the Harry/Ginny pairing damaging to children and young women (especially) who might read and identify with it.
As best I can tell, when Harmonians say of non-Harmonians (as they frequently do) that they "don't understand love" it is because the non-Harmonians fail to appreciate -- or disagree with -- this moral distinction. This is particularly true if the non-Harmonian seems to value the unacceptable types of relationships more
than the ideal type. A person who enjoys reading, writing, or experiencing rapid and strong physical attraction, verbal sparring, or a hate-to-love dynamic is not seen as expressing an aesthetic preference within a wide spectrum of viable options, but as exposing their shallow, lust-obsessed, or materialistic understanding of love. J.K. Rowling, by choosing unacceptable relationships for both Harry and Hermione, stands self-condemned as this type of person.Part 2 - Good and Bad Characters
Hardly less important to Harmonians is the distinction between worthy and unworthy people
. Certain people, by virtue of their abilities, moral characters, responsibility, and seriousness, are on a higher plane of being than the mass of mankind.
In books, these people can be identified by page time, presence in important adventure sequences, importance to the plot, lack of being portrayed in a frivolous, humorous manner, and lack of significant flaws. In real life, these people can be identifed by their sensitivity, earnestness, intelligence, imaginativeness, artistic sensibilities, idealism, and -- most important of all -- ability to perceive and appreciate romance between Harry and Hermione. I am not trying to be sarcastic here: this one thing, above all, is treated as an absolutely distinguishing indicator of moral worth.
The gulf between the morally worthy and the morally unworthy is very wide. It would be unthinkable for a morally worthy and important character such as Hermione to have a serious romance (a Cho-like fling is okay) with a morally unworthy and unimportant character such as Ron. I think
only morally worthy characters can achieve the ideal type of romance described above. In the Harry Potter world (pre-Book 6) Harmonians universally agree that Harry and Hermione are important, morally worthy characters -- the hero and heroine of the books. Other characters that most Harmonians class this way are Dumbledore, Neville, Lily, and sometimes James, Remus, or Luna. Most other characters in the books are deeply flawed and on a lower level of humanity. Most particularly, Ron and Ginny Weasley are fatally flawed and unworthy. Remember, this is not a preference
but an inescapable moral judgment
, immediately seen and understood by all those who are morally worthy in real life, and not
seen and understood by those who are morally unworthy. In fact, one's opinions about Ron and Ginny are an important indicator of one's moral status
-- the words "Ron-lover" are a serious insult from a Harmonian.
I do not have room here to cover all the character flaws shown by Ron, Ginny, and similar unworthy characters, but here are some examples:
- lack of seriousness and devotion to Harry
- joking inappropriately, recklessness in the face of danger, criticizing Harry, disbelieving Harry, etc.
- sexual misconduct
- Ginny "using" Neville, Michael, and Dean to make Harry notice her, Ron's liason with Lavender, Ginny kissing Harry in public, Ginny having too many boyfriends and casting off old boyfriends easily, Ron lusting after Fleur, Rosmerta, etc.
- shallow romantic preferences
- Ron wanting attractive girls, Ginny wanting "famous Harry Potter."
- Ginny thinking Harry should remember her possession and wanting to go to the Department of Mysteries, Ron wanting to ride Harry's broom, wanting sweets, wanting to copy homework from Hermione, and many other examples.
- Ron and Ginny snapping at or insulting Hermione. Ron not caring about house-elves, being prejudiced against giants, Muggles, etc. Ginny making fun of Fleur, making fun of Luna behind her back, and hexing Zacharias Smith.
- Ginny being pretty, popular, and sporty. Ron tempting Harry to have fun rather than to stay safe and concentrate on his dangerous tasks.
- inferior abilities
- Both Ron and Ginny being less intelligent than Hermione, less brave and powerful than Harry, and not contributing to the adventure plots.
