slow clap.jpg
A still from Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone (Chris Columbus, Warner Bros., 1997)
Stories & Ideas

Sun 01 Nov 2020

Edit Line: Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone – Slow clap

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Maria Lewis
Maria Lewis

Assistant Film Curator

Feigning appreciation of the average with Hermione in Christopher Columbus' Harry Potter and Philosopher's Stone.

There’s a lot of clapping in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone (2001). In fact, the whole eight-film franchise based on JK Rowling’s hugely successful books of the same name has to be in the top three cinematic clapping all-timers. Yet only one of the dozens – yes, literally dozens – of clapping scenes from the magical wizarding world has gone on to become iconic and it’s this one, featuring a supremely unimpressed Hermione Granger. The slow clap itself was having a moment in 2001, with an analysis of its use and impact examined in another theatrical release from that same year: Not Another Teen Movie (2001). In the parody of high school rom-coms that - up until that point - had become a dominant genre, a character keeps trying to unsuccessfully initiate a slow clap. It’s Sabrina The Teenage Witch (1996–2003) star Melissa Joan Hart (appearing as herself) who explains: “Look, you can’t just start a slow clap at any old time. You’ve got to wait for the right moment.”

Witch’s hat to the side, limp hands meeting with half-hearted enthusiasm, Hermione Granger has found the right moment to celebrate the accomplishment of rival house Slytherin with the most unenthused slow clap of the Harry Potter franchise. The gesture has become infinitely gifed thanks to what the witch has gone on to represent in the two decades since the film first hit cinemas. Played by Emma Watson, Hermione has manifested into somewhat of a post-modern feminism symbol.

At #MeToo and gender equality marches around the world, signs that read variations of “without Hermione Harry would have died in book one” were a frequent occurrence. There are dozens upon dozens of articles listing all the ways Harry Potter and Ron Weasley both, in fact, would be dust without the intelligence, cunning and compassion of the franchise’s most undervalued asset. Even the author herself has admitted that yes, actually, Hermione deserved better than to be paired off with the perpetually annoying and average Ron… a romance that somehow survives into the wizard's middle age as revealed in the play Harry Potter And The Cursed Child.

Hermione has become symbolic for millions of women who feel like mediocre men rely solely on their brilliance, clapping sarcastically to celebrate the achievements of the average when their exceptionalness goes largely unnoticed. Hermione not only deserved better but so too do the legion of fans who identify with her.

– Maria Lewis