“Hermione Taught Me How to Be Angry,” Noma Dumezweni Tells BBC 100 Women
Hermione Granger is a feminist icon. As she cemented herself as an impeccable problem solver and embraced her own intelligence time and time again, so too did she show a generation of smart young women that it is cool to be clever. Now Noma Dumezweni, who played Hermione in the stage production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is sharing yet another lesson from the brightest witch at Hogwarts.
Dumezweni, like so many women, has long viewed anger as a character flaw, even something contradictory to her sense of femininity. Society, she feels, taught her to quash her anger as something unpretty and shameful.
Like most women of my age, I was brought up not to be angry. I didn’t want to be seen as the one taking up space – I was brought up to make others feel comfortable before having my say.
As a strong adult, however, Dumezweni has begun to question the seemingly innate emotional values she was instructed to accept as a child. In examining the nature of anger, Dumezweni now gives herself permission to acknowledge it, to feel it, without letting it bubble up or boil over, finally escaping in a burst of “banshee-like energy.”
Hermione, Dumezweni says, demonstrates the experience of anger in meaningful, beautiful, even admirable ways.
Hermione’s anger is a beautiful thing – she displays it most through her loyalty and love, especially when she’s in love and trying to understand that. She’s asking those she loves to do better. She holds them up to a high standard because she has faith they can reach that. Fiercely. And she’ll be there when they do.
For Dumezweni, Hermione exemplifies what anger should be and what it should do. Usually “calm and level-headed, righteous and empathetic,” Hermione understands the world’s finer details and anger is no exception. When necessary, she can harness her feelings of anger and use them to problem solve, to grow, and to push herself and others to be better. Anger, for Hermione, is a tool embedded with its own kind of magic. It doesn’t erase her sensitivity; it enhances, far beyond the size of a mere teaspoon, her emotional capacity.
To feel is a strength and an identity-affirming experience, Dumezweni believes. As she learns the art of allowing herself to feel angry, she hopes to help others do the same. Perhaps most importantly, she aims to instill healthy emotional habits in her 11-year-old daughter. As for the naysayers? Those who might still attempt to weaponize her own anger against her? Dumezweni’s answer is simple:
If you give me that tired, old, dull, unimaginative and frankly disgusting title ‘Angry Black Woman’, I know you don’t know me. I am not a stereotype.
People get angry, women get angry, and the heroes of our stories get angry. The Hermiones of our world, Dumezweni says, show us that our anger is okay, that to be angry need not be our weakness if we resolve to make it an asset.