(7/19/04 7:25 am)
Fantasy is good for kids (& Harry Potter discussion)|
Fantasy is good for kids
...according to the New York Times. Check out the article "Summer
Reading List Blues" by Barbara Feinberg on the Op. Ed. page
of Sunday's Times (July 18) .
(Available online at www.nytimes.com/2004/07/18/opinion/18FEIN.html.
Jane Yolen's The
Devil's Arithmetic is praised in the article, and while
the idea that fantasy is good for kids is hardly earth-shattering,
it's still nice to see it in this mainstream venue.
There is also an article on Harry
Potter as a capitalist-in-training, from a French academic,
on the same page. (Online at: www.nytimes.com/2004/07/18/opinion/18YOCA.html).
Edited by: Terri Windling at: 7/22/04 7:56 am
(7/19/04 7:49 am)
Re: Fantasy is good for kids...|
That's a really interesting article. I just read Because
of Winn-Dixie, and, eh, it was all right. What I mostly
felt was that it was boring and cliched. Even as a kid, I'd read
the "ostracized new kid in town learns that outcasts, especially
old women, are really interesting, kind-hearted people. The outcasts
then help the newcomer to look beyond and forgive the faults of
the mean kids and then everyone becomes friends" plot more
times than I could stomach. I didn't want to become friends with
mean kids. I wanted to kick them hard in the stomach. Sometimes
What bothers me is the inability of contemporary children's lit
to let parents be flawed. They can be terrible and abusive, or they
can be wonderful and loving, but they can't just be kinda jerky
sometimes. I'm thinking of the latest movie of Peter
Pan, which I loathed for many reasons, but the main one
was the sugaring up of Mr. Darling, who in the original is a bully.
He loves his kids, he loves his wife, but he's a power tripping
bully and a jerk some of the time, which is why he was doubled with
Hook. In this movie, he's a good-hearted, slightly wimpy fellow
who just needs the love and support of his wife and children. This
bugs me because, um, who do we think we're fooling? I was a kid.
I knew my parents sometimes behaved irrationally and were jerks.
Kids notice these things.
I think the real issue is that it's become an either-or situation in terms of recommended reading, rather than a balanced one. I'm reminded of Katha Pollitt's essay about the canon wars, in which she pointed out the most disturbing assumption was that the required reading was all that was going to be read. I didn't have summer reading when I was in school, and I maintain that it's unpleasant and creepy to give kids homework over the summer. I just read a lot.
I thought a glaring omission in this essay came in the author's discussion of why kids "should" read these books. She writes about children reading about "situations different from their own," which to me left open the question of children whose situations aren't so different and suffer abuse, abandonment, etc. Don't get me wrong. I don't enjoy these "realistic problem" novels and I think a good case can and has been made that suffering children can find better salvation in fantasy than in many of these books, but it would have been nice to see Feinberg mention the possibility.
On the HP
capitalist subject, I always found the class system of HP's wizard
world to be deeply problematic. Malfoy keeps making fun of the Weasleys'
"poverty," but all their kids are at Hogwarts! And everyone
at Hogwarts seems destined for some kind of middle-class, white-collar
work, nothing manual, working-class, or even artistic/bohemian or
social-services (I'm thinking of the careers counseling meetings
in Book 5). Which begs the question, where did people like, oh,
Rosmerta who runs the tavern and Ernie who drives the Knight Bus
go to school? A lot of the working-class labor is done by a) magic
or b) house elves (which raises a whole other set of disturbing
associations--"they want to be slaves! It's how they're
happiest!" I think I've heard that song before.).
Where do Rosmerta and Ernie even come from? Are there wizarding
working class communities?
I've spent way too much time thinking about those books.
Edited by: Veronica Schanoes at: 7/19/04 7:53 am
(7/19/04 11:31 am)
re: Fantasy is good for kids...|
I just read the NY times editorial and was really upset by some things the author said. Most of all, I was bothered by her statement that fantasy blunts the harsher realities of life, making them easier for kids to handle. I've always thought that fantasy was powerful not for blunting harsh truths, but for illuminating them through the use of metaphor, expanding them to mythic proportions. Evil dragons, journeys through dark forests, etc. aren't exciting because they're different from real life; they're exciting because they represent the inner and outer conflicts all humans have to face.
