image: pottermore.com

Strong Female Characters: Ginny Weasley

For those of you that don’t know, Ginny is one of the leading female characters in JK Rowling’s phenomenally successful Harry Potter series. Set at a secret magical boarding school, the plot revolves around a group of plucky kids coming together to defeat Wizard Hitler – and Ginny happens to be one of those kids. As everyone and their mother probably knows by now, the books were a massive success, spawning a star-studded movie series, legions of fans (all producing fan art, fanfiction and fan theories) and some of the best audiobooks known to man. Ginny herself was a reasonably central figure in all of this – although her role was considerably cut down for the movies – and has turned out to be a surprisingly controversial character among some of the fans.

But does she measure up to the hype? Let’s find out – but watch out for spoilers!

 

NOTE: Just so we’re clear, I will be basing my analysis on the book version of Ginny, because the film version is a bit rubbish.

 

  1. Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?

Most of the time, Ginny is a character that has a reasonable amount of control over her own destiny. In the earlier books, she’s a little constrained, because being so much younger she still has to rely on other people to take care of her most of the time. However, as the series progresses, she becomes much more independent. She gets much more control over what she does, who she sees and where she goes as she gets older, despite the fact that most of the restrictions placed upon her are still in place. Whether she’s defying her parents to go and fight against Voldemort, or sneaking around school trying to annoy Professor Umbridge, she’s still taking matters into her own hands and trying to improve her own life. I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 1

 

  1. Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?

Ginny’s hobbies are pretty well-established – she enjoys Quidditch, pulling a few pranks and spending time with animals. Her beliefs are pretty strong too: she believes people should stand up for their friends, has a rather lax attitude to parental restrictions, and seems to have a particular dislike for people acting like hypocrites. Her goals are also well-defined – most of the time she just wants to help Harry, Ron and Hermione on their various quests, but she also wants to pursue a career in Quidditch and bring down Voldemort. She’s firing on all three cylinders, so she passes this round with flying colours.

giphy ginny
HAHA GET IT IT’S BECAUSE SHE’S ON A BROOMSTICK (image: giphy.com)

SCORE SO FAR: 2

 

  1. Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?

For the most part, her personality is pretty consistent. She’s independent, forceful, stubborn, determined, sporty, tough, brave, funny, kind and has a little bit of a temper – although at the start of the series she’s a lot more shy around Harry. Her skills are pretty consistent, too – over the course of the series we see her become an accomplished dueller and Quidditch player, once she has a little time to find her feet.

SCORE SO FAR: 3

 

  1. Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?

A brave, determined, stubborn young witch must help her friends to bring down the most evil wizard of all time.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?

 

Ginny’s love life is a pretty constant feature of the series. When she first meets Harry, she gets a HUGE crush on him, and this is played as a running joke in the background of the first few books. As the series goes on, she starts dating other people – but again, this is mostly in the background until the sixth and seventh books, when she finally starts dating Harry.

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Pack that in, you two. (image: tumblr.com)

This has led to a few fan complaints that Ginny was only included in the books to be Harry’s love interest. While that may be true, there’s no denying the fact that ‘love interest’ is not her only function in the story. She makes plenty of decisions that aren’t affected by her love life at all – whether that’s trying out for the Quidditch team, joining (and later re-starting) Dumbledore’s Army, trying to steal and smuggle out the Sword of Gryffindor to Harry, Ron and Hermione or fighting alongside her friends and family in the Battle of Hogwarts. Her love life is a pretty large part of her character, but it’s not the only part, and she’s shown more than once that she’s capable of prioritising other things over her romantic entanglements. I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

  1. Does she develop over the course of the story?

Ginny actually undergoes quite a bit of character development in the Harry Potter series. She starts off as a very shy little girl who’s a little bit afraid of stepping out of line, but as she gets older she learns to relax when she’s nervous, becomes more confident and learns when (and how) to break the rules and get away with it.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