I know some of you may be protesting at this point, wishing to point out that Harry and Hermione share these flaws, or wanting to cut Ron and Ginny a little more slack. In the Harmonian philosophy, this is another sign of your unworthiness. Rushing to defend Ron and Ginny -- being a "Weasley-lover" -- is one of our most annoying traits. It is a sure sign of our inferiority, and we only do it because we identify with the characters who are as unworthy and flawed as we are
I'm sorry I cannot soften this point, but I can't, and remain an honest reporter. I am of course
not saying that all H/Hr shippers feel this way, but I believe it is a central tenet in the belief system of those who call themselves "Harmonians," and the sentiment is ubiquitous
, repeated like a catechism, on their boards.
One consequence of dividing humanity into virtuous important people such as Harry and Hermione and unimportant unlikeable people such as Ron and Ginny is that very different treatment is appropriate for each type of people
. Any criticism of, disloyalty to, or ill-treatment of a morally worthy character such as Harry and Hermione is a significant and serious moral abrogation, inspiring anger and deep condemnation. For instance, Ginny telling Hermione not to embarrass herself by pretending she understands Quidditch elicits widespread outrage and a desire to "slap her silly." The same is true of any insult or bad treatment Ron has ever inflicted upon Hermione.But the converse is not true.
If a character is unworthy and does not have hero or heroine status, there is no moral opprobrium to treating them badly. This applies within the books, where Harry falsely telling Ron he was dreaming about his poor Keeper skills or Hermione calling Ron pathetic for not saying Voldemort five minutes after saying it for the first time herself are not considered of any consequence. Harry and Hermione are basically good characters
and any flawed behavior they might exhibit is easily forgiven. This also applies in how unworthy characters may be talked about in real life, as shown by the Ron-death ficlets of the dierondie
community and the HMS Harmony forum's "1001 Ways of Killing Ginny Weasley"
thread (and many similar threads at the A Mad World and HMS Harmony forums before and after Book 6 was released). It is easily understood that this kind of lighthearted joking is a good way of handling the irritation caused by these unsatisfactory characters and their intensely annoying admirers and defenders.
And this principle extends to real people as well. Once people such as J.K. Rowling, Emerson, Melissa, and -- oh yes -- me, have put ourselves firmly in the inferior category of moronic Weasley-loving Harmony-haters, it is perfectly understandable that their frustration with our shortcomings might erupt in insults about our sexuality, relationships and marriages, child-raising abilities, physical appearance, etc. Accusing Melissa of fellating her father, expressing a wish that Rowling had died in childbirth before finishing Book 6, or making plans about going to a bookstore appearance to kick Emerson's ass are extreme and a bit regrettable, but perfectly understandable, reactions to their cruel and insensitive treatment of the Harmonians and their ideals. However, again, the converse is not true
. Ill-treatment of Harmonians -- mocking them, applying words such as "delusional" or "militant" to them, or even speaking to them in a tone and manner that implies you think they might be less intelligent and rational than you -- is a very serious offense
, invoking the deepest condemnation and years of implacable resentment.
For a long time, I misunderstood this dichotomy as the normal human tendency to distinguish between in-group and out-group behavior, the kind of subjective bias that any emotionally-attached partisan might thoughtlessly fall into. Recently, however, I have concluded that there is more to it than that. When we criticize or make fun of them, we are attacking an important and precious value system
-- the ideals of Harmony, which comprises everything that is good and pure and true in the world. We are denying the importance of love and friendship, insulting trust and respect, and mocking courage and honor. However, when they criticize or make fun of us, they are simply attacking specific individuals who lack any sort of unifying vision or value system except a shallow sort of conviction that bickering equals true love and a sheeplike acceptance of whatever J.K. Rowling might choose to write or say. One offense is much more serious than the other.
Similarly, any criticism whatsoever of Hermione, no matter how mitigated by praise or a claim to love her character, is a far worse offense than simply wishing Ron would die or calling Ginny an evil slut. Let me repeat this point, because it is very important: saying that Hermione is bossy is a worse offense than calling Ginny a crack whore
, because Hermione is an important and lovable character and Ginny, simply, is not. Again, it is a truism in the Harmony world, constantly repeated, that R/Hr and H/G shippers bash Hermione more than H/Hr shippers bash Ron or Ginny. Apparently, this is because of the frequency
of our bashings, not the severity. Every time we say that Hermione should end up with Ron, or that she doesn't understand Harry's feelings, that is a very serious bashing offense
. Since Harmonians don't express a wish for Ginny to die while being raped by Grawp quite as often as we express a wish for Hermione to kiss Ron, we are the more serious bashers.