Also, many fantasy heroes/ heroines have serious "real life
problems:" in Lloyd Alexander's The
Book of Three, Taran is an orphan; in Philip Pullman's The
Golden Compass, Lyra's mother is evil and her father is distant;
in Gail Carson Levine's The
Two Princesses of Bamarre, Addie's mother has died from a plague-like
disease, and her sister suffers from the same illness.
Finally, I couldn't believe the NY times author criticized Sharon
Two Moons. This is one of my favorite books of all time; while
the ending is heartbreaking, the book is hilarious and fun to read.
When I remember it I smile; I don't suffer from a "headache
in my stomach," like one of the kids in the NY Times article.
(7/19/04 11:58 am)
Re: re: Fantasy is good for kids...|
You know, I actually wrote a long paper on race, class, and gender
Potter (I was aiming for the perfect combination of graduate
student chic and fantasy reader geek), and I have to say, I rather
agree with the author of the article about the values espoused in
the novels, which, for the most part, are incredibly conservative.
However, I also feel that the parts which the author of the article
has focused on are in fact the most trivial; they're more a criticism
of socialism in general than of any particular focus on it in the
books. The points that Veronica raises are a great deal more significant
(I find the house elves to be particularly bothersome, both in the
problematic assertions concerning their "natural" place
in society, and in terms of their presentation, which is racially
influenced to say the least), and yet there doesn't seem to be a
great deal of attention being focused upon them. Sigh ...
(7/19/04 1:40 pm)
Re: Fantasy is good for kids...|
In response to the NY Times article, which I find very interesting,
I have to say--different strokes for different folks. At ten, my
oldest daughter decided Walk
Two Moons and Because
of Winn-Dixie were the best books ever written and aside
Potter, wouldn't touch anything that related to fantasy. This
has changed (I breathe a sigh of relief) but she still loves this
kind of contemporary fiction--and her tastes were/are as valid as
those who can't stomach the genre.
I tend to agree that teachers often steer kids to these books, even
when it isn't necessarily to the kids' tastes. I think it's because
they think the writing is good--and that is what they are teaching.
Most librarians I know, though, will try to get kids to read, period,
and if it's Captain
Underpants that starts them down the road, so be it.
As far as summer reading lists--it bothers me that they have become
homework. But I had to laugh looking at one of my daughters' lists
was listed under "History/Historical Fiction", Ella
Enchanted was listed under "Health", and Tangerine
was listed under "Science". Maybe we should start giving
the list-compilers some quizzes.
(7/19/04 1:47 pm)
I find the HP
books condemming racism on the one hand (The conflict of pure blood
versus mudblood which is the driving force of every evil in the
books) and incredibly racist on the other hand. It reminds me of
the South Africa I grew up in. Whites this side, Blacks that side.
Muggles in here, Wizards in there. No Muggles allowed. I felt offended
when I read the first book since, I, as an obvious Muggle, was clearly
a second hand citizen. The only way I can enjoy the books is if
I "Try For Wizard", or as we said in the old South Africa:
"Try for White" which meant that a person of colour would
pretend to be white.
The only Muggles who really feature in the books are the Dursleys, and they are two dimensional caricatures with no redeeming traits.
The whole caste system in HP makes me a bit sick.
(7/19/04 1:54 pm)
Oh yes, I wanted to add that if you were unlucky enough to be born without magical skills like Filch, you become the out-cast menial worker / school caretaker. Your worth in Hogwarts is based on your phenotype.
(7/19/04 3:17 pm)
Also, remember the first book, when Harry asks Hagrid how come muggles don't know about wizards and Hagrid says "Well, if they did, they'd want us to solve all their problems." There's a clear distinction between "us" and "them" there that bothers me, especially when I start thinking about the moral valance of say, withholding effective magical medical care that can heal bones in a day rather than in months or other such things. I mean, you're telling me that no wizards of conscience a few hundred years ago felt the need to do something about slavery? The idea that the wizarding community should hold itself apart is a morally questionable one.