Ginny doesn’t really have that much of a weakness. She’s got a bit of a temper, which often leads her to hex people who annoy her, but this doesn’t actually have many consequences for her. Her sporadically cursing people isn’t treated as something she should stop doing, but rather as a sign of her ‘feisty’ nature, and more often than not people are charmed by her actions rather than frightened. Even her teachers rarely punish her – and the ones who do are often portrayed as ‘evil’ characters in their own right.

dolores_umbridge
But she’s got a cup of tea, how could she be nasty? (image: photobucket.com)

This has led some to criticise Ginny for being a Mary Sue – a character who is so perfect that they never have to work for anything, never have any flaws, and everyone loves them. I’ve talked about Sues before, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much, but if you’re interested in the term I strongly encourage you to do some research of your own. However, I’m not really sure if this criticism can be applied to Ginny. True, she doesn’t have many flaws, and a lot of guys fancy her, but she isn’t given an easy ride the way most Sues are and does get a chance to grow and develop. I don’t think she’s a Sue, but I am going to withhold the point this round.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?

Ginny is a real influence on the plot. She fights alongside our Golden Trio, she works against the villains in her own way, and she helps the good guys on their quest to defeat Voldemort. It’s true that she does a lot more in later books than she does at the beginning of the series, but even then she’s still a figure that advances the plot.

SCORE SO FAR: 7

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

Gender stereotypes certainly influence Ginny’s character, but they don’t dictate it. It’s easy to see where stereotypes have influenced her development – she’s a redhead with a hot temper, she’s a girl who was so painfully shy she made a fool of herself whenever she was around her crush, she’s a ‘tomboy’ character who picked up her interests because she grew up with six brothers. These are all traits which are pretty common stereotypes, but they don’t dominate her personality.

The same can be said of her role as Harry’s love interest. It’s easy to make the argument that she was introduced so early on in the series as Harry’s future wife, as we hear such a lot about her when it’s not strictly relevant to the plot. People have already made the argument that JK Rowling only introduced her character to give Harry a happy ending, and while that may well be true – I don’t know, I haven’t asked JKR – that doesn’t necessarily mean that is the extent of her character. If you took Ginny out of the Harry Potter series, the plot wouldn’t be the same without her, and the same cannot be said of most typical love interests.

MatrixTrinity
Naming no names. (image: en.wikipedia.org)

Long story short, the stereotypes are certainly there, but I don’t think they completely ruin her character in the process. I’ll give her half a point.

SCORE SO FAR: 7.5

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

Ginny has loads of different relationships with other female characters. She’s a little exasperated by, but ultimately loves, her mother. She stands up for and becomes friends with Luna Lovegood. She’s best friends with Hermione Granger, who she confides in, sticks up for, and asks for advice, even though the two girls are actually very different people. She doesn’t like Fleur Delacour at first, but eventually warms up to her when she realises she isn’t as shallow as she thought. She’s a little jealous of Cho Chang, she hates Professor Umbridge, she respects Professor McGonagall, and she actively works to bring down Bellatrix Lestrange. That’s a range of relationships which develop in their own ways, all with a range of different characters, so I’ll give her the point.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10

 

Ginny is a well-rounded character who takes control of her own life throughout the series, has her own hobbies, goals and beliefs, isn’t completely ruled by her love life and has a range of different relationships with a range of different female characters. She doesn’t have any weaknesses and she’s mildly influenced by gender stereotypes, but that hasn’t stopped her from passing my test!

Next week, I’ll be looking at a new favourite of mine. Liz Lemon, I’m coming for you.

 

And if you’re looking for all my posts on Strong Female Characters, you can find them here.

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21 thoughts on “Strong Female Characters: Ginny Weasley”

  1. I actually don’t think that being shy was ever really a character trait of Ginny. She is shy around Harry, but more or less the first thing Ron does is to mention how unusual that behaviour is for her, because she normally doesn’t shut up. So I guess he crush makes her shy?

