xenologer: (objection!)
Okay, so the Harry Potter universe? I hate the wizarding world. Hate hate hate. I would go absolutely barmy there because I actually give a damn about anybody but myself and people exactly like me. Maybe I'm not always going to do a great job of getting past the various privileges accorded to me because of my race, level of ability, or the fact that my gender and orientation are generally able to pass cultural muster. That's fair. However. I am at the point in my basic humanity where I understand that I am not the only real person in the world and that other people's experiences matter even if I am not having them.

I would probably be a Gryffindor because I am probably too RARRRRRRRRRRRRR INJUSTICE I WILL FIGHT IT, but here's the thing. Even Gryffindor falls dismally short by my standards. Even people who aren't overtly whitewizard supremacists still don't really see muggles as anything but an exotic non-magical Other who must be prevented from having access to magic at all costs, because... apparently they thought that without any real witches or wizards, religious fanatics would stop killing each other over accusations of witchcraft (hahahahahaha yeah okay) and, no shit, because then wizards might have to help muggles.

No, I am not kidding. That's why there is a Wizarding Masquerade. Those are the reasons. The first one pretty much just means they don't know how religion works, which... y'know, whatever. I can excuse that, because I actually wouldn't mind living in a world where I didn't need to know about religion as a survival skill. So I won't hate on them for that. But the latter? Muggles will make them cast magic "for their own ends."

Well, yes, you assholes. Because you have all this magical shit and muggles have actual real world problems that you could be helping with given your superior access to magical resources and training. Yes, actually, muggles might expect you to use your privilege for anybody's benefit but your own. DAMN UPPITY MUGGLES AMIRITE?


Philanthropic Wizards and What They Could Really Do If They Didn't Suck

Sadly, muggles cannot actually mix potions, but a lot of powerful potions in the Harry Potter universe are literally stuff children can make. Some will require more precision and a more-educated intuition about them, but the amount of raw power required seems fairly minimal. Nonetheless, a wizard who graduates toward the bottom of his class is still a wizard, and you wouldn't have to be much of one to make potions provided you had the skill to compensate for a lack of raw power.

Muggle studies teachers need to be doing fieldwork, or else they need to get actual muggles to teach the course. Before you tell me there aren't muggles who know what magic is, where exactly do you think Hermione Granger's parents think she's going to school? And yes, her mother and father both know what witches are and think it's keen that their daughter is one.

Considering that it was apparently standard procedure to tell the parents what is really going on, consider how many wizards are not pure-blood wizards and then consider how many muggles that means they have in the hiring pool. In fact, if it were important to people in the setting to keep this secret, they'd have a huge problem.

Let's get right into what wizards can actually do, what they choose not to do, and why that means they are useless assholes that I hate.

Either the girding potion or strengthening solution would be literally a performance-enhancing drug. You think that shows up in drug tests? I bet it doesn't. And even if it does, I can think of plenty of legit uses for it besides cheating at sports. Then again, the most important accomplishment in the Wizarding world seems to be Quidditch, so perhaps by wizard priorities cheating at muggle sports is an absolutely brilliant way to make yourself significant to history through magic.

Personally, though, I would be more likely to try any number of these goddamn antidotes for things.

Look at that list. Look at that list. If you can find a cure for malaria or this miracle drug for amputees or people with serious skeletal injuries or a memory potion that you could at least offer to people with Alzheimer's or any number of the stuff that phoenix tears could save you from provided there's any phoenix in the world that considers muggles worth the trouble of shedding a single tear--something that I'd like to point out they can do voluntarily and without anybody needing to torture them for or anything--or any of the things which are clearly magical psych meds and not think, "I can actually make the world a better place for millions of people," you are an asshole and I seriously would hate you if this were actually the Harry Potter universe.

If you as a muggle--which I know you are because this is real life--look at this list and don't immediately think of helping muggles as a valid use for all this magic, what makes you think that if you were surrounded by wizard supremacists who only ever hear about muggles in a high school elective course you'd give a single damn about how many muggle children die of malaria every year?

