Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Order

So, we’ve discussed censorship at Hogwarts and censorship in the wizarding community as a whole.  And I’m pretty clear about where I stand on one issue – censoring vital information to adults is bad! – and not so clear on the other – where is the line when you’re talking about students / children?  So it should come as no surprise that when Hogwarts students step out into the real world, I get even more mixed up.

I am, of course, talking about how Harry & co (mostly Ron & Hermione, but also the rest of the Weasley kids and even the other students to a certain extent) are treated by the adults of the Order.  There is a scene in Grimmauld Place, at the beginning of OotP, soon after Harry arrives, that illustrates my point beautifully:

“…You know, I’m surprised at you.  I thought the first thing you’d do when you got here would be to start asking questions about Voldemort.” [Sirius said]….

“I did!” said Harry indignantly.  “I asked Ron and Hermione, but they said we’re not allowed in the Order, so -”

“And they’re quite right,” said Mrs. Weasley.  “You’re too young.”…

“Since when does someone  have to be in the Order of the Phoenix to ask questions?’ asked Sirius…

“It’s not down to  you to decide what’s good for Harry!..,not telling Harry more than he needs to know,” said Mrs. Weasley…

“I don’t intend to tell him more than  he needs to know, Molly,” said Sirius.  “But as he’s the one who saw Voldemort come back…he has more right than most…”

(Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, p. 87-88)

I chopped it up a bit for clarify, but I think you get the gist.  SIrius believes that Harry should be told more about what the Order is learning, what they’re doing, and what’s truly going on in the world.  Molly believes that he’s too young to hear about all this, and that he should be protected.  So, this is where I’m even more conflicted than I was thinking about the Hogwarts curriculum.

On one hand, I’m a mother.  I totally and completely understand where Molly is coming from with her argument – she sees Harry as one of her children, and she wants to protect her children.  As a parent, I can empathize with that reaction – to shield your child from the bad parts of the world, and to resist anyone’s attempts to shove those bad parts into their life.  It’s a natural parental reaction,  and Molly is a mother,first and foremost – and she sees Harry as one of her children.

But, as Sirius and Harry both  point out, he’s a teenager – not really a child – and there really is no shielding him from Voldemort’s return, because Voldemort is determined to involve him regardless of his age.  After all, Voldemort tried to murder him when he was only fifteen months old – why would he suddenly declare Harry off-limits because of puberty?  At what point does not telling him things to protect him put him in more danger, because he doesn’t know that he’s in danger?

While Molly wants to use Harry’s age to protect him, I am in agreement with Sirius (and Harry himself, of course) that he’s involved with the Order regardless of his age, and not telling him things has the potential to be much more harmful than telling him.  I would even go so far as to extend that commentary to all the main students in the book – the Weasley children, Hermione and Neville and Luna.  They’re involved – through accident of birth or friendship or choice or whatever – and refusing to acknowledge their involvement doesn’t make it – or the dangers associated with it – go away.  It simply makes it that much more dangerous, because ignorant involvement is a danger to everyone around them.


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Ministry & Prophet

So, of course, censorship at Hogwarts was a very big deal – a VERY BIG DEAL – during Order of the Phoenix.  Everyone hates Umbridge.  Etc.  But censoring Hogwarts classes was only a small part of the wider censorship issues that plauged the wizarding world during this time – after all, the Ministry appointing Umbridge and sticking their nose into affairs at Hogwarts was largely because Dumbledore was refusing to allow them to ignore the return of the most evil wizard of all time. And come on – what’s a little zombie wizard Hitler between friends, really?

Seriously, though, unlike the censorship issues at Hogwarts – which I actually do think are worthy of real discussion, because censorship and children is a much more gray area than censorship and adults – this is pretty much just all bad.  All bad, all the way around.  So, Voldemort returns, kills Cedric, nearly kills Harry, who escapes thanks to matching-wand-core magic to let the world know that Voldie has returned.  Theoretically, this would ruin Voldemort’s plans to sneak back into the wizarding world and snatch power before anyone knows he’s back.  Fudge’s mind was decribed as “twisted and warped by fear” and the Ministry appeared more interested in discrediting Dumbledore and Harry than facing the possibility of the return of a mass murder.

