This is Hermione Granger depicted as a woman of color. She isn’t a girl with sleek, non-bushy curls and fair skin like we expect from the films’ casting. Nowhere in the books is Hermione’s race mentioned, the only description of her skin being that she looked “very brown” at one point, so it is safe to assume that she could be any race the reader projects on to her. The internet, especially Tumblr, did just that, and in the past year or so, the Harry Potter fandom exploded with images, discussions, stories, and analyses of Hermione Granger as a black Muggleborn witch who experiences prejudice based on her skin color in the Muggle world and blood status in the magical world. This illustration by Batcii/Tumblr is one of many fan arts that provides women of color the representation lost when Emma Watson was cast as Hermione in the first Harry Potter film. Hermione Granger is a literary and cultural icon for female empowerment, intellect, and strength, serving as a role model for tons of young girls all over the world, but it is damaging to think that these aspirations are attainable only by white girls.
When I first read the Harry Potter series, I am sure I imagined Hermione as a white girl. I pictured bushy, brownish hair and pale skin, brown eyes and an upturned, Western nose. It never even occurred to me that Hermione could be black or brown or even Asian; I naturally assumed she is white because that is what I have been conditioned to consider the default race. It scares and angers me that I don’t even consider my own race first when imagining fictional characters, so it was extremely refreshing, validating, and engaging to witness the internet embracing the act of “racebending,” for Hermione Granger. Though most depictions of her as a woman of color depict her as black, Hermione is so much more relatable and meaningful as a character than she ever was when white.
Anyone who watched Mad Men to the very end knows this iconic scene and the moment of triumph it depicts for the show’s defining female lead. Gone is the mousy, self-conscious secretary of season one; in her place is Peggy Olson, destroyer of glass ceilings and all around awesome female character. Peggy’s development over the course of seven seasons depicts not only her personal struggles with achieving success in advertising, but also the universal battle women face when entering the professional world. Sexism, misogyny, entitlement, sexual harassment, discrimination, and many other instances of unfairness inherent with 60s and 70s era workplace environments produce a sea of obstacles for working women. Peggy tackles the situation head on with force, determination, and innate talent. Despite all the successes she achieved along the way as SC&P’s copy chief, Don’s protégé, and a renowned copywriter in the advertising community, Peggy is mistaken for a secretary at McCann Erikson and is reduced to the status she started out with eight years ago. But with a little encouragement from Roger Sterling, Peggy walks into the office like a boss with a cigarette sticking out of her mouth, a racy painting tucked under her arm, sassy attire, and sunglasses to pull it all off. Confidence and power exude from her every step.
I love this scene. Not only is it aesthetically gorgeous thanks to costuming, cinematography, and set design, but it is absolutely the most fist-pump-inducing Peggy scene in the entire series. In that moment, I wanted to be her, to have that confidence to walk into an extremely male-dominated and powerful corporate office and just say “Who cares?” Peggy, though having many faults, is one of my fondest fictional role models because she embodies the drive and ambition women are discouraged to have in the workplace. Like Elisabeth Moss said of her character, Peggy won’t be the one to burn bras for feminism, but the women who ask for pay raises or promotions do just as much to further the cause. The least we could do is be a little more like Peggy Olson.