And this isn't even getting into the bullshit about luck potions that allow you to succeed at anything (Such as actually going and killing Voldemort since even a small dose is clearly enough to protect you from insta-death curses? Or maybe researching a vaccine for HIV? Or for brewing more luck potions?). Keep in mind that potions that never wear off or never run out of doses are a canonical certainty and read those options I listed again.

No, they're fiercely preoccupied with Quidditch (and other ways of establishing and defending Wizard Cred among other wizards) and magical date rape.

And don't tell me wizards aren't smart enough to think of these things. They have potions to make themselves smarter, too.

Wizards are just assholes, that's all. They're assholes who clearly just don't consider "muggle problems" to be worthy of their attention, never mind all the wizards who are themselves related to muggles or dependent on the good graces of muggles willing to help wizards maintain The Wizarding Masquerade.

But! But!

I mean, maybe you're thinking, "But there aren't actually enough wizards in the world to meaningfully participate in solving the problems that plague the human race!" Okay, maybe you're thinking that. Maybe there are just so many utterly-unsolveable-by-muggles problems and not enough wizards to impact those problems even slightly. At that rate, is it really their fault that millions and possibly billions of innocent muggles have suffered and died for lack of access to things like magical medicine? How can we blame wizards for not being able to be everywhere at once? Is that fair or reasonable?


I'm just gonna leave this here.

It's not like those are literally given to children so they can take more classes or anything.

I mean maybe magic is inexplicably and inexcusably useless with NO IN-SETTING JUSTIFICATION, or maybe... just maybe... wizards are simply assholes who can't see past their goddamn wizarding privilege to the fact that real human people are suffering and dying completely needlessly because wizards have the worst priorities ever.

A Game I'd Run

I was talking to my husband earlier tonight about what I would do if I ever ran a game in the Harry Potter universe. I would play a muggle-born potions or muggle studies instructor who sends students out on philanthropic adventures. Their first mission would be something super simple and innocuous and easy to cover up, like finding people's lost pets. This would also serve to give an enormous emotional reward to the students for helping a ten year old muggle child get their puppy back. We'd scale this up in their final years at school to disaster relief using apparition to get food and medical supplies into afflicted areas and get survivors out with minimal risk to a skilled user or to the people they're helping.

Why? Because wizards are citizens of the whole world, not just the wizarding world. I don't care what the classist wizard supremacist assholes in Slytherin are telling kids, and I don't care that apparently nobody else at Hogwarts is telling them to quit being so goddamn racist all the time. They're wrong, and muggles matter.

That's what I would use for adventure plot hooks. Go help people, kids. Understand that great power doesn't just come with great responsibility in comic books. If you're a witch or a wizard, you are a superhero, so get out and goddamn act like it.

Naturally, this teacher would probably get in trouble with the wizard supremacists. So here is what would happen. Wizard supremacists teleport to the outside of this teacher's house and decide that they're going to have a duel, because I guess in the wizarding world if you don't want to get thrown in Azkaban, you settle all disputes by seeing who can toss the other's wand into a corner, and the one who has to go pick up their wand loses at everything now and... I guess is forced to stop what they're doing to piss people off by... the honor system, I guess?

That's what the wizard supremacists expect. Unfortunately, this is a muggle studies professor who actually has done fieldwork among muggles and done shit like watch television or movies and guess what. Professor Not-A-Dick owns a gun and tells them to get the fuck offa her lawn or she's going to defend herself and her property.

Even if the wizard supremacists start throwing around killing curses, they can get what? One person at a time? What if this professor and her students have... I don't know... guns? One person on the side of good will definitely die--probably the teacher for dramatic effect--but then the students can retaliate by gunning down an entire crowd of people who expected to be able to win a war by killing a single person every round, because they didn't take their don't be a dumbass potion that day, or apparently pay attention in muggle studies.

So now the students are fugitives who have to continue their teacher's legacy of actually doing anything significant at all with magic. Quite probably I would have them eventually break out Carlotta Pinkstone from Azkaban because until 1996 she was seriously being subjected to Dementors as punishment for civil disobedience founded in her opinion that muggles shouldn't be denied access to magic, and that is not okay. But hey. It's 2012. No Dementors to contend with now, so go get her and let the revolution begin.