Working right alongside the Ministry at this point is the Daily Prophet.  Building on the foundation of tabloid-like nonsense that Rita Skeeter had laid down during Goblet of Fire (eyes glistening with ghosts of his past!  Love triangles!), the Prophet focused on making Harry look like an attention seeking liar, upset that the attention had moved away from him and desperate to get it back.  Rather than reporting on the missing persons, the strange deaths or the odd defection of the Dementors which led to a huge prision break, the Prophet chose to focus on making an old man and a teenager out to be insane liars.  I don’t think it’s ever made clear whether the Prophet was actually under the Ministry’s thumb or if they simply wanted to ignore the truth as well (correct me if I’m wrong, obvs), but the end result was that the Ministry and the Prophet worked together to conceal the return of Voldemort.

I’m much more comfortable declaring this censorship bad, terrible, awful, and downright irresponsible than I am the censorship at Hogwarts.  Because at the end of the day, the Ministry and the Prophet were lying to adults.  They knew perfectly well that there was something to be scared of in the dark, and rather than handing out flashlights and batteries, they were trying to teach people to whistle Dixie.

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Censorship in Hogwarts

Order of the Phoenix is probably the richest source material for censorship in Harry Potter – wouldn’t you say?  At this point, Voldemort is back but most of the establishment is trying to deny it.  The Ministry is sticking their noses into Hogwarts business, where it does not belong (although technically if the Ministry funds Hogwarts, as JK has confirmed, then it is their business, no?).  And the question comes up again and again and AGAIN – who has a right to what knowledge, and who has the right to restrict it?  Hogwarts seems like a good place to start examining these questions, I think.

Up till this point, Harry & co. have really only had one competent DADA  teacher – Lupin.  Quirril and Crouch/Moody were actually on the side of the Dark Arts, which makes anything they teach about defense automatically suspect, and Lockhart was a fraud.  But each of those teachers at least ATTEMPTED to give the students practice in DADA – it wasn’t purely theory.  Umbridge, on the other hand, refused to let them practice and grounded her class entirely in theory.  Because she believed the actual defensive spells to be too dangerous to allow students to attempt (or, she wasn’t strong enough to demonstrate.  Either or, really).  The thought that they might one day have to use these spells – without ever having practiced them, if she had her druthers – never really seemed to occur to her.  She has decided that practicing defensive spells is too dangerous for students to take on, and that’s that, as far as she’s concerned.  The students are so infuriated with this censorship of their magical education that they form their own, secret club in order to fill the gaps.  You know things are bad when high school students are getting together to learn on their own.

On the other hand, you have Prof. Grubbly-Plank covering for Hagrid at the beginning of OotP, when he’s off courting giants for Dumbledore or some other crackbrained scheme.  Grubbly-Plank covered a class for Hagrid once before (in GoF, when he was hiding after Rita Skeeter exposed his parentage), and the general consensus is that her classes are more in line with what the students thought they’d be learning in COMC.  In general, the opinion of the students seems to be that Hagrid’s classes are too dangerous and impractical, but the students love him so much they wouldn’t want him replaced either way.

So, what’s the difference between these two?  I mean, I’m pretty anti-censorship myself, but even I’m having a hard time explaining what the line should be.  In both of these cases, we have a teacher (or several) who put more trust in their students and taught them more dangerous subject matter, and a teacher who pulls back to what she considers more age-appropriate lesson plans.  Do we simply hate Umbridge and call censorship because – well – we hate her?  Is it because in the case of DADA, the students themselves felt ready to practice and get the hands-on experience they were being denied, while in COMC they felt they were being pushed too far?  It isn’t danger, because practicing defensive spells can be just as dangerous – if not more so – than attempting to raise Blast-Ended Skrewts.  It isn’t simply the skill of the teacher, because Lockhart and Lupin were both accused of pushing the students too far by Umbidge, and Lupin is far more skilled than Lockhart.  And I don’t even think it can be reduced to liking one teacher over another, because even the students – like Hermione – who sincerely liked Hagrid and considered him a friend were aware that Grubbly-Plank was the more competent teacher.

When it comes down to it, the question remains: who gets to decide what is taught, and where is the line where age-appropriateness becomes censorship?

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It has come to my attention that the last week of September is banned books week.  And while a lesser writer may simply write something about why Harry Potter shouldn’t be banned and the people who wish to ban it (and all books, really) are betraying the weakness of their own cause, that’s not what I feel like doing.  I am more interested in exploring censorship within the wizarding world and how it manifests both aimed at Hogwarts students and in at the citizens as a whole.   Because I’m just strangely obsessed with this wizarding world that JK has created.