I'm sure many of you feel that I am being sarcastic here, or exaggerating, but I feel obliged to accurately report what I have observed on the Harmonian boards and communities, and this is the best explanation I can come up with to justify an assertion I have seen again and again and again. Again I reiterate that this applies only to self-identified "Harmonians," and not even to all of those (though it is clearly the majority consensus).
It is important to keep all of the above in mind if you wish to understand the serious offense that J.K. Rowling has committed in "killing" or "raping" Hermione in Book 6. It took me a while to understand this. What Rowling did is give Hermione behaviors that, according to the Harmonian value system, moved her from the category of "worthy and important" to the category of "unimportant and unworthy."
Certain particular behaviors Hermione exhibited -- making fun of Fleur with Ginny and Mrs. Weasley, for instance, behaving badly because of romantic jealousy, or allowing herself to be distracted from constant worrying about Harry -- are not only seen as inconsistent with behaviors Hermione has exhibited in the past, but they are unavoidably seen as the kind of thing Ron or Ginny might do
. At some point, the Harmonian forgiveness and excusing of Hermione's foibles stretched beyond its breaking point, and the rebound was ferocious. As a result, not only is Hermione Granger "dead to them" in the style of Victorian parents in a melodrama, but she is now subject to the kind of treatment formerly reserved for unworthy characters like Ron and Ginny. In Harmonian boards since Book 6, you can see people express that they don't care what happens to the bitch Hermione has become, Ron can abuse her for all they care, and they would prefer it if she had been killed by Dolohov at the end of Book 5 rather than suffer being degraded to the worthless character she has become.
As you can see, the division of people into worthwhile and worthless characters is absolutely central to the Harmonian philosophy. No wonder so many Harmonians reported that they literally cried when they saw that the once-noble Hermione had been degraded into a "jealous bitch." In Harmonian morality, there is no recovery from such a fall.Part 3 - The Importance of Romantic Love
The Harmonian philosophy is a philosophy of romantic love. Not only does it distinguish between good and bad types of romantic love, but it demands that the proper amount of emphasis -- a very high
level of emphasis -- be placed on it. It is hard to overstate how important it is to the Harmonian value system that romantic love be given its due importance.
For instance, it was the perceived importance of romantic love that drove the Harmonian belief in the complex system of symbolism, allusion, and fiendishly clever misdirection they thought Rowling had included in the books (and her interviews) to simultaneously conceal and foreshadow Harry's eventual pairing with Hermione. Such an elaborate investment of time and energy in romance foreshadowing is only imaginable if romantic love is of supreme importance, both thematically and as a plot element. And, of course, Harmonians generally believed that the love between Harry and Hermione was the power that Voldemort knew not that would allow Harry to triumph in the end.
The perceived importance of romantic love also drives the Harmonian disinclination to believe that romance is mostly just a light subplot and comic relief in Rowling's series. Before Book 6 came out, they refused to believe so badly of Rowling as to think that she didn't share their reverence for romantic love. Since Book 6, they have
believed it, and have counted it as more evidence of Rowling's inferiority. She treats love too lightly, without the proper moral seriousness, revealing herself as a shallow person who doesn't understand true love (thus the odd recurring charges that Rowling has been divorced two -- or even three -- times). Again, something that non-Harmonians might perceive as an aesthetic choice possibly driven by perceived audience preferences (8-year olds, for instance) is seen by Harmonians as a moral transgression. By not seeming to value
romantic love highly enough, Rowling has "degraded"
Finally, the great importance of romantic love in the Harmonian philosophy seems to lead to (or result from?) a corresponding lack
of importance for other kinds of love -- particularly friendship. This can be particularly seen in their repeated statements that the loving friendship between Harry and Hermione will be "wasted" or even "betrayed" if it does not eventually lead to romantic love. This is more than our cultural overemphasis on sex, or normal shipper mushiness -- it is another moral
belief. By being friends with Hermione but not rewarding her with his "real" love, by choosing a different
girl for romance, Harry immorally values lust over gratitude, popularity over solid worth. The high value placed on romantic love by the Harmonian philosophy means that the girl Harry chooses for his romantic partner is being exalted by the author as the only worthy and ideal girl in the series -- by choosing Ginny, Harry (and, by extension, Rowling) has insulted and (again) degraded Hermione, who is relegated to the inferior status of "friend."
