We’ve all fallen for the irresistible charms of Ginny Weasley. To borrow a chant: she’s pretty, she’s cool, she dominates [that] school! She’s almost too good to be true, which is actually my number one complaint about her characterization.
HOT TAKE: Ginny is not actually that great. Let me break it down.
Ginny turns out to be a very talented and popular girl with a mind of her own, and many readers admire her for her loyalty to Neville and Luna, who happen to be the two least popular kids in school. But before we elect Ginny Class Protector and congratulate her for taking such a huge stand against bullying, let’s admit there has been a bit of a collective-selective memory when it comes to our favorite Ginny and Luna moment.
Here’s what we like to remember:
“You could’ve taken anyone!” said Ron in disbelief over dinner. “Anyone! And you chose Loony Lovegood?”
“Don’t call her that, Ron” snapped Ginny, pausing behind Harry on her way to join friends. “I’m really glad you’re taking her, Harry, she’s so excited.”
-Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Yeah, yeah, it’s nice to see this friendship flourishing, especially since the beginning of it sure was problematic:
[Neville] “…everywhere’s full… I can’t find a seat…”
“What are you talking about?” said Ginny, who had squeezed past Neville to peer into the compartment behind him. “There’s room in this one, there’s only Loony Lovegood in here – ”
-Harry Potter And The Order of The Phoenix
Ginny is actually the first person in the books to call Luna “Loony Lovegood.” Judging by her attitude, she did not choose that compartment so she could introduce her dearest Ravenclaw friend to Harry and Neville—for the rest of the train ride, Ginny is openly laughing at Luna’s unusual perspective. Bit rude.
Of course, she grows closer to Luna and they become friends, and Ginny goes from laughing at her face to standing up for her, but I’m not quite done with the bullying topic.
When teenage drama gets magical, it gets a bit harder for us readers to see the lines being crossed, ‘specially at Hogwarts, where if you mess up your transfiguration homework you might end up in the hospital wing with a tail, and an inter-school magical competition has a death toll. It’s hard to tell if causing a slight diversion by turning into a large canary is a traumatic and humiliating experience or just another Wednesday.
But even in the admittedly perilous halls of Hogwarts, Ginny’s tendency to finish arguments with jinxes and hexes is noteworthy. The point that Ginny is extraordinarily talented and capable of defending herself is made by how well she did in the DA, and later her survival in duels with witches and wizards more experienced then herself—hexing other students because they annoy her (like she did with Zacharias Smith) shouldn’t earn her any gold stars.
This difficulty in sorting out right from wrong, a defensive spell from an offensive spell, and even light from dark magic is not something that Ginny is guilty of exclusively—a long list of dear characters have a history of meddling with tasteless magic: Fred and George (from whom Ginny might be taking some cues) testing products on first years and selling a love potion (aka the roofies of the wizarding world) in their shop, James and Sirius hoisting people up in the air for kicks, Hermione’s wicked “SNEAK” jinx are all examples. To say nothing of Harry and the whole Sectumsempra episode…
“Give it a rest, Hermione!” said Ginny, and Harry was so amazed, so grateful, he looked up. “By the sound of it Malfoy was trying to use an unforgivable curse, you should be glad Harry had something good up his sleeve!”
“Well, of course I’m glad Harry wasn’t cursed!” said Hermione, clearly stung. “But you can’t call that sectumsempra spell good, Ginny, look where it’s landed him! And I’d have thought, seeing what this has done to your chances in the match –”
“Oh, don’t start acting as though you understand Quidditch,” snapped Ginny. “You’ll only embarrass yourself.”
-Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
If you can’t see who has the reason in this scene, then I don’t know what to do with you.
Ginny’s friendship with Luna (after the awkward beginning was cropped out of the picture) also became some sort of token of sisterhood, and in addition to her take-no-sh*t attitude, turned her into a feminist icon in the Potterverse. I am not here to rip the feminist badge from her robes, but to advise that we turn a critical eye on even our role models—and if we’re gonna live by Ginny’s rules of sorority, then god help us:
“Yes, well, your father and I were made for each other, what was the point of waiting?” said Mrs Weasley, “Whereas Bill and Fleur…well…what they really got in common? He’s a hard-working, down to earth sort of person, whereas she’s-”
“A cow,” said Ginny, nodding.
–Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince
Again, Ginny is not alone in being unnecessarily mean to Fleur; almost every female character initially judges her superficially, demonstrating their internalized misogyny. It can be irritating to have someone over for such an extended period, but it’s very obvious that the reason why Fleur is treated so poorly is that she’s very beautiful and very opinionated.
Fleur is not the only female character that seems to spark this unhealthy competitiveness and distrust in Ginny—she’s also jealous of Cho Chang:
“If you’d like to see what the diadem’s supposed to look like, I could take you up to our common room and show you, Harry? Ravenclaw’s wearing it in her statue.”
Cho had got to her feet, but Ginny said rather fiercely, “No, Luna will take Harry, won’t you, Luna?”
-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Jealousy isn’t an unnatural feeling and I don’t mean to judge or drag Ginny for it, but it exposes a kind of insecurity that people tend to deny she possesses. If we can’t recognize the flaws in our faves, how can we learn from them?
Now that we can agree that Ginny is not too good to be true, we can go back to loving her the way she is: fierce, capable, rebellious and a bit problematic.