That said, I still like the books. Just don't get me started on
their gender politics.
(7/19/04 3:23 pm)
Oh, please start on their gender politics! I find it fascinating that this is the aspect that's received the most critical attention so far, and that I'm not actually in strict agreement with a lot of the criticism that I've read, despite the fact that I *am* a rabid feminist (willing to snap at the first sign of misogyny _or_ misandry). I've seen a lot of articles that focused on the physical presentation of female characters (i.e., the "little witches" as opposed to the "raucous warlocks" in the Three Broomsticks, Minerva's beady eyes), and I've always found there to be something a bit ... off ... about feminist critiques of apparel (we all remember the Buffy meta-narratives). At the same time, I think that the ideas behind Hermione's characterization are appalling, especially in the subjugation of her gifts - intellect, cleverness, book-learning - to Harry's skills of loyalty and bravery (which she, herself, possesses in abundance). Which aspects bother you most?
(7/19/04 3:47 pm)
OK. But you asked.
First, I have all the usual anger about Hermione's character--not
just the subjugation of her talents to Harry's, which you mention,
but, for instance, the way that she is immediately described as
"bossy." When was the last time you heard a boy described
as "bossy," in school? It seems to be a word used solely
to insult girls. Leaving that aside, there's the fact that her "obnoxiousness"
in the first book is associated with her intelligence--and yes,
she's a goody-goody and a know-it-all, but she didn't have to be.
Rowling could have written a smart girl who was also vaguely likeable.
And Harry and Ron only start liking her when they save
her from a troll even though she's better at magic.
Why do they have to? Because she heard Ron saying something mean
about her and was in the bathroom crying. And then? She covers up
for Ron and Harry sneaking off to save her by eating public humble
pie and talking about how she'd thought she could handle it on her
own. Couldn't she have made up a story that wasn't self-abasing?
In Book 2, she's paralyzed by the basilisk. She disappears for most
of Book 3 because Harry and Ron are angry at her.
Note that in Book 4, she becomes beautiful because she straightens
her hair. That made me throw my book across the room.
On another tack, let's talk about Harry's mother. You may have noted that in the first book, Harry's mother's wand was "Ten and a quarter inches long, swishy, made of willow. Nice wand for charm work." Harry's father's wand was "Eleven inches. Pliable. A little more power and excellent for transfiguration." Need I comment?
Harry's mother is a complete non-entity. Despite being obsessed with his father, Harry expresses little to no curiosity about his mother. We don't even find out her maiden name until midway through Book 5 (it's Evans). He looks exactly like his father, Sirius wants him to be like his father, Snape hates Harry because he hated Harry's father , Remus and Rosmerta remember his father--wasn't anybody friends with his mother? And yeah, I know, he has his mother's eyes. But does anybody tell us why that's important? Didn't his mother have any friends? She was Head Girl, said Hagrid! Dumbledore blathers on at boring length about James but Lily...does Dumbledore ever mention her name? (Which reminds me of what I think is a continuity error--in Book 1 Hagrid says Harry's parents had been Head Boy and Head Girl, but Harry's dad never even made prefect.) All we know about Lily Evans is that, well, she had green eyes and red hair. She was muggle-born. She objected to James's spontaneously tormenting Snape. She...had a "swishy" wand, good for charm work. Did she have a patronus? What did she do in the original OOtP? And oh yes, the ultimate good mommy cliche: she died to save her baby. (Though not nobly, "on her feet like a man," as Voldemort says of James. Rather, screaming hysterically. I'd probably scream hysterically too if I thought I were dying, but I note that James didn't.) So: pretty, charm, swishy, dead. Compare that to all we know about James.
Whenever there's a situation when wands are being measured, girls'
wands are shorter than boys' wands, which doesn't surprise me because
wands are phallic (check out the wand-weighing scene in Book 4).
Note also in Book 4 that Fleur Delacoeur is the only female champion
and comes in last in every single event. Every
one! Which reminds me, Fleur's part veela. That's supposed to explain
how attractive she is. She's not just an attractive girl, no. Attractive
girls--they're not fully human! Then there're the veelas themselves.
