I won’t deny that quite a few awesome characters (and people I know, thanks to Pottermore) have been sorted into Gryffindor. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the House of Godric and home of the brave. But there is a disproportionate amount of focus and glory placed on the house and its members within the Harry Potter series as well as in the fandom.
Fame and Favoritism
To an extent, it’s to be expected that the house the hero of the series is sorted into would receive quite a bit of attention both within the books and in the fandom. But the amount of focus Gryffindor receives from the school’s staff becomes problematic if it’s approached from a realistic perspective. At the end of the first book, Professor Dumbledore waits until the Slytherin students are sure they’ve won the House Cup to announce a bunch of last-minute points that need to go to… Gryffindor. Harry and his friends absolutely deserve recognition for their bravery in stopping Voldemort from using the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone to fully resurrect himself. Still, Dumbledore could’ve given them these points at any time, and waiting until such a dramatic moment to do so only serves to draw negative attention from the houses that now feel slighted and the students who now wonder why their personal achievements haven’t been given recognition by the headmaster. Encouraging such a huge rivalry between the houses can cause trouble to start with, but when the head of the school so clearly favors Gryffindor, it’s sure to cause tension within the other houses. Snape is guilty of doing the same thing with Slytherin, which reflects poorly upon him, as well. The major difference, though, is that when Dumbledore practices favoritism, his position of power makes it seem as though the school itself favors Gryffindor.
Bravery Isn’t the Only Admirable Trait
Bravery is certainly a great quality—the willingness to stand up for and protect one’s family and friends and fight for what’s right is something everyone should aspire to have. But guess what other things help to make one a well-rounded individual? Loyalty, ambition, and wit. Hufflepuff gets dismissed often; it’s one of the houses the readers don’t know much about because so few of the characters readers see are members of it.
Think about Tonks, though. She’s fiercely protective of Harry and of everyone else in the Order, and she’s just as willing to risk her life to fight against Voldemort as any Gryffindor. She’s still brave, but that bravery stems from loyalty—she believes in her cause and in her friends and wants to create a better world for her son. She’s a Hufflepuff. So is Newt Scamander, who is so loyal to his magical creatures that he travels to America to help one of them get home and goes on a dangerous journey to make sure they all stay safe. Slytherin gets an undeservedly bad reputation.
Ambition does not equate to evil.
It’s when people use their ambition to better themselves at the cost of bringing harm to others that it becomes a problem. Ambition means drive, determination and the willingness to pursue what one wants. It isn’t wrong to have goals and to work for them. In fact, it’s a good thing—we should all aspire to know what we want to do and be in life and be willing to strive to make that happen. Even within the series, not all Slytherins are bad, and it’s unfair to lump them all together. Regulus Black, Andromeda Tonks, Narcissa Malfoy, Horace Slughorn, and Severus Snape are Slytherins, and each of them helps Harry throughout his journey to defeat Voldemort. Even Draco Malfoy helps Harry by refusing to identify him when he’s caught by the Snatchers. (Not all Gryffindors are good, either—remember, Peter Pettigrew is a Gryffindor.)
Then there’s poor Ravenclaw. When did intelligence and the desire to learn become overlooked qualities in a school environment? The desire to expand one’s mind and work hard at one’s studies should be praised, not passed over, and the wisdom of characters like Luna Lovegood should be acknowledged. Luna isn’t afraid to speak the truth, and her deadpan comments often make her the voice of reason to Harry. The pursuit of knowledge is admirable, and so are loyalty and the desire to better oneself. There’s nothing wrong with bravery, but bravery without these other qualities can lead to more problems than it solves. Every house has strong characters both male and female, and all of them deserve appreciation.
Bravery vs. Recklessness
Again, bravery in itself is not a bad thing. The way it’s practiced, though, can be. It can involve taking unnecessary risks just for the pride and glory of taking them. The Marauders, who are an interesting and complex group of people, are known for their pranks and rule-breaking and sneaking around through secret passageways. Some of their risks were for admirable reasons, like James, Sirius, and Peter becoming animagi to help Remus through his monthly transformations.
But causing trouble for the sake of causing trouble and taking risks without thinking about the consequences can be dangerous. Sirius wants Harry to be as reckless as his father, and he seems to judge Harry for being more practical and not wanting to put himself at unnecessary risk. Still, practicality isn’t always Harry’s forte. He, Ron, and Hermione rush headlong into whatever task is required of them to fight off threats, often without asking for help from people who fought in the First Wizarding War (read: adults). It’s wonderful that they’re fighting for the greater good, but reaching out to people who could help them might have helped to lessen some of the risk.
Representation in Merchandising
If I had a nickel for every time a friend from Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw has commented on being unable to find much merchandise related to his or her house, I could afford a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Gryffindor is stereotypically viewed as the “hero house” while Slytherin is viewed as the “villain house.” Again, there are heroes from every house, and not all Slytherins are bad. But it’s seen as cool to represent the house the protagonist is from or to be the “bad boy or girl,” and this leads to far more t-shirts and jewelry items and everything else bearing the Gryffindor and Slytherin crests than those of the other two houses. While this is great news to people who have been sorted into or identify as members of Gryffindor and Slytherin, it doesn’t bode well for those in Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, who would also like to be able to buy a jersey for their houses’ Quidditch teams.
Hermione as Everygirl
In the Potter fandom, specifically within the part of it devoted to fanfiction, Hermione is given a disproportionate amount of attention and is “shipped” with anyone and everyone. Her personality is thrown out the window and Rowling’s characterization of her is distorted so that she can be over-sexualized and used as an object of wish-fulfillment. The same can be said of the rest of the characters, as well, but it is the most prevalent with Hermione, whom many readers and writers view as the closest avatar for themselves.
It’s easy to see why: people who love literature find it easy to identify with someone who adores books and learning and isn’t afraid to be intelligent. But in turning Hermione into a Mary Sue and eliminating the personality traits that make her who she is for the sake of self-insertion, people are focusing their adoration on a falsified version of the girl whose strongly held beliefs would make a lot of the relationships she’s written into impossible. This Gryffindor girl deserves love, but she deserves it for the awesome character she already is, not who fans want to turn her into. She’s getting attention for the wrong reasons.
Remember, witches and wizards: all houses are awesome. Bravery is great, but it should be used wisely.
It’s okay not to be a Gryffindor.