Well, folks, at the halfway mark! And this one is a doozy. It’s so large, in fact, that I’ve decided to split it up over two posts. The first part today, second next Wednesday! Please enjoy!
Things That Confuse and Anger Me About the Harry Potter Series: Goblet of Fire
1. In this book we learn about the Weasley’s nifty little clock: it tells whether each member of the family is “home,” “work,” “traveling,” “prison,” etc. One of the options is “mortal peril.” This got me wondering: wouldn’t Mr. and Mrs. Weasley know immediately all the times any of their children went on dangerous excursions with Harry? Ron going after the Philospher’s Stone; Ron and Ginny being in the Chamber of Secrets; Ron being attacked by Sirius?
2. This is something that has always bothered me since I first read the book, but even more so now as an adult who is a feminist and activist: Hermione’s activism for House Elf rights and how it’s treated in the book. Hermione becomes a well-meaning, though misled and self-righteous, activist for the welfare of House Elves after she discovers how badly they’re treated and how the law disregards them. She has some truly feminist-licious lines like: “It’s people like you, Ron, who prop up rotten and unjust systems…” With Hermione’s activism we have two sides of the feminist coin. It’s so cool to see a main character in a popular book being unapologetically an activist, lobbying for the rights, welfare and enfranchisement of a non-privileged class. However, Hermione’s activism is at times very reminiscent of the typical Western, white, middle-class feminism, in that it’s so self-righteous and she is completely unwilling to recognize the voice of the very people she’s trying to end oppression against. It’s basically like every white feminist who speaks about how horribly oppressed women of other cultures are while ignoring the stories and experiences of those women.
Read more about SPEW, the Yule Ball, and J.K. Rowling’s hilarious problems with spatial perception after the jump…
So okay, those are my problems with the activism itself, but still! Hermione’s only 14 and she’s showing passion and empathy and a huge interest in social progress; she’s very obviously a budding feminist/activist and is very invested in the welfare of those who do not have the same privilege she does. And how does every other main character treat her with regard to this? Like she’s a complete and utter fool. While some of them bring up good points to her that she should take into account, Harry and Ron just don’t care about it. The rights of creatures who are in a lower social position than them is not something they think they should care about. Their privilege shows so much and it’s really jarring. As an activist and feminist myself I am constantly met with the same kind of apathy, scorn, and denial from people who think things can’t and shouldn’t change just because it doesn’t affect them negatively. So basically…Harry and Ron (and a few others as well) are privileged as fuck and don’t care about people who don’t have the same rights as them.
3. I’m going to be talking about Ron a lot in this one. Where my dislike of him began with the 3rd book, it’s really solidified with this book. He’s just not a very pleasant person. When the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students arrive he has absolutely no control over himself; he stares unabashedly at Krum and Fleur, acting as though he’s never seen a girl or a Quidditch player before in his life. He says rude shit about all the girls at Hogwarts. It’s really ridiculous.
4. Speaking of Fleur: her first speaking appearance is a scene into which she is very awkwardly shoehorned in. She comes to their table to ask if they have finished with the bouillabaisse, a French shellfish stew. This makes no sense. Since when does anyone ever have to go to another table to ask for more food at Hogwarts? First of all, the tables are like ten feet long and completely laden with food. Second of all, every single time there’s ever been a feast, the plates and bowls have never run out of food. They magically keep replenishing. That is how the plates and food at Hogwarts work.
5. “…Dennis Creevey actually stood on his chair to see [the chest containing the Goblet of Fire] properly, but, being so tiny, his head hardly rose above anyone else’s.”
J. K. Rowling has a few things that she’s not very good at. One of them is counting/math. Another is describing the sizes of things without it sounding absolutely ridiculous. From saying Hagrid has trashcan-lid sized hands and baby dolphin feet to saying that Dudley is the size and weight of a baby killer whale, J.K. either REALLY loves hyperbole or has serious issues with spacial perception. But this. Think about it! Dennis is 11 years old. Even a 5 year old who stands up on a chair would be a head or two taller than people sitting down near them. It just makes no sense! Taking this description at face-value basically means believing that Dennis Creevey is a foot tall. Or a baby. They let a baby into Hogwarts.
[Alice’s note: Everyone but Dennis Creevey could just be gigantic, and have five-foot-tall upper bodies. It’s possible.]
