Welcome to A Deep Dive

Featured

Hello, world!

Welcome to my blog! On this blog, I will be analyzing various aspects of the Harry Potter books and their adaptations through a critical lens, based on discussions that I am having in a seminar at my university. I am taking a seminar titled The Boy Who Lived, All Grown Up: Assessing the Harry Potter Books and their Adaptations. In this class, we will be discussing the Harry Potter novels, looking at them through a critical lens as opposed to just for entertainment, and assessing the numerous adaptations surrounding the series.

I am excited to take this journey. I have a feeling this will be one of my favorite college courses. I will be posting at the end of each week based on topics that we have discussed during the week.

So, I invite you to hop on the Hogwarts Express with me as we journey our way through the countryside of the books, movies, plays, music, theme parks, what have you, and more!

Image credit: https://mashable.com/2013/11/02/harry-potter-minimalist-posters/#y9Ym32zeoZql

Re-evaluating Snape on a Reread

I have always had somewhat mixed feelings about Snape when reading the series previously. However, I think I tended to err on the more positive side since I remembered his love for Lily and the fact that he was a double agent on Dumbledore’s side the whole time. At the start of this class, I knew I wanted to pay extra attention to the things he did in order to develop a more informed view. I think I still have mixed feelings, but they are a bit more positive now that I have a better understanding.

I have heard multiple times in class that Snape’s behavior is stalkerish, but I don’t know if I would call it stalking if the person who did not return you love is not alive. I feel it would be creepy if we found out that he regularly visited Godric’s Hollow or had a shrine for her. And compared to real life, there are plenty of men who harm or murder women who don’t return their affection. He could also imperiused her, or done what Queenie did to Jacob in Fantastic Beasts, or done something USS Callister-like, which all would have been just as creepy, if not creepier. Granted, the part where he took the other half of her letter and ripped the photograph does kind of approach that, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of him interacting her after they left Hogwarts.

snape and lily kids

The way I see it is that once he called her a Mudblood, he knew he messed up and clearly regretted it, but there was no longer any chance of friendship between them, which probably left him slighted and remorseful. Add to that the knowledge that she was going to be murdered by a wizard who he served, and though he tried to save her life unbeknownst to her, he ultimately failed. So, he essentially lived the rest of his life in a constant life of penance trying to make up for what he had done in the past. One of the ways in which he has changed is evident when he does not permit Phineas Nigellus to call Hermione a Mudblood. I always wonder how Snape felt towards Voldemort after Lily’s murder- if he had lost faith and regretted his actions like Lucius Malfoy had, but hid it much better.

This certainly doesn’t excuse his bullying of Harry and his friends, though, because that was terrible. I don’t know if that was a result of his past experiences with bullying from James, the household in which he grew up, or his severe disdain of James and everything about/related to him, or maybe a combination of all three, but I think it’s something that is inexcusable. I don’t know if J.K. Rowling really wanted to give him negative qualities so that he could be redeemed later, but it was difficult to read at times.

However, I felt somewhat sick after reading his death scene. If I had known nothing about his love for Lily and had only known about him as a character until then, I would not have minded if he died, because he wasn’t the greatest person. On the other hand, I feel as though the manner in which he died (i.e. Voldemort killing him so that he could possess the power of the Elder Wand) made me much more empathetic towards him. Voldemort kills him right after calling him a good and faithful servant, which is extremely ironic, and coldly saying that he regrets Snape’s murder. Snape was just left to die in the Shrieking Shack. Who knows who would have found him eventually and what they would have done. And I feel that having witnessed his death before looking at his memories serves to further change the way you view him.

snape and lily dead

I think it would be fascinating to have the books or a book written from Snape’s perspective, to really delve deeply into his character and psyche. I would be very interested in learning why he chose to master Occlumency and when he did it. I also wonder if Snape suspected that Voldemort was intending to kill him for the Elder Wand before he was called to the Shack, especially since Dumbledore never told him about it.

R.I.P. to one of the bravest men that Harry Potter ever knew.

Image credits:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Last weekend, about half of our class went to go and see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Overall, I would give the movie a 7/10. I questioned the story line, especially since I had to keep thinking about how certain things could make sense and trying to relate it back to the Harry Potter series. I think all of the actors and actresses played their roles well (Johnny Depp was a very convincing Grindelwald) and the film was made very well. There were also some plot lines that seemed random (i.e. Nicholas Flamel at the end) and some parts, especially the end where they fought Grindelwald’s blue dragon, that seemed cliche. In this post, I will discuss some of the things that I thought/noticed about the movie.

