Ron Weasley: the gutting of a character
(Strap yourselves in, everyone- this is a very long post)
I should start this post by pointing out that I’m a big Ron Weasley fan- I like his complex character, humour, and his overall character arc. Despite what the film series did to Ron, I am not knocking Rupert Grint’s portrayal of the character- Grint is a talented actor, and he did a fine job with what was given to him. The problem is that he was given very little in comparison with Radcliffe and Watson. Ron Weasley is a complex character that arguable deserved much better treatment than he was given in the film series.
In the post, I’ll be looking over the cool, bad-ass and interesting actions of the character that were given over to Hermione or otherwise changed in the films. Sometimes it isn’t just the dialogue, but the framing of how the audience is supposed to react to the character of Ron Weasley.
I should also point out that I like Hermione a lot- she’s one of my favourite characters in the books, but I wanted to see the three awesome characters in the golden trio that I knew from the books, not two awesome characters and a comedic sidekick. Emma Watson is a great actor, and did a fantastic job of portraying Hermione. I just wish that the characterisation of Ron had been given as much thought as that of Hermione. During the course of the film series, Hermione’s character was a victim of the ‘Legolas effect’, a term coined by the reviewer ‘The Dom’ in his Harry Potterathon video series. Hermione was given dialogue, actions and traits of other characters.
One of the main themes of this is that film Hermione was given significant portions of Ron’s dialogue, character and traits. In effect, the character of Hermione was changed from a flawed but brilliant character into a near-perfect character with few flaws if any. Ron, on the other hand, was changed from a compelling flawed but lovable character into a comedic sidekick who the other two hung around with for no real reason.
Let’s start off with ‘The Philosophers Stone’. In the scene with Devils Snare, the golden trio are trying to discover a way to get past the plant. In the books, Hermione is trying to remember how to stop it using a rhyme that Professor Sprout told them. Harry then finishes the rhyme, pointing out that Devils Snare hates fire. However, Hermione (in the heat of the moment) forgets that she is a witch and exclaims that they don’t have anything to burn. Ron then loudly reminds her that she is, in fact, in possession of magical powers, and Hermione then conjured up flames to get rid of Devils Snare. It’s a scene that highlights the different strengths of the three heroes- Hermione’s brains, Harry resourcefulness, and Ron’s common-sense.
In the film adaptation, the Devil Snare releases a person when they do nothing. Hermione tells the other two this, but only Harry listens to her, leaving Ron trapped above them in a state of terror, thinking both of his friends have been destroyed by the plant. Hermione then remembers that Devils Snare hates sunlight (I don’t know why it was changed) and she sends light into the plant, which releases Ron. We are then treated to this little bit of dialogue;
Ron: Good thing we didn’t panic
(Harry and Hermione glare at Ron)
Harry: Good thing Hermione pays attention in Herbology
Notice the framing is changed. Instead of Ron being the one with common sense and reminding Hermione that she can conjure flames, in the film adaptation, Ron is the loud-mouthed one who doesn’t listen to his friends’ advice and then has the gall to act like he was being sensible. The audience is expected to laugh at Ron’s incompetence and praise Hermione’s resourcefulness, as opposed to the book where the reader was encouraged to see the different strengths of the three heroes.
Next, in ‘Chamber of Secrets’, there is the scene in Hagrids hut where the connotations of the slur ‘mudblood’ is explained. In the book, Ron is the one who explains the usage of the term, since Hermione (being relatively new to the wizarding world) didn’t know what it meant. She knew that it was ‘really rude, of course’ due to the reactions of Ron and the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
In the films, however, it is Hermione who explains the connotations of the slur. What does Ron do in this scene? Vomits slugs into a large bucket whilst looking very pale and clammy.
Ron is framed as comedic relief whilst Hermione gets the exposition about the concept of ‘blood-purity’ in the wizarding world. It also implies that Hermione either learnt about this from a textbook, from a teacher, or has already experienced this already since she was introduced to the wizarding world.
Next is ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’. This one scene is one of the bigger changes that the films made in regards to the friendship dynamic of the golden trio. In the book, when Sirius Black is cornering Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Shrieking Shack, Ron stands in between Harry and Sirius and (on a broken leg and clearly in a lot of pain) declares that, if Black wants to kill Harry, he’ll have to kill Ron and Hermione first. It’s one of Ron’s standout moments in the book series, showing his loyalty to his friends and his brave nature as a character.
So how does this scene get translated on screen? Hermione stands between Black and Harry and says the cool line. Ron mumbles and whimpers on the floor in the background.
Once again, one character is made to be seen as brave, cool and heroic, whilst the other is stripped of one of their coolest moments. Not only does this scene remove one of Ron’s coolest moments, but it also changes the entire friendship dynamic between the three heroes. Up until this point, the films had largely kept to the idea that Ron was Harry’s best friend and was, more or less, on equal footing with Hermione as Harry confidant and ally. However, by switching the line and bad-ass action over to Hermione, the film series begins to cement the idea that Hermione is Harry’s best friend, and that Ron is more of a hanger-on rather than a steadfast friend or ally for the other two. This is something that would become quite common in the next few films.
In ‘The Goblet of Fire’, there is an interesting little scene where Ron talks to Harry about asking Fleur Delacour to the Yule Ball. In the books, he largely describes the whole thing (albeit with Ginny explaining the main points to Harry at the start). It shows that Ron was utterly embarrassed, confused and startled by his own decision.
In the films, however, it goes like this-
Ginny: It’s okay, Ron. It’s alright. It doesn’t matter.
Harry: What happened to you?
Ginny: He just asked Fleur Delacour out.
Harry: What did she say?
Hermione: She said yes?