Meanwhile the wizard supremacists are wanking off to their obvious natural supremacy while accomplishing absolutely nothing with their magic except to own people (I swear if more wizards were farmers they'd have Field Elves, too) and pass those people on to their children who will also pretty much just sit around circle-jerking about how pure their lineage is and how significant they mistakenly believe they are.

I mean, they've done everything but set in place a system of squib plaçage.

So fuck Harry Potter wizards.

Except you, Carlotta. You're okay; I'm not mad at you.

Everybody else, you need to GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER.

Edit: If you want to share this, please share the public version over at Dissent of a Woman.

Date: 2012-07-10 05:13 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] chibininja.livejournal.com
I alternated between trying not to laugh loud enough to wake up the people in the floor above me and thinking that maybe you're thinking too hard on this. Which, on further thought, is amusing in and of itself.

On a serious note, this was well executed.
Edited Date: 2012-07-10 05:13 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-07-10 08:14 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] virginia-fell.livejournal.com
This didn't take a whole lot of digging for me, honestly. It's a major plot point in the setting that the bad guys are super racist and they do a lot of damage, but it's pretty obvious to me that the "good" guys are plagued by some serious racism too, and even if it doesn't mean they go out and kill people arguing for miscegenating the wizard lines? I feel like there are a lot of sins of neglect going on by even the best-natured of wizards and witches.

I have friends who are all "oooh Slytherin is the coolest house because they're sinister and dangerous" and I just roll my eyes. Racism isn't fucking edgy. It's just terrible in the most banal and mundane way, even when it's magic vs. muggles.

And most of the other wizards are racist, too. They're not sending out kill squads, but you don't see most of them advocating for social integration with muggles, either. =/

It's one of those things that once I saw it I kinda couldn't unsee it.

So this is why I can't join a Harry Potter RP! *laugh* I don't think most of their settings could survive what it'd look like if the good guys actually fought racism. Granted, I think it'd make for a pretty great setting to put the whole thing on the verge of fighting for wizard/muggle integration and it'd be a hell of a lot more interesting to me than rehashing the Voldemort plot with different main characters like a lot of RPers seem to want to do, but I think they and I are looking for different things.

Date: 2012-07-10 08:52 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] afro-dyte.livejournal.com
ext_118625: (Default)
This was my main complaint about the Wizarding World. Anybody with conscience would see that, on a global scale, wizards don't do jack shit.

I'd be mighty pissed, too.

Even though Voldemort's dead, the problems in Wizarding society that gave rise to him still exist, so it's only a matter of time before another Dark Lord So-and-so decides to fuck shit up.

And all the while "mere" Muggles are still dying and being fucked with so that the wizards can go around shouting and pointing sticks at each other.

Date: 2012-07-11 01:28 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] virginia-fell.livejournal.com
Yeah, I would have liked to see the Death Eaters treated as a symptom of a deeply broken society rather than as some kind of fringe aberrant minority that the mostly-good wizarding world needs to stand up against.

But for every outwardly genocidal pureblood maniac are ten witches or wizards who don't mean to sound racist or anything but they just think that muggles and their problems are less important than Quidditch.
That would be an interesting movie...maybe a camapign of sit-ins and teach-ins, followed by riots between Gryffindor (with heavy Labour and/or LibDem influence) and Slytherin (Tory/BNP/UKIP?). Then things get even hairier when Hermoinie tries to use magic to help abused women, and runs into trouble from Muslims who then join with Voldemort to try to destroy the whole school...
Yeah. I'd utterly break the setting. I think it would be a worthy way to tear it down and I think the result would be a lot more interesting than what came before in canon, but unfortunately I probably wouldn't be playing with people who'd let the conflict live up to its potential for awesomeness. More likely I'd be playing with people who'd just get all whiny and shitty about the fact that their setting just became about more than secret forbidden cross-House makeouts in stairwells.