    Either way, good analyses, I agree. I have to add, that Ginny is also subverting a fair share of gender-typical clichés. For example, while she is a little bit of a tomboy, she also enjoys things which are more “feminine”. While she is introduced as the “nice little girl” it later turns out that she is at least as devious as the twins, but has a way easier time to get away with it, because she is the “innocent girl” in the eye of her mother. She is small, but just like it is the case with Harry, her size has no relation whatsoever to the power she can wield. But above all I like the fact that Harry rescuing her is NOT what leads to a relationship between those two. Nor is it her looks (even though Harry never has anything negative to say about it), but the fact that she treats him like a normal person and those two have a lot in common (above all they share the same sense of dark humour). The one time Harry falls for a girl because of physical attraction only, it doesn’t work out once he looks behind the façade.

    Concerning the Mary Sue thing: We shouldn’t forget that the books are mainly written from Harry’s point of view. Naturally he thinks that she is perfect. He should, he is in love with her.

    Hate what the movies did to her, btw. I always felt that if someone wanted to write a book about the war against Voldemort from another perspective, it should be her. She is the only other person who knows how it feels to have him in your head, and she lead the DA in Harry’s absence together with Neville.

    1. You’re spot on about the rescue not leading to a relationship – it’s actually really refreshing to see that in fiction. It’s a real shame that side of their relationship didn’t come out in the movies 😦

          1. The first two movies were closer to the book in general. Perhaps a little bit too close. The third movie might have been the best in finding a balance between respecting the source material and still not forgetting that this is supposed to be a movie. But then the series went of the rails, with action scenes being prioritised over deeper meaning and careful character development. And what they did to Ron and Ginny was frankly a crime.

            1. Well, it’s always going to be difficult adapting something like the HP books because there’s just so much stuff to include – they’re having the same problems with Game of Thrones. I do think they had a really good go of it, but it’ll never really measure up to the books.

  2. Ginny is a character I am torn about. She’s not a bad character by any means, but I don’t think I would have given her the point about “influence on the plot”. She does influence the plot in Chamber of Secrets of course (but does get captured). But in the later books she’s mostly there and fighting, but doesn’t have much impact. If you would take her out of these books not much would have to be rewritten.

    On the othe rhand, I do think that she has flaws. At least her trust in Tom Riddle’s diary is seen as such.

  3. Hinny is a character I’m torn about. I’m not sure if I would give her the point for influence on the plot, because I don’t think that she has much impact on the plot after Chamber of Secrets. Sure, she’s mostly there, but if you’d take her out, not too much would have changed.

    On the other hand: I do think that she has flaws. At the very least her trust in Tom’s diary is clearly portrayed as such.

    1. I don’t know, I think she has a lot of background influence – particularly in the later books, when she starts doing her own thing more often.

      And to be honest, I don’t think I would count her trust in Tom’s diary as a flaw. I mean, she’s an eleven-year-old – I feel that it would be a bit unfair of me to dock her points for not having enough life experience to know a suspicious object when she sees one.

        1. I’m still not convinced – like I said earlier, I don’t think it’d be fair for me to mark down an eleven-year-old for not being able to recognise when a situation is really dangerous. There are plenty of kids that age who’ve been warned against stuff by their parents and don’t understand why it’s so dangerous in the first place.

        2. She thought that it was a present of her mother, though, because it was between her books. It’s not like Ron tells Harry to turn this thing immediately in either.

  4. Her character development and consistency (question 3 and 6) is patchy at best. Even though we are told briefly that she’s quite chatty around everyone but Harry, her change of attitude starting from the fifth book onwards was very sudden and abrupt. We, as readers, are only told rather offhandedly by other characters she decided to do this and that but never witnessed it. She is a victim of the “tell, don’t show”. Maybe she can be considered a SFC, with well established hobbies and beliefs, etc, but from a writing point of view, she’s just horribly written. Or should I say, lack of writing because everything happens off-page. One book she is one thing, the next book she has another completely different personality, we are told just to accept the change.
    And yet Tris Prior was marked down for inconsistency because she went on to become top of her class. At least, we are given a reason why this happened, it was her divergence that helped her.