One huge issue that I noticed was the McGonagall timeline error. Minerva McGonagall was born in 1935, but the movie takes place in 1927. I get that they wanted familiarity, but it’s a huge timeline error and they could have put anyone else in her place. I’m not sure if JK Rowling (or as the actors affectionately call her, Jo) missed this, since the world is so large, but clearly the fact checkers either missed it or thought it was okay.

For all of the hype about Nagini’s casting, she was barely present in the movie. There was next to no characterization of her in the movie other than the fact that she was Credence’s friend from the circus. When the final climax was happening, I completely forgot she was in the movie until they showed her crouched down watching the fight happen. I hope she does more in the remaining movies to justify her existence as a main or supporting character.

The revelation that Credence was a Dumbledore was a very interesting reveal. That was the mental gymnastics I mentioned earlier, trying to figure out where he would fit into the Dumbledore timeline. Granted, I did immediately wondering where Grindelwald got this information from. It didn’t really occur to me until we had a conversation in class Tuesday that Grindelwald probably made that up and could be using Credence to get to and fight Dumbledore and to use in his war.

One thing that struck me at the end of the movie was the very end image where Credence stands up after having blasted a hole in the wall with his wand. The very red toned room, with the bookshelves and the phoenix (I believe) in the background, and the way he was standing made me think of Dumbledore’s office. I thought that was an interesting parallel to show after the revelation.

credence dumbledore.jpg

Dumbledore's_office_UE_booklet_1.jpg

But for all of the flaws in this movie, if we have learned anything about J.K. Rowling from reading the Harry Potter series, she likes to plant little clues throughout the series, that careful readers were rewarded for if they paid attention. She already has all five movies planned out. Knowing how much detail and attention she gave to the Harry Potter series, I think it is good to expect the same here. (I thought the flashback to Newt and Leta’s time at Hogwarts was really beautiful). The medium may be different, but I think we can expect the same quality in terms of character development, story line, and symbolism. I’m sure things we ignored or barely noticed in this movie will become relevant in the 4th or 5th one. So, hopefully, assuming they release a movie every 2 years, by 2024 or 2025, we will have a better idea of the entire story and can better evaluate it then.

However, It’s also very odd not know what will happen because there are no books to read! We are all learning as we go. I will certainly try and watch the movie again, even though I am not a huge movie theatre person, but I have plenty of time until the next one comes out.

Image credits:

The Far Reaching and Lasting Effects of War

In Deathly Hallows, we are fully immersed in the Second Wizarding War. I have always read about war and have kind of been able to imagine what that environment might feel like, but I myself have never lived through a war or war-like situation. We got snippets in the Half-Blood Prince where events were happening such as murders, disappearances, and changes in government. However, in Deathly Hallows, we now see the widespread and full scale effects of a war. The change, the fear, the anxiety, the caution, the risk. The death and loss of lives.
Within the first 100 pages it is clear that Deathly Hallows is no longer the same cute children’s book as the Philosopher’s Stone. On a re-read, one theme I noticed is family separation. We see that Harry is saying good-bye to the Dursleys for the last time. He is not going back to Hogwarts and there is a chance that he will never see them again. There is also a sentimental atmosphere that has never existed before. Even though the Dursleys have treated Harry like dirt and pretended that he was non-existent, Uncle Vernon’s awkward attempt at a handshake, Dudley’s acknowledgement that Harry is not a waste of space, and Petunia’s hesitation before departing, shows that there was some underlying care and concern for Harry due to that familial bond. It is unfortunate that the threat of the war and prospect that this is the final good-bye are what bring this out. Later on we find out that Hermione has modified her parents memories. We don’t see this from Hermione’s point of view, but it must have taken a large mental and emotional toll on her. Finally there is Ron, who has never really been separated from his family, away from them and not at Hogwarts for the first time. All in the name of doing their own part in this war.
Deathly Hallows has also Harry losing many symbols that initially connected him to the Wizarding World as an 11-year old. He loses his Firebolt- his connection to Quidditch- and Hedwig- a constant and reliable presence, given as a gift from Hagrid- in the fourth chapter, then finally his wand- so vital to his ability to perform magic- in the 17th chapter after visiting Godric’s Hollow.
Last but not least, we see the loss of lives and are reminded of the loss of life. Mad-Eye Moody, who seemed so resilient, vigilant, and seemingly unable to be harmed, is murdered and there is no funeral for him like there was for Dumbledore. For someone who has constantly battled Dark wizards and lived such a seasoned life, it is hard to stomach that if he can die, anyone can die. We are also reminded throughout the book of Dumbledore, and the constant threat of someone you know dying hangs over our heads throughout the pages; Bathilda Bagshot, Remus Lupin, Tonks, Charity Burbage, Fred Weasley, Rufus Scrimgeour, Regulus Black, Lily and James Potter are all major deaths in the novel, but there are countless others who we never hear about.
It’s difficult to imagine what this kind of environment can feel like, but I feel that JK Rowling does a great job of immersing us in what it feels like to be in a war. Even I get scared or worried and feel anxious when reading the book, even though I know exactly what is going to happen. I know that there are a lot of parallels between the events happening in the book and the Second World War, which was pretty fresh in the minds of Britons when JK Rowling wrote the novel. This shows that these events are not just events that happen in books- they are real; they have been, are, and will be realities for some people. However, just like in the novel, there is hope- an end to the war and a chance to grieve together, rebuild, and create a better future for all.