Date: 2012-07-10 10:08 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] sparkindarkness.livejournal.com
My reaction to the wizarding world and their war "you got a wand. we muggles have guns. betcha I can pull the trigger before you can say your faux-latin"

But yes, this whole having these vast powers that could aid humanity and just choosing NOT to for fear of being pestered? Yeah that's skeevy - and the whole "there aren't enough wizards" maybe - but it's not like they don't waste their powers on sport, on pictures that move, on the dfamn masquerade in the first place

Add in that defeating Voldemort is supposed to make the world a better place? Really? Because, as far as I can see, he had traction because his opinions - contempt of Muggles, of other magical beings etc, are common place to the point of being official government policy. They don't do a thing to change the broken system and attitudes from which he arose.

Date: 2012-07-11 01:26 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] virginia-fell.livejournal.com
Yeah, there are enough wizards to refine and perfect date rape potions, and anyway time turners are a Thing. They are entirely without excuse.

Date: 2012-07-11 12:57 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] dayzdark.livejournal.com
This post made me laugh but perhaps not for the reasons it had that effect on others so much as because of how much it shows how we all bring our personal experiences to literary criticism, such that sometimes what we see in a book says more about us than about the book. You make some solid points, but here's what my personal experience sees - a lazy world-building sin that has plagued the genre for decades.

I enjoyed Harry Potter immensely, but the wizarding world isn't very well, aha, integrated into the muggle world. In high/epic fantasy, it's comparatively easy for authors to imagine how the existence of magic changes the way society and the world work. Even then, a lot of authors try to make wizards as rare as possible in a lame and contradictory effort to explain why they don't run things. Seriously? If I had the one-in-a-million ability to hurl fire and bend minds to my will, you can damned well bet I'd have a thing or two to say about local politics, and I have a funny feeling my opinions would carry a bit more weight than Larry the Charismatic-but-can't-fling-frickin'-fire Guy.

But this issue makes a lot of urban fantasy and historical fantasy completely absurd to me for all the sorts of reasons you give, with an added dollop of "people who have supernatural power are just as able to abuse it as those with mundane power." You can't posit a world exactly like ours except there have always been people with superhuman powers, because if we've always had wizards history would have unfolded very differently, and the world that would have emerged would have been very different from the one we live in now.

Sure, if the story is engaging enough I'm willing to forgive the whole "wizards have always lived among us in secret with minimal interference in the course of events because of, um, is that a ninja?!? *vanishes*" sleight-of-hand. But that still doesn't make it authentic world-building.

Date: 2012-07-11 01:24 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] virginia-fell.livejournal.com
That's one reason I like the Shadowrun setting so much. In a world where magic is real and a known factor, corporations start hiring mages to do magical espionage on the competition.

That's what a world looks like where magic works rather than being a lot of symbolic ritually-fluffed prayer. It's another commodity, and it's a commodity because it's impactful.

Mostly, though, it's the fact that Harry Potter's wizards are damn near all horribly racist. The ones who don't have kill squads of their very own are still nonetheless entirely unperturbed by children dying of AIDS all over the world because those children are muggles.

I just sort of wish that this were intentional, that this were portrayed as a serious problem with the entire community and not just with Slytherin and the Death Eathers. As it is, we're supposed to root for these people, and all I can think about how they mostly wouldn't care if everyone I love were dying of AIDS. It makes it hard for me to give two shits about more than maybe three or four people in the entire setting.

(For the record, Carlotta Pinkstone, Hermione Granger, and Charity Burbage due to them actually expressing some less-racist opinions, and I'll add Luna Lovegood because she strikes me as being the kind of person I could explain this to and who would care even if she hadn't thought about it before because nobody expected her to.)

Date: 2012-07-11 03:39 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] dayzdark.livejournal.com
Maybe you're being a bit hard on the wizards. Yes, they definitely enjoy privilege and appear to be blind to the troubles muggles take for granted. But don't we suffer from the same ailment after a fashion? I'd say that the way citizens of wealthy nations perceive those of poorer nations is not unlike the way wizards view muggles.

Wizards don't care about muggle children dying of AIDS? Are Western nations doing enough to combat the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa? Wizards can brew potions that make people smarter but don't mass produce them in order to help muggles make scientific discoveries? Why doesn't our nation spend less money fighting wars and more on education, infrastructure, and scientific research?