This value system also explains a tendency, often noted in Harmonians, to expect the Harry/Hermione relationship to be "all in all" to Harry, while other connections such as Dumbledore, Lupin, Hagrid, Ron, and the other Weasleys were expected to be alienated from Harry, die, or otherwise become vastly less important (see, for instance, the HBP prediction threads at A Mad World, HMS Harmony, and Portkey). Since none of these relationships have the potential to develop into romantic love, they are intrinsically less important and less interesting than the Harry/Hermione relationship. In particular, the Ron/Harry friendship, no matter how much it has been featured in the books or how often Harry might verbalize his deep love and dependence on Ron, cannot possibly be
as important as the Harry/Hermione friendship, which was seen as being on the path to romantic love. Again, this is not a matter of preference or interpretation; this is a moral conclusion
which follows necessarily from a proper understanding of the importance of romantic love and its superior status to mere friendship. Harry's and Hermione's friendship must
develop into romance, because it must continue to develop into a higher and more perfect state. Any other outcome would be seen as going backward or downward in value.Part 4 - Good and Bad Literature
The Harmonian philosophy is also a literary theory that values fiction and fiction-readers based on certain criteria. One, of course, is that fiction should adhere to the values described above. High-quality literature will value romantic love highly in a serious, non-frivolous, non-lust-affirming way, will include the proper
kind of love relationships with friendship gradually and harmoniously blossoming into love, and will naturally include a proper hierarchy of characters, with the important characters being morally worthy, surrounded by lesser characters who are less so. Naturally
, these important worthy characters will fall in love only with each other, and not with a lesser type of being.
There are other requirements as well. High-quality literature will be complex and serious, and will attract to itself a high caliber of readers, able to read deeply, care passionately about the work and its characters, and work diligently to interpret obscure symbolism and references to understand and appreciate the work's true meaning. If a work can be understood more easily, and by a lesser caliber of readers, if its appeal is broad rather than deep, if it is entertaining rather than meaningful, it will be valued far less (if not immediately discarded as "trash").
Humor is not valued highly in Harmonian literary theory, nor is the picaresque, the farcical, or the burlesque. Often scenes in the Harry Potter books which are taken as humorous and lighthearted by non-Harmonians are greeted by Harmonians with outrage and even horror. A prime example would be Hermione sending the canaries to attack Ron in Book 6 -- this is seen as shocking and disgusting physical abuse. Another example would be the "monster" in Harry's chest -- this seemingly lighthearted and original metaphor for Harry's sexual desires is viewed with deep suspicion by Harmonians, who see in it a strong hint that Harry's feelings for Ginny are driven purely by lust and tainted with evil connotations. Coarseness and humor in a romantic or sexual context seems to be considered particularly distasteful. Perhaps most disliked of all is humor which might be aimed at them
-- either in the books, such as the hippogriff tattoo, or in the author's interview with Emerson and Melissa and the comment on her website about dark alleys. Rather than defusing the situation and disarming their wrath, this type of humor is seen by them to be malicious, and much more offensive than a straight-faced, serious debunking.
In general, though, anything straightforward, obvious, or predictable is scorned (both in the books and in author interviews), and equivocation and "surprise twists" are expected, accepted, and admired, though this seems to be primarily in service to the need for the correct romantic outcome to occur. The Harry/Ginny relationship, for instance, is severely criticized because it wasn't
properly developed, foreshadowed, and telegraphed to the reader. However, there is no doubt that the ideal Harmonian work will involve a surprise romantic twist (frequently said to be similar to the book Emma
) when a relationship supposedly thought by readers to be platonic is suddenly revealed to be romantic. The apparent lack of such a romantic turn-around in the HP series is strongly felt to be a serious flaw.