A Different Opinion of Draco Malfoy

Prior to re-reading the Half-Blood Prince, I always saw Draco Malfoy as just a bully to Harry and his friends. This stuck-up, wealthy little kid who thought that he could say whatever he wanted and do whatever he wanted without consequence and that he could use his money and his family’s pure-blood status to get to wherever he wanted in life. But it is also clear, in my opinion, that he solely the product of his upbringing. And that’s especially true in this book.

When we were first introduced to Draco in the Philosopher’s Stone, he greets Harry and announces his stance on wizard blood status. But Draco only believes this because of his family’s history and high position in the Wizarding World. In the Chamber of Secrets, he clearly supports the idea of harming muggle-born wizards and witches and preserving pure-bloods only within the Wizarding community.

Image result for young draco malfoy

However, let us be clear. For however much Draco bullies Harry and however much he supports the oppression of those who are not pureblood, I truly believe that Draco is the kind of person who is mostly talk and not as much action. Had the Second Wizarding War not occurred, I feel that Draco would be content with continuing to spout his opinions and associate with others who shared the same views. He might end up in positions of power, kind of like his father, where he would enforce rules that continued to promote this kind of separation and hand money off to the people who would turn his ideas into physical laws in the Wizarding World.

Like Dumbledore said, Draco is not a murderer. This is the first book that made me truly feel sorry for Draco. He’s not a Death Eater, and I don’t think he would be if he were given the chance. In retrospect, it is never indicated in the books that he has any clear interest in the Dark Arts or wanting to be involved in the Dark forces. I don’t think it’s really in him to be the kind of person to physically harm, murder, or torture people because he truly believes they are lesser and deserve it. It is clear from the beginning of Half-Blood Prince that Voldemort is using Draco to kill Dumbledore as revenge for his father’s failings, and we find out later in the book that if Draco fails he, and maybe his family, too, will be killed.

Image result for draco malfoy killing dumbledore

As much as I tend to dislike Draco as a person, I don’t think I could sit here and say that he deserves what he has been put into in this novel. He is obviously terrified of being in this situation and he is only in that position because his father is a Death Eater. He didn’t willingly volunteer himself to Voldemort- he is just another unwilling pawn in Voldemort’s game.If anything, this reveals more about Voldemort’s character. Voldemort doesn’t care about who he hurts and he doesn’t care about other people’s feelings. He only cares about what he wants for himself and he’s willing to go through any length to ensure that he is successful.

Like Dumbledore said, Voldemort has no friends, only servants, many of whom follow him out of fear as opposed to loyalty. He is independent. He is secretive. He is cunning. He is ruthless. I don’t know how many of the Death Eaters were deluded into thinking that being around Voldemort made them safe. I am sure that after this incident neither Lucius nor Draco were under the false pretense that they were on Voldemort’s good side- where being associated with him meant that they were safe (I don’t think Narcissa was ever really on board, more just going along with the ride). If you fail, there are consequences, and Voldemort doesn’t care if that consequence means your death. He will just find another person to do it for him. I think after this incident, the entire Malfoy family probably cared more about keeping their family together and alive as opposed to caring about Voldemort and his mission.

Image result for draco malfoy killing dumbledore

Images:

Re-evaluating Dumbledore on a Reread

The first time I read the Harry Potter novels, I saw Dumbledore as this infallible, perfect figure. A powerful wizard who could do no wrong and knew the best thing to do in every situation. However, now as I am rereading the novels and examining them more critically, I am beginning to see that Dumbledore, as clever and as brilliant as he might be, is also flawed, just like every other person or being in the story.

My biggest critiques are in some of the choices that he makes and some of the events he allows to happen in each book. In the Philosopher’s Stone, it was implied at the end of the novel that he almost meant for Harry and his friends to find the Stone, knowing that Voldemort or someone working for Voldemort was desperately trying to find it. Whether he knew Harry would come face to face with Voldemort in some form, I don’t know, but I feel like he should have tried harder to stop them from seeking the Stone or at least made it known to Harry that he trusted Snape. Even if Harry and friends didn’t go after the Stone, Quirrell/Voldemort would have just been standing there in front of the mirror or Erised until someone came.