It’s interesting to me the way the books take a look at censorship – and a stance against it – considering how the book was received in the real world.  With the Ministry and Umbridge in particular, JK takes a pretty strong stance that protecting people “for their own good” isn’t right, and that censorship for that purpose is pretty darn close to evil.  And even when she raises the idea of the other side of the argument – after all, as much as we all love Hagrid, Grubbly-Plank is probably a safer teacher, right? – she still seems staunchly on the anti-censorship side of things.

And that’s how we like her, right?

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The Other Black Boy

Regulus Black really doesn’t get a lot of “screen time” in the HP world, so to speak, but he’s an intriguing character to me, nonetheless.  He’s Sirius’ little brother, for chrissakes, and Sirius is my favorite character, so…..yeah.

I wonder how alike they are.  The note that Regulus left for Voldemort in the fake locket Horcrux seems to suggest that he certainly shared a flair for the dramatic with his older brother.  But was he loyal like Sirius, too?  After all, Sirius clung so tightly to the little family he created after his biological family kicked him out that it literally drove him insane and killed him.  Was becoming a Death Eater Regulus’ form of loyalty – to his parents, perhaps, as a sort of payment for his brother’s sins?  Such a strong loyalty to his parents and their ideals that he signed up with Voldemort as a type of penance because his brother turned out to be a blood traitor?  I like to think that’s why he did it.

I also wonder about why Regulus turned away from Voldemort.  I think canonically, it has to do with Voldemort trying to kill Kreatcher in an attempt to test the security measures around his Horcrux?  And that’s kind of when Regulus realizes oh shit this guy doesn’t give a crap about anyone, he doesn’t care at all that I love this creature, to him it’s a house-elf and therefore inferior and therefore totally disposable.  But, like….really?  Did you not realize you’d signed up to work for a genocidal maniac who was incapable of love? Really and truly this was a surprise to you?  Or did you only care because now it’s affecting YOU and YOUR life and things YOU care about?  Because I love Sirius and this is Sirius’ brother, I want to believe that Regulus simply didn’t realize what he was signing up for – after all, he’d heard his parents parroting these same views his whole life and they certainly weren’t murderers – and it was just too hard for him to get out.  But I really don’t know if that’s the case.

I also wonder what Hogwarts was like for Regulus and Sirius – after all, by 5th or 6th year Sirius had been kicked out of their parents’ home and was living with the Potters full time when he wasn’t at Hogwarts. What was it like for Regulus to only see his brother at school, when he was surrounded by his friends that their parents wouldn’t approve of?  Did they still attempt to have a relationship, or did Sirius cut off contact with Regulus along with their parents?  Did they ever get into fights at Hogwarts, or did they simply allow themselves to drift apart?  It’s truly fascinating to me to think about the dynamics of Sirius and Regulus, brothers who ended up on ostensibly opposite sides of the war, but died fighting for the same side.

Thins like this are why I think JK needs to write a Marauders series.


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Back To School

As everyone around me prepares to go back to school – and I send my own kids to day care for the first time – I find myself, once again, thinking about Hogwarts.  But lately – instead of thinking about how unfair it was that I never got my letter and had to go to stupid Muggle schools my whole life – I’ve been thinking about how Hogwarts runs, administratively.  Like, Dumbledore is the headmaster, and McGonagall is the deputy headmistress.  And each House is led by a professor – Gryffindor is McGonagall, Slytherin is Snape, Hufflepuff is Sprout, and Ravenclaw is Flitwick.  So, you’re telling me that McGonagall has THREE jobs at Hogwarts?  She runs Gryffiindor AND teaches AND runs the school (because seriously Dumbledore has his strengths and administration is not it).

There has to be an army of secretary wiitches and wizards behind the scenes somewhere at Hogwarts.  First of all, someone has to be in charge of the house elves.  I doubt Filch is doing it, and Hagrid is too busy with his groundskeeping.  Secondly, someone has to be keeping track of all these students – JK has discussed that there are about 1000 students during Harry’s tenure at Hogwarts.  That’s a LOT of kids to send letters to, to account for, to arrange class schedules for and keep track of disciplinary and academic and medical records for. ESPECIALLY with a headmaster who likes to send students into the FORBIDDEN FOREST for detention.  Even if this is taken care of magically (which I assume it is), someone has to be in charge of those spells.

And this is why Harry Potter is awesome.  Because I can think about ADMINISTRATIVE SPELLS and becoming fascinated.

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