Female sexual appeal is constructed as a spell cast by non-human
creatures who are, one finds, really ugly and nasty.
Molly Weasley is not ugly, nasty, or sexy, but she can't get rid of a Boggart. Neville Longbottom can get rid of Boggarts, but Molly Weasley can't. I think that Rowling did a good thing in dramatizing an adult's worst fear, but what we see is a woman being incompetent and weepy, and then men stepping in and doing the job for her. I don't think the scene's emotional impact would have been lost if say, Tonks had taken care of the Boggart for Molly. Another note: why is Molly Weasley a stay-at-home mom? We're always hearing about how the Weasleys need more money, and a lot of housework comes out of the end of a wand. If she wants to, she wants to, but it's never addressed. Come to think of it, are there any mothers in the Wizard world who work outside the home? None of the professors, male or female, seem to have any family, so they're out. Is celibacy a rule for Hogwarts staff or something?
Hermione is the singular girl. She has no friends. (She has her corollary in Professor McGonagal, the singular woman who doesn't seem to spend time with any other women.) Ginny is a social non-entity for the first 3 books. Who does Hermione spend her time with? Parvati and Lavender Brown are both portrayed as simpering twits. Who does Hermione hang out with in her dorm? What does it say about this series that Hermione has no female friends until Ginny finally gets old enough to be interesting? Rowling didn't have to create whole subplots around a friend. Hermione could just say, "Oh, I'll see you later, I'm having lunch with Angie." Of course, Lily Potter doesn't seem to have had any female friends either, as noted above. Nor does Molly Weasley seem to have any female friends. I'm always very disturbed by stories in which women have almost no positive relationships with each other.
There. Maybe I'll think of more later.
Edited to point out that the only two Hogwarts houses that matter, Gryffindor and Slytherin, are named after the two male founders. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are named after women, but we all know that they're not as important.
Aside: Wouldn't you be pissed if you were a Hogwarts student at,
say, Ravenclaw? You would know that your only hope to get in on
any of the action ever would be to date or hang out with a Gryffindor
or a Slytherin. And as for your house ever having a shot
at winning the school trophy? Forget about it. You might as well
go to American public school.
Edited by: Veronica Schanoes at: 7/19/04 6:15 pm
(7/19/04 4:16 pm)
Hey, Helen, just an extra post to note three articles: "Accepting
Mudbloods: The Ambivalent Social Vision of J.K. Rowling's Fairy
Tales," "Hermione and the House-Elves: The Literary and
Historical Contexts of J.K. Rowling's Antislavery Campaign,"
and "The Fallen Empire: Exploring Ethnic Otherness in the World
of Harry Potter," by Elaine Ostry, Brycchan Carey, and Giselle
Liza Anatol, respectively. These essays are all in a book called
Harry Potter: Critical Essays that I...happen to have.
(7/19/04 11:18 pm)
Re: House Elves|
Veronica, all I want to add is THANK YOU. I agree completely and appreciate you writing about exactly what has ticked me off about HP. There a voice in the state of Washington cheering you on!!
(7/21/04 2:38 pm)
Re: House Elves|
Excellent points, one and all! It's very interesting the J.K. Rowling seems to carry all of these positions in a seemingly "progressive" work (although, honestly, she undermines her own positions on class interactions and race relations just as thoroughly). I think that the thing that got to *me* most in terms of gender presentations, though, was the shining presence of Dolores Umbridge, who is presented as the epitome of nasty girly-girls everywhere, with her hunger, not for power, but for *secondary authority* (that basis of her rivalry with Minerva, best seen in that whole "I knew it! You want to be in the position that I'm in now, Dumbledore as Minister of Magic and yourself as headmistress!" rant). She seems to suffer from an advanced case of arrested development - i.e., the hair-ribbons, the pink (!) cardigans, the fluffy-kitty pictures - as well as an unfortunate dependence upon men (whether Fudge, Filch, or even little adolescent Draco) to carry out her plans (note that she herself in nigh on helpless, whether faced with Fred and George's fireworks, or the attacking centuars). The manipulation ties in most unfortunately with the desire to dominate that we see in the amazingly abusive corporal punishment inflicted on rebellious - and always male - students. There's enough there for *years* of psychoanalysis, but what it boils down to is a portrait of femininity that implies that, a) women desire power, but can't really control it when faced with opponents who are equal in their resources, only those who are immature and/or undeveloped, b) women who desire power are obviously developmentally challenged and really only sublimating their desire for sexual domination into this inappropriate field, but rather half-assedly, because, c) women who desire power are dependent upon the men in their lives (whom they manipulate) for anything resembling true authority. Need I say, blech.