6. Aww, Harry and Ron’s first breakup. So cute. At one point after Harry and Ron are broken up, Harry thinks about how, though he likes Hermione a lot, she’s just not as fun to be around as Ron. There’s not as much laughter and Quidditch talk and more time spent in—God forbid—the library. This is just so goddamn annoying to me. Hermione is the friend who didn’t abandon you after your name came out of the Goblet; she didn’t let jealousy get the better of her and choose to believe that you’re a glory-seeker who just didn’t want to share your fame. She stood by you and helped you tirelessly; without her help you would have failed miserably in the first task. And still that’s not enough. With Harry and Ron it seems like Hermione is, at best, perpetually their second-best and, at worst, someone they can use to help with their homework and basically do a majority of their critical thinking for them.
7. Harry is sometimes really douchey to the people who idolize him, especially those who are smaller and less capable than him, like the Creevey brothers and Dobby. He constantly patronizes the Creevey brothers, brushing them aside like annoying flies. And when Dobby comes to give him a Christmas gift, Harry lies about having got him something too and gives him the grossest pair of socks in his trunk, knowing full well that Dobby will love it regardless. That’s really shitty, if you ask me; you couldn’t even give him a pair of socks that isn’t disgusting? And then, when Dobby gives him the socks he’s made for him—hand-made socks made from wool Dobby’s bought with his wages (a Galleon a week)—he doesn’t really think much of them at all: “His other gifts were much more satisfactory than Dobby’s odd socks…” Wow. You’d think for someone who hasn’t had shit all his life he’d be a little more grateful to the people who admire him.
8. The Yule Ball. Oh. My. God. Where do I even start? I could write a blog post on this alone. First of all, Harry and Ron are so ridiculously emotionally stunted; it’s so fucking hard for them to communicate with girls outside of their extremely limited friend group. I know they’re fourteen but Jesus, come on. I guess it’s hard for me to relate to because I never went through a shy/anxious/self-conscious phase. But okay, so Harry and Ron have to find dates for the ball and they’re stressing out about it. The boys talk about their female peers in such objectifying ways it’s absolutely ridiculous, even for teenage boys. They discuss how all the “good ones” will be taken and Ron dismisses a girl as a potential date because “her nose is off-center.” It’s so icky. Beyond that, Ron’s absolute disbelief that Hermione could possibly have a date is so fucking rude; he treats her like her entire identity is wrapped up in “being our friend.” Listen, dude: just because you and Harry’s favorite pastime is sitting boringly with each other doesn’t mean Hermione doesn’t want to break out and meet new people.
So okay, they finally get dates—Parvati and Padma Patil, who are “the best-looking girls in the year.” From the very start, Ron completely ignores Padma. After the first dance, Harry refuses to dance anymore. He and Ron sit sulkily next to one another, completely ignoring the dates that they were so desperate to get. Ron is in a shitty-ass mood because Hermione dared to attend the ball with Viktor Krum and he accuses her of all kinds of shit, from “fraternizing with the enemy” to helping Krum with the next task. This fucking obsessive, possessive behavior is seriously annoying and disturbing. He’s only 14 years old. Hermione is his friend, not his girlfriend; they’ve never been anything close to being in a relationship at this point in the series. And yet he still feels like he has some kind of control over what she should be able to do and who she should be allowed to hang out with. I get that he likes Hermione but this is not the way to go about it; being a childish, pissy, possessive little fuck isn’t what makes girls want you. And the thing that always gets me about Ron’s shitty behavior is that Harry never reprimands him; he never calls Ron out for how he treats Hermione. It’s seriously fucked up.
After that argument, Harry and Ron’s dates have both abandoned them for being the shittiest dates ever and the boys decide to take a walk, where they overhear Hagrid talking about how he’s half-giant. They then proceed to spend the rest of the ball in a corner talking about giants while the rest of the school dances and enjoys themselves. Wow. Harry and Ron are so fucking into each other, why the hell didn’t they go to the Yule Ball together since they fucking spent the whole thing together anyway? Harry leaves the ball thinking about how it hadn’t been a very fun evening. Gee, Harry, I wonder why. It was at this point in the series that I started realizing that, wow, our two male leads are excruciatingly boring, emotionally stunted and totally unwilling to meet new people and have new experiences that don’t involve Quidditch or rule-breaking.
I think this is a good point to stop. Please feel free to comment about anything! Stay tuned for part 2 next Wednesday!