The Dismantling of Ron Weasley's Legacy
*WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Recently, Bayana and I traveled to London to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We reviewed our thoughts on a bonus episode of #WizardTeam but one aspect of the play has continued to plague me since leaving the UK. The aspect of the play is the characterization of Ronald Bilius Weasley and it is something that has plagued Ron since the release of the films and has only gotten more egregious with time.
Bayana once wrote about the Revisionist History of Severus Snape and how the fandom has glorified Snape, downplaying his (many faults) and at times completely ignoring his role in the abuse of innocent children. Since the end of the books I have noticed a similar phenomenon with Ron - though instead of heightening his heroic characteristics they have become downplayed. As we re-read the books on #WizardTeam, I am reminded about how complex the characterization of Ron is. Ron is smart, brave, and fiercely loyal while also being lazy, inconsiderate, and deeply insecure. Throughout the series, Ron serves as a stand-in for the average pure-blooded witch and wizard. Though he is mostly well-intentioned, he is so blinded by his family’s poverty, that he takes it for granted the privilege he has in comparison to his two best friends.
However, another characteristic of Ron is his sarcasm, dry wit, and humor. Ron can always be counted on to bring levity to dangerous and stressful situations. This is really only a small part of Ron’s personality, no doubt inherited from his father and enhanced by his older twin brothers, Fred and George. While his humor is undoubtedly an aspect of Ron’s personality it is completely exaggerated in the films and completely all-encompassing in the stage play. The humor that Ron shows in the books are a tool to mask his insecurity, he usually uses this humor to diffuse tense situations or to comfort those he cares about. In the films and the play, his humor is the only redeeming quality to Ron. He is portrayed as a buffoon on stage and in the earlier films and though his characterization matures somewhat in the later films he still primarily plays the role of comic relief.
Another offensive recharacterization of Ron is his intelligence or lack thereof. In the films, Hermione is given many insightful moments that the books attribute to Ron. While Ron can be lazy and unmotivated when it comes to his schoolwork, he frequently is shown to be a strategic and practical thinker. He often gives Harry and Hermione the context needed to understand the situations they find themselves in. While his portrayal in the film is solely as Harry’s sidekick and antagonist for Hermione until winning her affection, book Ron is more complex and three-dimensional.
One of the most offensive moments in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child comes in Act Four of part two of the play when Harry and Hermione are defending themselves against the angry Wizarding community states:
In this one moment, Ron betrays the very core of who he is. In Prisoner of Azkaban he refuses to believe the truth about Scabbers until the very moment he is shown to be Peter Pettigrew, so how are we to believe that he would so quickly deflect blame from himself to the two closest people in his life?
As a society, we have become more and more reluctant to understand nuance and complexity - but it is vital to our understanding of the world. Book Ron is a great summation of what a complex and nuanced person looks like and we should celebrate his triumphs as well as his flaws. Not everyone can be the Chosen One or the Brightest Witch of their age, but we can all strive to be loyal, kind and question the beliefs we hold when confronted with the damage those beliefs may inflict on others. We can all be Ron - but let’s make sure that we are the best version of him.