In the Chamber of Secrets, if a cat and a ghost get petrified, you can deal. However, if not one, but four students get petrified, I feel like the school should probably have put on the brakes much earlier to figure out how to get rid of the Basilisk, especially knowing that a student died 50 years previously by the same reason. It’s only once Ginny was taken that they decided to close Hogwarts. So, it’s unfortunate that the Wizarding World has a higher tolerance for risk and pain. But of course, there would have been no plot had the school closed much earlier.

Image result for dumbledore chamber of secrets

In the Prisoner of Azkaban, once Sirius Black had found a way to enter the school, there should have been a much larger effort to seal all entrances. I also understand that the Ministry put the dementors at Hogwarts to deter Black, but I’m surprised Dumbledore didn’t try harder to prevent this, especially with the knowledge that Sirius broke out of Azkaban, which is swarming with dementors, so are the ones around Hogwarts going to affect him?

The fourth and fifth novel are where I really started to question the decisions Dumbledore makes. In the Goblet of Fire when Harry is chosen as a champion, Dumbledore seemed to have a keen interest in how things would play out as opposed to thinking, “Hmm… this tournament might be dangerous for a 14 year old boy” and “How did his name even get in there?” In addition, the fact that there was nothing preventing an older student from putting Harry’s name in the fire goes to show that even the most brilliant wizards mess up. What happens when a person breaks a binding magical contract is also not addressed. Of course these kinds of loopholes had to exist to drive the plot forward, but still. I also questioned this decision because it was known that in the past champions had died, and that the tasks would be difficult even for advanced students. I get that Dumbledore sensed that Voldemort was gaining strength and that he wanted Harry to gain some skills and see how this boy, who has shown to be brave and talented thus far would grow, but I feel like there are other ways this could have occurred without putting his life in danger.  

Finally in the Order of the Phoenix, so many errors and confusion could have been avoided if Dumbledore had told Harry in the beginning that he believed there was a connection between Harry and Voldemort and that Dumbledore did not look at Harry because he did not want Voldemort knowing about his plans. I also think he should have started the Occlumency lessons much earlier. He didn’t need to tell Harry about the Prophecy early on. Granted, I can’t fault Dumbledore for refraining from telling Harry the exact Prophecy. First, who wants to tell a teenager who has already had a rough upbringing and is constantly dealing with intense battles everyday that either he must kill or be killed to end this war? I remember just knowing prophecy, but with rereading Order of the Phoenix and seeing how Harry is feeling after Sirius dies, this Prophecy hits hard because it is so dire. When would be a good time to tell Harry this?

Image result for dumbledore order of the phoenix

At the end of this novel, he does admit that he is flawed, which reduced the amount of frustration I was feeling towards him because he recognizes it, too. And having spent such a long time distancing himself from his early ways with Grindelwald, it makes sense that he wants to be seen as conquering the Darker side of magic, but I think certain decisions could have been thought out a bit more.

Images:

How Much Does Cutting Book Events Take Away From a Movie?

This week, we discussed podcasts and Pottermore as adaptations, but we also spent a good amount of time talking about the Order of the Phoenix film as an adaptation. Unlike earlier films, later films tend to deviate more and more from the story line, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even in the chapters that we talked about on Thursday (Chapters 21-30), so many events happen in those 10 chapters that it would be extremely difficult to try and condense it all within one film. However, with condensation comes elimination of certain events that perhaps cost too much or didn’t seem as relevant or might have hurt the story line of the movie without including other scenes that follow up to that event. I will talk about two such events that I thought were very vital to the story line and characterization in Order of the Phoenix, but were not included in the film.

The first event is when the trio and Ginny encounter Neville and his grandmother in the closed ward at St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Not only would it have been fascinating to see St. Mungo’s presented visually in the film, but we also lost the interaction between between the four when they meet the Longbottoms. Neville’s parents are first introduced in the Goblet of Fire novel when Harry looks into the Pensieve in Dumbledore’s office. However, in the movies, Neville’s parents are casually mentioned by Voldemort in Deathly Hallows. Having this knowledge is so vital to Neville’s characterization, and helps explain his motivation and improvement in skills in Order of the Phoenix novel after the Death Eaters escape from Azkaban as well as later on in the series.

StMungos_PM_B5C23M1_ChristmasAtStMungos_Moment

The interaction with Neville’s grandmother may also help us understand why Neville is so timid sometimes and not confident in his ability as a wizard. His grandmother blatantly says in the ward “[Neville’s] a good boy, but he hasn’t got his father’s talent, I’m afraid to say.” His gran probably offhandedly puts him down in these ways every day. This event is also one of those defining moments in a childhood when a character finds out a deep secret that a fellow classmate has and it completely changes the way that they view that person. It is such a surprise to Ron, Hermione, and Ginny to find this out and I think it completely changes the way they interact with him.