And, yes, I definitely must get myself a copy of _Reading
Harry Potter: Critical Essays_; there's this one essay in there
that I've been dying to read, "Cruel Heroes and Treacherous
Texts: Educating the Reader in Moral Complexity and Critical Reading
in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter Books." Can't quite remember
the author's name ... *coughveronicacough*... but I've heard that
(7/22/04 9:19 am)
Re: House Elves|
Thanks Jen and Helen!
You know, Helen, I find your arguments about Dolores Umbridge very convincing. I left her out of my rant because I have mixed feelings about her. On the one hand, she's such a wonderful villain! Talk about the banality of evil!
And I must say that the part of me that loathes girly gender stereotyping really enjoyed seeing those qualities associated with wretched evil: the pink, the silly hairbow, the girlish simpering voice. Because I think it's pretty vile that girls are pressed to behave like that (and women, for that matter), I enjoyed seeing those qualities allies with evil, while strident, aggressive, forthright Minerva McGonagall is clearly a heroine.
And yet, I see your point about the negativity of femininity. If Umbridge had had qualities that were traditionally feminine but not annoying or loathesome, I would have felt it more strongly, but I still see your point. Ever since you pointed out that her nameless centaur trauma could easily be read as gang rape I have felt less sanguine about her end.
(7/22/04 11:01 am)
In defense of the books...|
This is undoubtedly the wrong forum for me, since everyone seems to be having so much fun bashing Rowling for failing to create--what, a utopia? Still, the indignation in each of these previous entries is perfectly justified if you truly wanted the wizarding world of Harry Potter to be a just and equitable society.
Some of the complaints are that Rowling uses stereotypes and cliches to create the characters. Other flaws in her books are the distressing abuses of lower classes in society. However, there is a difference between envisioning a perfect society and having a good story set in that society. You can do one or the other, but so far no one has managed both. The best stories are set in terribly imperfect settings.
I could go on, of course, about house elves (rather daring of the author to ask: What if you have a despicable practice endorsed by its victims? It's odd that people don't seem to pick up on the fact the SHE is not endorsing it!) and Hermione ('authoritative, yet convivial' is a far more flattering way to say bossy, but lacks the narrative punch. Besides, when was the last time you used those words to describe someone giving you a hard time?) and the condemning of Umbridge for wanting power (should we excuse her for unethical behavior just because she is a woman?), and all the other fascinating complaints from readers, but it would take too many pages. I hold much more respect for Rowling now, however, when I realize that she has successfully made people think about all the injustices of prejudice and social stratification. Plus, she has an excellent story, set in a flawed world. But who would want to read about Harry Potter and the Toys of Peace?