Ron: Don’t be silly. There she was, just walking by… you know how I like it when they walk… I couldn’t help it! It just sort of slipped out.
Ginny: Actually, he sort of screamed at her. It was a bit frightening.
Ron enters the scene literally being led into the common room by the arm by Ginny, and then (half-dazed) explains part of it. It doesn’t help that Ginny ends it with a one-liner that pokes fun at Ron’s immaturity around girls.
See the difference? Ron’s agency in his own story is largely cut out and played almost entirely for laughs. Hermione is not, understandably, given Ron’s lines in this bit, but in the book she wasn’t even in the room when this was brought up.
Next we have ‘The Order of the Phoenix’. In the scene where Harry reunites with Ron and Hermione at Grimmauld Place, it is explained to Harry why they couldn’t contact him during the summer. In the book, both Ron and Hermione explain that Dumbledore made both Ron and Hermione swear not to tell Harry anything over the summer. It shows that they both understand that Harry would be angry at not knowing anything over the summer holidays, as well as highlighting the close bond that the three of them share.
In the film adaptation, this explanation is given to Hermione, and Ron largely stands in the background and says very little. This highlights the friendship dynamic of the three changing in the film adaptation. They are not three friends as much as the boy who lived, the brightest witch of her age, and their comedic sidekick who tags along.
In ‘The Half-Blood Prince’ ending scene (after Dumbledore’s funeral), Ron and Hermione say that they’ll go with Harry on his quest for the Horcruxes. Hermione says that ‘You said to us once before, that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we?’ and Ron follows her up, stating that ‘We’re with you whatever happens’. It highlights the friendship between the three, and shows their commitment to each other. They are clearly a trio here.
I’ve already talked about the film’s version of this scene in a previous post (see ‘Ron Weasley and the inability to stand next to your friends: an issue with scene staging’ at https://www.tumblr.com/dashboard/blog/headcanonsandmore/166883432059) but it does bear repeating. Hermione says her bit about them all going after the Horcruxes. Ron sits in the background during this scene and I’m not even sure if he had any dialogue.
I understand that Rupert Grint was ill with Swine Flu when they filmed this, but it’s not that difficult to give him dialogue and then edit it in in post-production. If you can do it with computer generated characters like Dobby, then you can certainly do it with a physical person.
Finally, in ‘The Deathly Hallows’, there is the scene wherein Ron briefly leaves the other two in their hunt for the Horcruxes. I’ll give you the two different bits of dialogue for comparison.
Ron: We thought you knew what you were doing! We thought Dumbledore had told you what to do, we thought you had a real plan!
Hermione: Ron! Take off the locket, Ron. Please take it off. You wouldn’t be talking like this if you hadn’t been wearing it all day.
Harry: Leave the Horcrux.
Ron: What are you doing?
Hermione: What do you mean?
Ron: Are you staying, or what?
Hermione: I – Yes – yes, I’m staying. Ron, we said we’d go with Harry, we said we’d help –
Ron: I get it. You choose him.
Hermione: Ron, no – please – come back, come back!
Ron: You don’t know why I listen to the radio, do you? To make sure I don’t hear Ginny’s name. Or Fred, or George, or Mum.
Harry: You think I’m not listening too? You think I don’t know how this feels?
Ron: No, you don’t know how it feels! Your parents are dead! You have no family!
Harry: Fine then, go! Go then!
Ron: [to Hermione] And you? Are you coming or are you staying? Fine. I get it. I saw you two the other night.
Hermione: Ron, that’s – that’s nothing!
Notice the slight difference in how Hermione replies to Ron’s query as to what she is doing. In the book, Hermione makes it very clear that she is staying with Harry because she said that she would help in destroying the Horcruxes. She clearly frames it as an act of loyalty to her friend as opposed to anything else. In the films, however, she stutters over her answer, making the audience wonder as to whether Hermione is not entirely honest with Ron in her answer. Instead of being a climactic moment where the unity between the trio is broken (albeit briefly), the average movie-goer who might not have read the books would see this as a scene that forges onto the golden trio a ‘one-dimensional love triangle’ (as Mugglenet put it in this article-http://www.mugglenet.com/2015/09/7-times-hermione-granger-took-ron-weasleys-lines-in-the-movies/).
The point I am trying to make is that the systematic changes in dialogue, actions and personality traits that the films made to the character of Ron Weasley was detrimental to Ron’s character, Hermione’s character, and the friendship dynamic of the golden trio as a whole. Instead of being a group of three friends, the films made Harry and Hermione the main heroes whilst Ron was relegated to the role of a comedic side-kick who was kept around by his friends out of a mix of apathy and pity.
Ron Weasley is not a perfect character, but that is because he’s human. Humans are not perfect- we are flawed. The flaws of Ron’s character were what made him engaging and interesting to read about. Whilst Harry was the leader and Hermione the brains, Ron was the common-sense part of the trio, always cracking jokes to alleviate the tension and ground the other two.
The book version of Ron was a flawed but lovable character. The film version of Ron had all of Ron’s flaws without many of the positive aspects of the character that made him so engaging to begin with. Instead of a loyal, kind and dedicated friend, movie Ron is the sort of person that book Ron was terrified of becoming- an incompetent oaf who was kept around by his friends out of pity and amusement (another tumblr blog @accioron puts it much better than I can- http://accioron.tumblr.com/post/112530209613).
Rupert Grint is a fantastic actor, and should have been given the opportunity to play Ron Weasley as he was in the books. A combination of weird script-writing, bad scene-framing and a lack of decent character development left Grint with barely anything to work with, meaning the book version of Ron was a much-missed part of the film adaptations. I don’t blame Rupert Grint for this- he was doing the best he could with what he was given. He was doing his job- I just wished the film-makers had done the same.