I think leaving this scene out of the movie hurts Neville’s characterization and it is especially important because it also depicts one of the many after effects of the war as well as its cruelty. You always feel bad for Harry because his parents are dead; however, Neville’s parents are alive, but can’t comprehend or recognize him. And in some ways that’s worse.

The other book scene that I thought was important was when Harry witnesses his father bullying Snape for Sirius’s entertainment when they were younger in the Pensieve. The scene is honestly quite cruel and is hard to read, especially since up to that point so many people have said only good things about Harry’s father. As a result, Harry has this idealized image of the kind of person he believes his father was. Someone in our class mentioned that watching his father bully Snape in the Pensieve must have been very difficult to stomach because Harry knows what it is like to be bullied- he, Ron, Hermione, and Neville have all felt it. They have often been on the receiving end of taunts and threats, from both students and teachers. James started taunting and bullying Snape because Sirius said he was bored. In this moment, Harry probably connects more with Snape, and James parallels Draco, except he is both talk and action. Even though Harry hated to hear it from Snape in the Prisoner of Azkaban novel, there is some truth behind James arrogantly “strutting” around.

snape__s_worst_memory_by_harry_potter_spain deviantart

In the book, the conversation Harry has with Lupin and Sirius helps placate him and understand that they were just kids then and that as adults now, they look back on their behavior with shame. It would have been difficult to show the bullying scene in the movie, because if you didn’t show that it was nagging on Harry’s mind and proceed to resolve it immediately, then it would have been difficult to view Harry’s father as anything but his bullying 15 year old self.

Just trying to imagine these scenes included in a movie is a lot to think about- in terms of having a set, figuring out filming, and taking the time to make sure you convey the emotions of the scene well. In addition, these scenes might need follow up scenes to resolve any conflict that arises or to indicate a change in the way the characters act afterwards. It’s difficult to try and include every scene that seems important into a movie for practical reasons, but it would be interesting to imagine how the movie would differ if these scenes had been included. This also makes me wonder how different the series is viewed by a person if they have just watched the movies versus read all the books.

Images:

Lady Voldemort is a Dangerous Woman

  This week, we spent a bit of time talking about both Youtube and games as Harry Potter adaptations. One Youtube video I came across last week was of a drag performance by performer Florida Man as Lady Voldemort. The performance took place at the OASIS, a nightclub in San Francisco. Lady Voldemort donned a black cloak and ripped fishnet leggings while performing a burlesque performance to Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande.

You can watch the performance here: 

The performance itself is very well done. It is sensual and provocative and you can’t help but cheer her on. In addition, the visual effects are pretty amazing. The wand sparks, the green fire, and the wand duel with Hairy Otter played by Tito– each on cue with the music- all add to the appeal of the performance.

The song choice, Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman, is very fitting considering you are watching none other than Lady Voldemort herself. The lyrics of the song are about a woman (Grande) who feels excited and powerful when she is with her man. According to Grande, a dangerous woman also implies a sort of recklessness and disregard for consequences behind her behavior (1). Some of the lyrics include:

Somethin’ ’bout you makes me feel like a dangerous woman

Nothing to prove and I’m bulletproof and/ Know what I’m doing” and

Don’t need no hold up/ Taking control of this kind of moment/ I’m locked and loaded/ Completely focused, my mind is open

which double to characterize Voldemort’s intentions and his relationship with Harry. We understand that he developed into who he is later on in his life due to his obsession with and fear of death. The Prophecy gives him a reason to pursue Harry Potter and stop at nothing in order to kill him. It would also be interesting to imagine what the series would be like if Voldemort were a woman.

The song itself and the performance are also very sexual in nature which isn’t a common theme that comes up in the series, since it is a children’s book. In addition, the drag performance also reimagines aspects of the Harry Potter series through a queer lens. Representation of LGBTQIA+ characters and analysis of the series through a queer lens is often lacking. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Florida Man stated that: “‘Part of what I’m doing with Lady Voldemort is reimagining a universe where the canon of Harry Potter is queerer and weirder, and I think that speaks to a lot of queer people and Harry Potter fans alike,’ Florida says. ‘It’s also just ridiculous.’”

