February 22, 2012

Twilight Sparkle vs Hermione Granger: The Argument You Couldn’t Care Less About

On Talking Time, someone said this simple phrase: “Twilight is pony Hermione Granger.” While not completely inaccurate, and certainly a decent shorthand, I, overall, disagree with this statement. Twilight Sparkle’s character is quite different from Hermione’s, and because I have a blog where I can write and post completely silly things, I am now going to explain to you why Twilight is not pony Hermione Granger.

First off, let’s just talk about how they’re similar, because they are, in many ways. Both characters study magic, and extensively. It is, in many ways, their entire life. They both love books, to the point of people around them thinking maybe they are a bit weird for it. They’ve always read something esoteric and are surprised when others haven’t looked into the same sorts of things. They’re also both insanely good at magic. They work hard to be the very best at what they do, spellcasting, and it shows. They are at the top of their game in that regard.

However, outside of that “professional” side of their life, they really split as characters. It really comes down to the fact that Twilight is clueless about social interaction, while Hermione is not.

Hermione understands dating, relationships, and how to interact with people. While she certainly puts her academic life above being popular, she understands what’s going on with the other students around her, and has insight into why they’re acting the way they do that Ron and Harry often miss, being stereotypical school-age boys. She is hurt by social conventions carelessly broken (Ron waiting forever to ask her to the dance, like she didn’t have other prospects) and just generally “gets it.” She’s not outside of social actions. When she does show a level of cluelessness about how social interactions work (her idea that SPEW is a thing that people will want to get involved with), she does not realize it. She knows she knows this stuff, and thus her errors are not immediately apparent to her. She’s confident in her social prowess.

Twilight, on the other hand, knows absolutely nothing about social interaction. We see this all the time, whether having to follow a checklist to have fun at a party or trying to be helpful in an episode like Baby Cakes in about the worst way possible, and getting shut down for it. In fact, her cluelessness is so bad that her mentor and teacher, Princess Celestia, basically went “look, enough with the magic, go make some friends!” and forced her to try to integrate into society at large. She just does not know what’s going on in social circles.
Still, she realizes that, which is a key difference. She knows she knows nothing, and is super, super excited to figure it out. After being shown the benefits, she is not about to stop trying to learn, because she loves learning, even this sort of learning. She’s willing to admit her mistakes and improve upon them, and she does with every silly letter to Princess Celestia she writes.

It’s this eager cluelessness to social situations that, in general, endears Twilight to me and makes her my favorite pony. She is a character that knows it all, like Hermione, but unlike Hermione, she also knows nothing, and embraces it. Personally, I just connect with that better. I’ve been the person with all the answers, quite often, but so often I feel like I have no clue what I’m actually doing. I can feel that struggle in Twilight, and that’s why there’s a connection there. It’s more well rounded and real, especially when compared to Hermione, who so often just kind of becomes the source of magical plot devices in the Harry Potter novels. When Hermione does show a weakness, it mostly is of the “I am a woman with emotions” stereotypical school of weakness. In general, she always has the answer. Twilight does not. Hers is a generally humble genius. She knows her Intelligence is much, much higher than her Wisdom and Charisma, and those are stats she needs to work on. She’s willing to listen, and willing to admit she’s wrong, but she’s never going to stop trying, even when she does it incredibly badly. Practice is how you learn, after all. Her weaknesses are not weaknesses to her, but rather ways she can improve herself. When you find yourself in similar situations, having someone to look at who gets back up, smiles, and learns from complete failure is refreshing. It makes failure something that’s okay, instead of the worst thing. I like that. I like Twilight Sparkle.

But does Hermione have a starburst on her ass?

More seriously, the Twilight = Hermione thing looks like a pretty standard comparison, like basing a relationship on a mutual love of Dr. Pepper (don’t laugh, I did that once; it failed spectacularly). It’s a very superficial comparison (both female, both are into magic!) that completely breaks down once you scratch the surface. I think you pretty much nailed it perfectly.

However, it could maybe be argued that S1E1 Twilight and Philosopher’s Stone Hermione are the same. At the very beginning of their characters, they really had nothing going on and were essentially just archetypes. Twilight advanced beyond that by the end of episode 2, and Hermione… um… somewhere around book 3, I guess, when her social life (such as it was) got reduced to shambles because of the Time Turner.


Comment by Cris — February 22, 2012 @ 12:43 am

Hello. I have never commented on this blog before. It is unlikely that I shall again. I wouldn’t be doing so now, except that I’ve gone through some of your earlier posts and have come to the conclusion that you are a Kind Person, and more to the point, you might actually like thinking about some of the points I’m gonna bring up. I’m very bad at forming connexions with people without tangling myself in all sorts of emotional blargh, which is why I am now hiding behind a mustachioed purple sea serpent.

But I digress.

I eagerly entered bronydom shortly after I learned about MLP FiM; I’m on the tail-end of Gen Y, and have long yearned for the return of the Golden Age of childrens’ TV, back when the sky was bluer and the grass was greener and those kids stayed off my lawn. Curmudgeonry aside, we have to admit that Lauren Faust has created the best cartoon in the last decade.

I am secure, relatively speaking, in my pony credentials. I’d like to establish that before I explain why Hermione is a little bit more dear to me than Twilight, because I don’t want anyone, least of all a Kind Person, to assume I’m somehow implying that I consider Twilight inferior to Hermione.

To me, Hermione’s social savvy started out as something of a tragic quality; she knew when she was being treated badly, but aside from Ron and Harry, she didn’t have much in the way of social support, particularly being muggle-born. While that wasn’t emphasized on-page, it mattered to me.

As the series went on and she became more sure of herself, it was that very certainty that made me sympathize with her, particularly with regards to SPEW. Self-righteousness can be annoying, but I can’t help but feel sorry for someone who thinks they have an understanding of a situation, but does not. Confidence in her own abilities became a weakness more than once. I know and love people like that, so I can’t help a little second-hand affection.

I didn’t see her emotional problems as particularly cliche; she was a teenager. Ron and Harry had also got tied in knots by various emotional confusions. “I am a man, and I have emotions” as it were. It happens.

Your analysis is, however, spot-on. I’m simply commenting in the spirit of, well, not discussion, because I’m too timid to write anything here ever again, but perhaps in the spirit of expression. I like offering ideas to people who enjoy thinking, particularly if they are Kind.

I’m also commenting because I’ve been awake for over twenty-four hours, and it seems like a good idea at this time. Here’s hoping I live to regret it,

S. Magnet

Comment by Steven Magnet — February 22, 2012 @ 8:48 am

Comparing the two really makes no sense.

Season one episode one Twilight was eighteen or nineteen when she first went to Ponyville.

Book one Hermione was eleven or twelve when she first went to Hogwarts.

That’s a seven year difference between them.

Seven years can make a lot of emotional/mental/physical differences between a little girl and a teenage filly.

Comment by Nightgazer Starlight — April 19, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

This was a very interesting and in-depth look at the similarities and differences between Hermione Granger and Twilight Sparkle.

Although, I get the impression that you don’t like Hermione. And, if you don’t then that’s your opinion and I respect it.

Personally, it would be hard for me to pick who I like more (Hermione or Twilight) as I really like both characters. Harry Potter remains to be my favorite series of all time and MLP FIM is one of my favorite TV series of all time. Both Hermione and Twilight are good, complex characters with likable personalities and relatability. I would prefer not to try and be like which character is better. I’m happy with just enjoying both characters for who they are and recognizing the similarities they share and the differences they have that make then unique individuals from each other.

That’s just how I feel anyway.

Comment by Doctor Perseus — July 19, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

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