(7/22/04 12:44 pm)
Re: In defense of the books...|
The thing is, I don't think that anyone here *dislikes* Rowling: I personally think that she's created a fascinating world with characters who are mostly very likable. But, as a critic, that doesn't stop me from seeing flaws when she tries to achieve one effect and ends up, inadvertantly, sabotaging herself, which is what I see as the end result of her take on the class system in the wizarding world and its race relations, with gender roles coming in a distant third. She's *tried* to show that individuals are equals, regardless of birth, by using Slytherin's policies of discrimination as her model of "evil," but despite that, she hasn't presented a viable alternative; her protagonists show themselves to be as flawed, or more so, despite their liberal leanings and good intentions. _Could_ this be commentary upon the insincere bleeding hearts of the world? Possibly, sure. But I haven't seen an evidence pointing towards deliberation in the treatment of these issues, and I kinda (perhaps rather pretentiously), think that there may be a possibility that these are the sorts of things that won't necessarily occur to her primary audience, but only to the critically minded among them, and that her YA readers might end up internalizing some fairly negative viewpoints (i.e., house-elves have accents and do housework ... so does that nice lady who comes by once a week ... house-elves "like" their menial positions and don't hope for advancement ... ergo, the lower classes are the lower classes not because of a lack of opportunities, but because of some natural affinity - this is only an example, but just as bad if they assume that all rich kids are entitled brats, or that women can't be heros). Which brings us to the gender question ... J.K. Rowling has never tried to make a "point" about female equality, so it might be something that she's doing unconsciously; it might be a realistic portrayal of her worldview. But it's not mine, and if I'll call male authors on perceived misogyny - frequently while still enjoying their work, and understanding the anachronistic mindset that I carry when reading, say, Hemingway and seeing a blind spot in his treatment of the part of the race that lacks upper body strength and the ability to write its name in the snow - then I'm not likely to cut a contemporary female author any more slack, because, honestly? While I can excuse Hemingway, seeing that same problem perpetuated by a modern female author just strikes me as a very sad internalization of attitudes that I'm trying to erode as quickly as I can.
On your specific points: yes, I do think that Rowling's take on the house-elves raises an interesting question concerning imperialism. I'm looking forward to seeing where she goes with it. My basic problem with the house-elves is that she's taken *just enough* from traditional folklore to subvert its meaning, as houselves seem very similar to brownies, but without the autonomy (for example, brownies are free to leave whenever they are offended ... houselves can only be freed by their "masters"), and with the addition of some characteristics that just strike me, frankly, as being either racist or classist. It's not integral to the story for houselves to have their "cute" accents; it's just part of the presentation that the disenfranchised are unable to speak standard English. Blech. And as for Unbridge? *I* certainly don't condemn the character for wanting power ... it's the presentation of how she goes about getting it, and of how she abuses it once she has it, that strikes me as being a take on a couple of very ugly preexisting stereotypes about "typical" female behavior. I also have no problems with her facing punishment for her actions, though I think that the suggestion of the form that the punishment takes is very problematic.
But on the whole, I agree, I certainly have no interest in seeing a utopia - I just wish that I could see some sign that the effects were deliberate and advancing the plot, and not merely reinforcement of some of the more unpleasant aspects of society. Just my two cents ...
(7/22/04 1:03 pm)
Re: In defense of the books...|
I quite like the HP books--it doesn't prevent me from analyzing some of their more problematic implications.
Seconding just about everything Helen said, with the addition that it's possible to present a flawed world while also noting its flaws as flaws. I don't see any evidence that Rowling has done so as regards the way her books deal with race, class, and gender. I don't see the authorial voice condemning the situation of lower-class characters. It's not so much that the world is flawed as that the presentation of it is flawed; no-one's going to say "Hey, Fleur Delacouer comes in last in everything, this world is sexist." It's about the fact that Rowling has Fleur come in last in everything when her doing so has no impact on the important aspects of the plot at all.
Edited to add that I think there's a real and significant difference between "bashing" and critiquing. Nobody here has said something like "The Harry Potter books are crap!" We've all just been analyzing the ways in which they fall short by tacitly endorsing institutionalized power relations.
My problem with the house elf issue is this: in no system of slavery based on race or class that I can think of have the slaves themselves been happy in the system. However, slaveowners and their advocates have consistently promoted the ideology of the happy slave who wants nothing more than to serve because that's what's best for everybody. By constructing a set-up that replicates that ideology with racialized creatures that do genuinely want to be slaves, Rowling is tacitly endorsing that argument which has always been patently false and quite demeaning to the people involved.
Edited by: Veronica Schanoes at: 7/22/04 3:24 pm
(7/22/04 10:00 pm)
What about Cho?|
This has been a fascinating discussion & the thorough analyses I've read here have enlightened me to a few things I'd missed, especially in regard to Rowling's representation of female characters. I guess that shows how endemic internalised sexism is, as I've considered myself a feminist. I agree that JKR could have done more in terms of noting the flaws of her world; it does seem like it represents her take on social reality.