One thing that I love about the series and the way it had developed is that there is an immense variety of adaptations. It is easy for fans to represent and introduce elements that aren’t necessarily stated or obvious in the books. There isn’t much LGBTQIA+ representation in the series besides Dumbledore and Charlie Weasley- only one of which is a major character. I know J.K. Rowling tends to get a lot of backlash for retconning in the Harry Potter series, such as with revealing that Nagini is a Maledictus in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. And even though they try to be inclusive in the movie, they still get backlash. It would be difficult for her to retcon more queer characters into the series without making it seem like she is trying to add some representation that she didn’t necessarily think about when writing the book. I don’t doubt that she will introduce more characters, especially with the Fantastic Beasts franchise, but that will take a long time because making movies takes time. So fans don’t need to wait to see something in the franchise- they can create it themselves. They get to create their own adaptations that infuse their own interpretations and new twists into the series, introduce what does not already explicitly exist, and extend the reach of the series to communities of fans who both love it or those that may not even be familiar with it

(1) https://genius.com/Ariana-grande-dangerous-woman-lyrics

Hermione Granger and Her Crusade for S.P.E.W.

In the Goblet of Fire, we are introduced to Hermione’s crusade for house-elf rights, the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.), after she witnesses Winky’s mistreatment and learns that house-elves cook and clean at Hogwarts. Not only does house-elf treatment mirror past and current depictions of slavery, but Hermione’s well intentioned yet somewhat misguided plight to support house-elves reminds me of instances when people want to address social issues, but are not well informed about the community they want to serve or the issue they want to address. This can be seen in both the research process and social innovation as well as in ideas designed to help those less fortunate.  

spew

I am part of a research program where identifying the social issue and understanding the audience affected by that issue was emphasized early on. There was one group that wanted to make prosthetic legs for children that grew as they did, but for all their zeal and wonderful ideas, the group had never spoken to a child who needed a prosthetic limb or their parents. The assumptions that the team might have made and the preconceived notions they might have had about that population could have been disastrous in the making (and selling) of their product.

I tend to feel a certain way when people do similar things for those in developing countries, especially African countries. As someone who is Nigerian, I am cognizant of the way the United States (or the western world in general) views the continent of Africa. Those commercials where if you give $20 a month, you can feed a child in Africa, come to mind. African countries are often portrayed as poor nations in need of help and assistance. The media rarely has any positive portrayals of Africa nor is there much widespread discussion about the ways that Africans living in Africa or abroad are already supporting their own communities back home.

Some people who have good intentions may approach solving social issues in Africa without really understanding the audience they want to help- who they are, what they do, the culture and the customs in the area, what they are actually like, what they need and want, and how any solution to be proposed is actually beneficial to them.

world map with ecuador and nigeria

I was especially reminded of this on a recent Alternative Breaks experience to Ecuador where we taught English to students in an indigenous community. Towards the end, our group was thinking about ways that we could continue to work with the community and support them. We had all these ideas about how we could support the students in learning English, but we were reminded by our Staff Advisor that we should not make assumptions about what the school may want or need and that learning English may not even be a priority for them at this point. Even we, who had informed ourselves before the trip and spent a week visiting this school, still had a certain mindset that we knew what may be best for the school.

All of this ties into Hermione’s crusade for house-elf rights. She has witnessed house-elf abuse and knows their enslavement is wrong. At the same time she is trying to impose her ideas (getting paid, taking time off, etc.- things that are relevant to humans) onto the house-elves, without truly understanding their species or their history, what their lives are like or what they think, want, or need. This can be seen in the Goblet of Fire. The house-elves working in the Hogwarts kitchen often seem uncomfortable, upset, or angry when Dobby pronounces his freedom or when Hermione states that house-elves should have similar rights to wizards. There are even times when Dobby does not feel comfortable siding with her and still retains his house-elf mentality (not wanting too much pay, harming himself for speaking badly about the Malfoys). It is also clear that Winky is not pleased with being free and is very upset about it.

(As a side note, I wonder how much of Winky’s distress is due to her dismissal or due to failing to keep Barty Crouch Jr. bound to her, since that was her sole duty and her secret to keep. She was also the one who suggested he be allowed to go to the Quidditch World Cup. I also wonder if she knows what it means for him to be free now. Nevertheless, she does lament that she is not able to take care of Mr. Crouch.)

hermione and house elves in hogwarts.jpg

Of course it is hard to sit here and think, “Well maybe they do like their conditions” since the Hogwarts house-elves do often seem happy to serve, especially since we don’t know what house-elves were doing before wizards enslaved them. Are they truly happy or is it thousands of years of conditioning and brainwashing to believe they are happy? The book never takes a house-elf’s point of view, so we can only speculate on what they think. We also have to consider Winky who was set free- she is emotionally and psychologically distraught and cannot handle not serving the Crouch family. Considering Winky, would it even be beneficial to the elves themselves to set them free? The issue is left hanging at the end of the book, because it is too large to solve in such a short span of time, but it leaves you to wonder. There is no question that house-elves should not be abused or compelled to harm themselves when they make a mistake, but considering what we have seen so far, it seems like Hermione has a lot more learning to do before S.P.E.W becomes a fully fleshed out organization.

