Learning to Love Cho Chang, Learning to Love Myself
As a young girl reading the Harry Potter series, I was able to find many female role models within the pages: Hermione, Ginny, Luna, and even the older generation of Tonks, McGonagall, and Molly. But the one girl I really struggled with was Cho Chang. Although I didn’t want to admit it, I saw myself in Cho, and when Harry was judgmental of Cho’s emotions, I felt myself being judged too. As a result, I distanced myself from Cho and pretended not to relate to her. Reading Cho now, I can admire the way that she is kind and friendly but also fierce and loyal. I love that she’s emotional and willing to show it, but she’ll also block your every move on the Quidditch pitch. It would have meant so much to me to see this type of girl, one who is complicated and contradictory and sometimes bursts into tears at inopportune moments, portrayed in a positive light. Instead, I saw her through Harry’s eyes: as a bit of a mess. I didn’t want to be seen that way.
In order for me to come around to loving Cho Chang, I first had to accept that my own emotions are valid however embarrassing they might be. Reading the series now, I’m just frustrated with how obtuse Harry is when trying to deal with Cho’s feelings. Cho lost her boyfriend at the age of 15 and has to grieve for him alone while others claim that his death was just an accident. She has every right to cry, and it is normal for her to want to seek out Harry as the only other person who can understand what she is going through. Harry, of course, is not obligated to talk about this experience, but his complete inability to offer Cho any compassion or comfort is baffling to me. Harry is the one who needs to grow up and learn how to deal with his feelings, not Cho.
Harry also gets annoyed at Cho for standing up for Marietta after she sells out the DA. I, however, admire Cho’s loyalty to her friend and her ability to forgive Marietta and see the best in her. As a naturally forgiving person, it always made me uncomfortable that Hermione’s spell on Marietta is permanent and that she will be scarred forever by a childish mistake. I think that Cho and Marietta must have an exceptionally deep friendship, and I’ve often wondered whether Marietta is the only one of Cho’s formerly large group of friends who stuck by her and supported her after Cedric’s death. Why else would Cho have been so insistent that Marietta come with her to the DA? She obviously felt like she needed emotional support, and Marietta was the only one who was willing to take that risk to support a friend.
‘Did you see the look on Chang’s face when Ginny got the Snitch right out from under her nose?’
‘I suppose she cried, did she?’ said Harry bitterly.” (OotP 704)
As an athlete myself and an emotional person, I have certainly cried about sports before, especially when I don’t perform as well as I want to in a high stakes game. It upset me to see Harry so sarcastically dismiss Cho’s emotions, especially when he himself cares about Quidditch more than anything. Now, however, I don’t care what Harry thinks; I’m just happy to see a girl like Cho on the Quidditch pitch: tough and fierce but also willing to care deeply and show it. She’ll block Harry’s every move as a Seeker but then – in the next moment – will give up a win by warning Harry about Dementors. In sports, mentality is just as important as physical ability, and we hear from Hermione that Cho is worried she will be thrown off the Quidditch team because she’s been so distracted by Cedric’s death. I know from experience how playing poorly can lead to a negative spiral, and I feel so much compassion for Cho when she chokes in the final moment of the Inter-House Quidditch Cup.
Cho may cry a lot, but she could never be called weak. She stands up for herself, her friends, and even for Harry, and she risks everything to fight in the DA and then in the Battle of Hogwarts. I don’t think that Rowling is as hard on Cho as Harry is – I think she uses Hermione to explain how we are supposed to see Cho – but it was still harmful as a child to see a girl like me through the eyes of a boy like Harry. I wish that we had, at some point, seen Harry show some compassion for Cho or some remorse for how he treated her. At the end of the day, however, I’m just glad that I’m now capable of loving both Cho and myself for all our beautiful and messy contradictions.