Displays Of Sexism In The Great Hall

Both Durmstrang and Beauxbatons were co-ed schools. Repeat after me: in the Harry Potter books, both Durmstrang and Beauxbatons were co-ed schools.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there is anything harder than adapting a long, detailed and immensely popular book into a film. Inevitably, vital scenes will have to be cut, and frenzied fans like myself will be disappointed by these cuts. Do you all remember the scene with the Weasleys getting stuck in the chimney at the Dursleys’ house? I would have paid good money to see that. Also, Ludo Bagman never made it into the film, leaving me to wonder forever how handsome he actually was.

Yet I think that the filmmakers that worked on the Harry Potter franchise did a remarkably good job of adapting those books into movies. Most of the central storyline is in the scripts, and on top of that the movies are designed with such incredible eye for detail that you really feel as though you are entering the Wizarding World; the films never do harm to the dreamlike fictional quality of the Harry Potter universe. If anything, they add to it.

Of course, there are a few things that haven’t gone entirely to plan. For example, Dumbledore asking Harry a question “calmly” was turned into a crazed shouting match in the Goblet Of Fire film. This discrepancy has become quite infamous all over the internet, although it never bothered me much. The intonation of a single sentence isn’t important to the story; I would argue that, in a film, the fiery delivery of the line adds to the excitement. So no big deal.

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There is one other way in which the Goblet Of Fire film deviates from the book, and that is a more disturbing difference. Have a look at the pictures below. The top one shows the boys of the Durmstrang Institute entering Hogwarts to take part in the Triwizard Tournament. The one below shows the entrance made by the all-female student body of Beauxbatons.

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There are two things wrong with this scene.

First off, both Durmstrang and Beauxbatons were co-ed schools. Let me explain that to you: co-ed, or co-educational, means that Beauxbatons accepts students of all genders, as does Durmstrang. However, for some strange reason, in the scene we see in the film all Beauxbatons students are ladies and all Durmstrang students are gentlemen.

That’s a pretty random change to make. What makes it so that this minor detail needed to be changed? Does it take up less screen time to introduce two groups of people if they can be differentiated by their gender? How stupid do you think your viewers are? Also, when making this change, a subtle nuance of the books is lost: no one ever mentions that Durmstrang only accepts pureblood students. However, this fact is quite interesting, especially when we take into account that Durmstrang Champion Viktor Krum asks Hermione the Muggleborn out on a date.

Worse than that, though, is the way the foreign students make their entrance. The Durmstrang students show off some mad martial arts skills, and the Beauxbatons students show off their feminine wiles. They go floating around the great hall with their floppy skirts and their perky breasts and their perfect hairstyles, and they completely enchant the boys of Hogwarts.

Somehow, I feel as though this change is also detrimental to the characterization of Fleur Delacour, the Beauxbatons Champion. In the film, she is portrayed as a pretty yet timid girl, where as in the books, she is absolutely fierce. Somehow the way she enters the Great Hall adds to her image as a fragile little thing with a penchant for whining about broken nails and split ends. Also the all-girls nature of Beauxbatons seems to imply that a girl can only be a Triwizard Champion if she doesn’t have to compete with any boys.

The message here seems to be that boys are best at fighting, and girls are best at being pretty. So, this scene perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes; and that is something I had really hoped the Harry Potter franchise would never do.

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