Images:

Incompetence in the Wizarding World

Just a heads up; this will be a long post.

One thing I liked when first reading Harry Potter was how quirky and whimsical the Wizarding World was. It wasn’t as structured or as formal as our world can be at times. Things like having spells that tickle you, producing Cheering Charms, dressing in mismatched ways to try and replicate Muggle clothing, and having a casual disregard for some of the danger involved in Quidditch (like referees disappearing during a match and showing up a few months later) were funny to read the first time around. But now upon rereading the books, especially Goblet and Fire and after, and considering discussions in class, it is more obvious that there is plenty of incompetence and disregard mixed with corruption in the Wizarding World.

Considering mild incompetence, it is one thing to have wizards dress so sloppily when trying to imitate Muggles. You would think they would be more observant or have a select group of people who disseminate this information. On a more severe note, it is clear that the Quidditch World Cup is not very well planned. This was brought to my attention when reading Tor.com– Emily Asher-Perrin mentions that there clearly isn’t any kind of emergency protocol in case something goes wrong at the Quidditch World Cup. Unlike with major sports games in the Muggle world, there doesn’t seem to be any form of security or strict adherence to rules at the campsite (this is probably enhanced with Ludo Bagman being in charge). Nothing prevents families from building huge tents that are obviously unlike Muggle tents, people from performing magic out in the open, or Death Eaters and rowdy fan from harassing the Robertses. The Wizarding World doesn’t seem to have the equivalent of police officers or security officials- they mainly rely on Ministry of Magic employees to be on duty. I don’t know if the Ministry of Magic had too few people to staff, but it seems silly that the body that organized the entire event didn’t have any procedure to manage chaos. Maybe they assume that if anything goes wrong, they can just fix it with magic?

quidditch world cup riot

As I mentioned before, they are either very lax or extreme with punishments. Oftentimes punishments don’t seem to fit the crime. For example, in the Sorcerer’s Stone, the children had detention in the Forbidden Forest, which is forbidden and dangerous, to look for what was killing unicorns, all because they were out after hours. At school, there is also no handling of bullying. I don’t know if these parts in the book are a product of J.K.Rowling’s upbringing at school or before the era when addressing bullying became a more serious issue, but it is awful the way that students and teachers bully students. Snape insults Hermione in the Goblet of Fire when her teeth were enlarging and says he sees no difference in her appearance and calls her an insufferable know-it-all in Prisoner of Azkaban; Draco casually says Mudblood, which I assume is the equivalent of a racial slur, out loud regularly; and Snape is often extremely unfair to Harry at times. We also don’t hear about any punishments after the episode with the Roberts’- just that the Ministry screwed up and no one was arrested.

Finally, I feel that corruption and subverting the legal system should be another blog post of its own, but it is something that is pretty prominent and doesn’t seem to have many ramifications. Our professor mentioned in class that the Ministry of Magic tends to look for the quickest, easiest, most plausible answer when they are trying to solve a crime or accuse someone. They don’t seem keen to ask hard questions or doing lengthy investigations like we would even for small things. There is some jumping to conclusions and anyone in power can decide justice in their own way at times.  

This is very prominent when the Dark Mark is conjured at the World cup. Amos Diggory quickly implicates Harry and Winky in the conjuring even though they are clearly two of the most unlikely people to have done it. This made me think, if Amos was so quick to jump to conclusions now, then it truly gives you a glimpse into what life must have been like back during the first Wizarding War. How quickly did people accuse their friends or family members of cavorting with the Death Eaters or engaging with the Dark side? How mistrustful did they become of others who they were once close to? We saw in the Prisoner of Azkaban that both Lupin and Sirius thought the other was on Voldemort’s side when we know that they were best friends.

Another issue I have with the Wizarding World is their application of the law and how they detect fraud to prevent falsely implicating a person. If someone steals your wand and casts one of the Unforgivable Curses, and you end up back with that wand, how do you show that someone stole it and you didn’t cast the curses, especially if it’s known that this is something that could happen? Or how do you distinguish if someone was under the Imperius Curse vs willingly committing acts for the Dark side. You only have that person’s word to go off of. There are just too many holes here that are not adequately addressed. Our professor did mention that, in general, the ideal percentage of full world construction should be about 80%. Any less then there are too many holes, and any more then there is not enough room for readers to use their imagination. But if the Wizarding World doesn’t have a set structure or enough competence to think rationally and handle something as simple as who conjured the Dark Mark, it is no wonder that innocent people were killed or placed in Azkaban and those who are actually committing deeds walked free after Voldemort’s disappearance.