Harmonian thinking judges literature for its success in transmitting moral values -- its ability to "elevate and instruct," as the Victorians put it. There has been much condemnation of J.K. Rowling on Harmonian boards for her statement in the recent interview that she does not write the books considering what sort of moral lesson she wants to transmit. This seems to be seen as an admission that the books are amoral or even immoral, most especially in the false and corrupting lessons they teach to pre-teens and teens about love. It is generally accepted by Harmonians that a major (possibly the
major) virtue of the first five books is the moral values they created and upheld, particularly through the character of Hermione. The alleged contradiction and destruction of these moral values in the sixth book is described as a travesty and a betrayal, doing serious damage to millions of children. Harmonians believe that if Rowling had written the books in the way they anticipated, it would have changed society significantly for the better, leading us out of an age of lust and materialism into a better era of Harmonian ideals. Her failure to follow through on this opportunity is seen as a grievous, most blameworthy dereliction.
Harmonians also frequently speak about themselves as being Rowling's "best readers" -- the smartest, most faithful, most diligent, and seeing the deep inner meanings and virtues in the books that other readers miss. My icon, taken from the_it_ship
, is a reasonably typical sample of this belief. I am not certain what criteria they use to thus place themselves over other obsessive fans endlessly searching the books for tiny clues to support elaborate, almost-sure-to-be-proved-wrong theories, or on what grounds the system of symbolism and subtext they saw in the books to support the H/Hr pairing is asserted to be better then the systems of symbolism and subtext found and discussed by Harry/Draco shippers or Harry/Ginny shippers, religious theorists such as John Granger, extreme puzzle-seekers such as Galadriel Waters, proponents of theories such as Ron=Dumbledore, Vampire!Snape, alive!Sirius, good!Snape, or any other of the myriad of Harry Potter obsessives. Perhaps that is simply a matter of faith.
However, regardless of my lack of comprehension about why
they claim it, this assurance is universal among Harmonians -- they are definitely, without doubt, Rowling's smartest, hardest-working, deepest, most sensitive, and most morally virtuous readers. This "fact" is usually mentioned whenever they discuss Rowling's dismissal of them and their ideals, and seems to be considered to make her offense much worse. Again we return to the division of people into more worthy and less worthy types, undeniably a central tenet of the Harmonian way of life. Conclusion - And Where is the Harmony?
There are many more observations I could share on the Harmonian philosophy, but I believe these are the most important points. I fear what I have written will be considered offensive to the true Harmonians -- and be taken as yet another attack when they are down. It wasn't intended that way, but it is perhaps inevitable, considering that I am writing about a value system I deeply disagree with, behavior I strenuously disapprove of, and people I mostly dislike.
It is hard not to offend in such circumstances.
So why, then, have I written this? I don't know. Why does one write anything? It interested me, and I thought that my explanation, blunt and biased as it is, might be better than no explanation at all. I do not admire the "Harmonian philosophy;" I am glad that J.K. Rowling does not ascribe to it and that she has not written her books in such a way. But the "Harmonians" exist -- rather prominently so at the moment -- and whatever exists must be understood or at least attempted
to be understood (according to my own personal decidedly UN-Harmonian philosophy). I have tried. Notes:
1. I do not consider all these people to be "Harmonians," nor do they all call themselves that name or ascribe to the values I describe here (though some certainly do). However, I think all these essays have been influential to and are admired by those who now call themselves "Harmonians" and follow the Harmonian philosophy.
2. Apparently bickering is only a flaw in a relationship, not necessarily in the people who do it. Though romance between Ron and Hermione is undesirable because they bicker with each other, incessant bickering is not perceived to be a personal flaw in Hermione and does not prevent her from being a worthy person, eligible to be loved by Harry. Ron, too, is allowed to have a relationship with someone else, as long as he doesn't bicker with them.