I like the books too, but I am continually disappointed that the repesentations of people of colour are tokenistic, stereotyped or just not thought about. With Harry's romantic interest in Cho in the 4th & 5th books, my interest perked up, but no, she totally passes up on a great opportunity to not only have a strong Asian character, but also to explore the rewards & challenges of a "mixed race" relationship (for both Harry and Cho). I didn't enjoy book 5 as much as the others anyway, but the representation of Cho, and the pathetic failure of Harry's relationship with her, really annoyed me. It seemed like a total cop out on JKR's part (a sop to her fans, who want Harry to get off with Hermione?). It is also a real betrayal of her millions of young readers who live multicultural societies - including my son, who is half African / half white Australian, goes to a school that has 40 different language groups, and loves the Harry Potter books.
On a more positive note, he also loved Lion
Boy (by Zizou Corder), which has a character "just like
(7/22/04 10:25 pm)
Re: What about Cho?|
In a lot of ways, I feel as though Rowling's attitude towards ethnic interaction represents a huge cop-out on her part; she's displaced all of the societal problems onto the non-human races so as to avoid controversy in the books. On the one hand, it makes a certain sort of sense that wizards would be accepting of other wizards regardless of nationality. On the other ... in some ways, the image of Hermione weeping over the "Mudblood" slur is very powerful; in other ways, I feel as if it's a peculiar diminuation of the real racism faced by minority groups. (I also find it curious that Gryffindor and Ravenclaw are the only houses possessing non-Caucasian students in the persons of Angelina, Lee, and Parvati in the former, and Cho and Padma in the latter, and that, as you point out, their backgrounds seem to play absolutely no roles in their day-to-day lives). I also think that the fact that she's avoiding direct discussion of this issue to is a blessing in some ways: she has some deeply offensive bits in _Quidditch Through the Ages_ which use cultural stereotypes to mock the "foreign wizards": at one point, she mentions that the Japanese are great at the game, but their habit of crashing perfectly good brooms after games irks the referees. What a *lovely* kamikaze reference ... The other day I was reading a fairly interesting anlysis of the books that posited a theory concerning the fact that Slytherin conflated the most unpleasant aspects of the Nazis *and* the stereotypes concerning the Jews ... and I have to say, in some ways, it rang true. As I said in my last post, I love these books ... but, oh, the occasional resulting proverbial bad taste in my mouth!
P.S. - I'm almost positive that she's angling Harry towards Ginny.
Edited by: Helen J Pilinovsky at: 7/22/04 10:27 pm
(7/22/04 11:09 pm)
Re: What about Cho?|
Yes I agree it's a cop out in general & also, you're probably right about it's being a blessing - my impression is she doesn't have a clue about these issues, but it would be nice to see her *try*, in good faith.
There is one black person in Gryffindor - at least, if you take a reference (in Book 1) to someone having dreads as proof of ethnicity. Thats Lee Jordan, Fred & George's mate who calls the Quidditch matches. At least the movie has interpreted that he's black. It shows what I mean about tokenism tho. If a character doesn't have a "foreign" name, blink and you'll miss any reference to their ethnicity.
As for the love interest, I think Ginny & Hermione are both contenders, among the fan stuff I've seen, tho I agree Ginny seems more likely.
In reference to what someone else said earlier, about "bashing"
the books, I guess they have become such public property & there
is so much hype about them that it is inevitable people will want
to discuss their perceived flaws. It's not like trying to discuss
less well known books - some of the ones mentioned in this thread
I've never heard of. And I'd be happy to have a go at Tolkien on
race, class & gender, tho I am a LOTR
fan from way back. Great books .. but...
Dissent can be invigorating. And perhaps we are so critical *because* we like the books - so we feel more strongly about their failings. Or as I said in my 1st post, disappointed.
(7/23/04 6:18 am)
Adding nothing particularly intelligent on the discussion...|
I'd say Hermione and Ron are destined for each other... at least he has a wicked crush on her.
I'd love to go after the LOTR's
sexual politics any day (although it can be summarizd by--women?
what women?) but it'll have to wait... the real world has me busy...