    1. Actually, I think it’s handled pretty well considering how little ‘screen time’ she gets when she’s not at the centre of the action. If you look at her and Harry’s interactions in book 3 and 4, you can actually see her coming out of her shell, particularly when Harry asks her to the Yule Ball.

      Could it have been better handled? Probably, but I don’t think that it was handled badly enough to warrant failing those two questions completely. Considering how little she’s in books 3 to 5, I think Rowling did a decent job on showing how her character changes as she gets older.

      1. “If you look at her and Harry’s interactions in book 3 and 4, you can actually see her coming out of her shell, particularly when Harry asks her to the Yule Ball.”
        Exactly. Why is it that people cannot see that Ginny was well on her way to become her normal self around Harry in GoF when she shown to be perfectly able to have normal conversations with Harry on a pretty wide range of subjects?

  5. I agree that Ginny didn’t have enough of a presence in the books, and the films didn’t do her or other characters justice. I was wondering how you’d rate her and I’m glas she passed. JK has said that Hermione was the girl she was growing up, and Ginny was the girl she wanted to be.

  6. I don’t really think that Ginny is that much of a strong character. Please know that this is only my own personal opinion. She relies to much on the others and sometimes acts a bit peculiar and awkward. That’s fine with me but what’s not is because it’s for Harry! Heroes don’t date fangirls do they? Maybe its the way they portray her in the books and movies…I don’t know. I just have never thought of her as a good character.

    1. I kind of have to disagree about Ginny being a fangirl here, a fangirl would definitely not try to stand up to their crash or understand them enough to tell his arch-enemy that he doesn’t want all the attention (in CoS Flourish and Blotts)). If there’s anything wrong, I think the problem is that Harry is really stunted emotionally (probably because of his upbringing) to be able to care for the other person in the relationship well. I certainly understand why people would not like Ginny though.

  7. Good post again Jo and I generally I agree with everything you wrote here and it is refreshing to see some posts that are not full of Ginny hate (and Ginny really isn’t my favourite character either) that were unfortunately rather prevalent after the last 2 books were released.

    “She’s got a bit of a temper, which often leads her to hex people who annoy her, but this doesn’t actually have many consequences for her. Her sporadically cursing people isn’t treated as something she should stop doing, but rather as a sign of her ‘feisty’ nature, and more often than not people are charmed by her actions rather than frightened.”
    I think this part sums up one of the biggest issues I had with Ginny. She never had to show remorse or recognise some of the things she did was just plain wrong. Simple. Another good example would be how much she was kicking Ron down in HBP when he was already feeling down and terrible and yet nothing was said about it. It’s such a far cry from the nice girl who comforted him in GoF.

    “The same can be said of her role as Harry’s love interest. It’s easy to make the argument that she was introduced so early on in the series as Harry’s future wife, as we hear such a lot about her when it’s not strictly relevant to the plot. People have already made the argument that JK Rowling only introduced her character to give Harry a happy ending, and while that may well be true – I don’t know, I haven’t asked JKR – that doesn’t necessarily mean that is the extent of her character.”

    I think there is no doubt that Ginny IS intended mainly to be Harry’s love interest and to give him a happy ending which generally consists of himself surrounded by his big family as shown in the Mirror of Erised in PS/SS. JKR even admitted in an interview that her plan was to get readers to eventually realise that Ginny is Harry’s ideal girl. I do agree she is more than just the love interest, just like Ron and Hermione are more than just Harry’s sidekicks.

    I think a big reason that caused people to dislike Ginny’s role is how H/G relationship was written in the books. Unfortunately, Rowling simply didn’t write many scenes that showed them being happy and content with each other in the last 2 books and scenes where Harry was able to comfort Ginny like she comforted him is rather scarce. I am not sure if I buy this argument but I can see where they are coming from.

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