Azkaban_concept_art

I feel that their seemingly harmless incompetence combined with a casual disregard for rules or the law and somewhat lax punishment had/has/and will severely affect(ed) the way that they handle justice and punishments. However, I believe all of this also has a purpose in the transition that the fourth books serves. It is no longer fun and games. Things are serious now and we slowly start to see the more negative aspects of the Wizarding World coming out from under the rug and how these influence the rest of the story.

Image credits:

Using a Meme for Literary Analysis

This week in class, we discussed chapters 6-11 of the Prisoner of Azkaban and did something like a free for all for discussing our thoughts about these chapters. We also read our professor’s essay from the book, Transforming Harry: The Adaptation of Harry Potter in the Transmedia Age, which analyzed using memes for literary analysis. At the end of class on Tuesday, we were tasked with creating a meme based on what we had read about in chapters 6-11. I remember mentioning McGonagall’s snark towards Professor Trelawney in this part of the book, which seems so out of character, since you usually see her as a respectable, fierce, stern, no-nonsense professor, and she often reserves these kinds of remarks for students. But it is obvious that her opinions line up with Hermione’s when it comes to Divination and Professor Trelawney, but she can’t be as openly outspoken about it as a professor as Hermione can as a student. For example, take this passage (pg 229):  

“Certainly I knew, Minerva,” she said quietly. “But one does not parade the fact that one is All-Knowing. I frequently act as though I am not possessed of the Inner Eye, so as not to make others nervous.”

“That explains a great deal,” said Professor McGonagall tartly.

There are other instances like this throughout the book. It was these interactions upon which I based my meme:

my meme!!!!!!!!

This meme serves as a form of literary analysis because it provides insight into Professor McGonagall’s character, Professor Trelawney’s character, and intra-fandom conflict.

  • McGonagall’s characterization:
    • As I mentioned above, there are parallels between McGonagall and Hermione’s characters in terms of their distrust of Divination as a subject. They are also both very intelligent, level-headed, and loyal. Another parallel exists in that both of them were Hatstalls, where the Sorting Hat debated for around 5 minutes about whether to put them in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor (1).
    • As I mentioned above, these her comments show a more sassy low-tolerance side of Professor McGonagall for things she considers nonsensical. However, even though she says these snide remarks in Prisoner of Azkaban, when Professor Trelawney is almost ousted by Dolores Umbridge in the Order of the Phoenix, Professor McGonagall does come to her defense and helps to comfort her afterwards. It is said that McGonagall “sensed [Professor Trelawney’s] underlying feeling of inadequacy (2).”  
  • Trelawney as a true Seeker:
    • There is a lot of question surrounding Professor Trelawney about whether she truly possesses the Inner Eye and can predict true prophecies. Throughout this book and the next few she makes a series based on very vague predictions that can later be said to have come true (i.e. Lavender “dreading” the death of her rabbit). She is also very observant which may explain why many of her vague predictions seem to come true (i.e. Neville breaking a tea cup; but she probably sensed his nervousness and clumsiness from when he came in).
    • However, she was the one who accurately predicted the Prophecy between Voldemort and Harry, Peter Pettigrew returning to Voldemort, and Dumbledore’s death (3). None of these could have been be predicted by simple observation or vague statements.
  • Intra-fandom conflicts:
    • Professor McGonagall viewing Trelawney as a fraud also relates to conflicting views about true fans in a fandom.
    • There is sometimes debate about what constitutes a “true” Harry Potter fan. Some may claim that to really be a Harry Potter fan, you need to have read/listened to all the books, and that those who have only watched the movies are not true fans because they didn’t start from the quote-unquote beginning.
    • This plays on the distrust between certain levels of a fandom- i.e. how much of it have you truly experienced, which of course is subjective. Even I have the opinion that a person needs to have read the books to fully have experienced the series and be a Sirius (haha- see what I did there?) fan. If you are interested WikiHow has an article titled How to Be a Harry Potter Fan.
    • Each fan of the series will have a different experience whether they read the books first or watched the movies first or experienced it through friends, memes, or websites. But just as the end of this Bustle article states, anyone who can appreciate the series is a fan regardless of how many times they have read the books.

The meme could probably be improved, or at least fit the standard format, by just having the image of McGonagall with the words at the bottom. You would still be able to have the analysis about intra-fandom conflict and perhaps McGonagalls characterization; however, you would not be able to analyze Professor Trelawney’s character and ability as a Seer. Nor could you analyze the relationships between Professor McGonagall and Professor Trelawney.

mcgonagall meme

References:

  1. https://www.pottermore.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/hatstall
  2. https://www.pottermore.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/sybill-trelawney
  3. https://www.pottermore.com/features/7-times-professor-trelawney-got-it-right