It's also easy for us to get wrapped up in our own political struggles and local/national social justice causes, which although laudable in themselves do nothing to diminish the much greater suffering of those beyond our borders. Child poverty in the U.S. is tragic, but it isn't nearly as depressing as the child soldiers of other countries. The horrible, women-hating laws being flogged by the Right in this country are absolutely worth fighting, but at least no one is advocating stoning rape victims in the U.S. We have the resources to wipe out starvation worldwide, but we don't even have the political moral fibre to wipe it out in our own country.

Also, no discussion of telling people of other nations/races/genders what is and isn't acceptable behavior can entirely ignore the specter of cultural imperialism. If we just go into a country whose treatment of homosexuals or women or children we find appalling and dictate to them how they should change their culture, we're back in the same swimming pool with White Man's Burden, and that's not a good place to be, either. By extension, the wizards may keep somewhat aloof of mugggle society for similar reasons. With so much power to change the world, they must be careful never to appear to be trying to *run* the world.

I agree that they can and should do more to fight suffering in the world, but so should the U.S., and we're not even 100% certain that people without insurance who get sick shouldn't be left to die. Hell, we can't even get it right on our own soil, and we're a *wealthy* nation. People sit around and bitch about some douche bag politician's poorly worded tweet when they should be focusing on, you know, actual policies. I've seen feminists get in flame wars with other feminists over semantics when there are actually laws being passed out there that threaten to undo the progress of the last century.

It's easier to solve a small, obvious problem than it is to solve a big, complicated, and nuanced one. There is a temptation to obsess over the tree and ignore the forest, because a tree you're pretty sure you can *solve.*

Put another way, Voldemort and his Death Eaters are Wizarding World Problems.

Hm. Maybe this was less a devil's advocate defense of wizarding culture and more of indictment of our own...

Date: 2012-07-11 04:29 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] virginia-fell.livejournal.com
I'd say that the way citizens of wealthy nations perceive those of poorer nations is not unlike the way wizards view muggles.

Yes. And the word for it starts with "r" and ends in "-acism." I used to canvass for Save the Children, and there are people who won't donate to any cause which helps children who aren't American. I know because I was told as much to my face, and it didn't matter that they could specifically sponsor an American child in crushing poverty; if the organization helps those foreign unchildren, some people are immediately turned off the whole notion of getting involved with anyone for anything at all.

Because they're white nativist assholes.

So I kinda feel like I know what it'd be like to talk to a wizard about curing AIDS, or giving luck potions to trauma surgeons or search and rescue workers, or helping with any number of other "muggle problems." I know what it looks like on someone's face when a person who thinks they're good and compassionate switches those traits off because some people in need just aren't worth it if they were born to the wrong parents.

The fact that people in the real world are also assholes in no way invalidates anything I have said about the wizarding world, a world that we're supposed to see as some kind of idyllic desirable fantasy where evil is Evil and good can kick the crap out of evil at magical cricket and then rub it in their faces later. The real world is shitty, too, but nobody is really portraying it as a fantasyland full of heroism and good people standing up for what's right.

I mean, saying that I'm being too hard on wizards because they're bad like real people are bad is sort of like replying to my comment about House Elf slavery by saying, "Well, I think you're being too hard on people who own sapient beings under a mental compulsion that forces them into compliance because slavery happens in the real world, too."

Because... I mean... yeah? That's pretty much the point of what I am saying. When these things happen in the real world--and they do--they are hallmarks of people who suck. In Harry Potter, most of the time they're trivial quirks of otherwise-heroic personalities.

Harry Potter has many of the ugliest aspects of real societies. The difference is that exactly one person in the entire canonical setting has even gone so far as civil disobedience over it (and their legal system responded with a sentence in Azkaban) and the moderates congratulate themselves on not being actively genocidal. I don't think JKR or her readers generally realize how terrible that means the wizarding world actually is, and what sorts of people it turns witches and wizards into if they accept those dominant values.

Which makes it particularly amusing that she did such a good job of portraying the casual racism of otherwise well-intentioned moderates and liberals and how callous it means they can be. She did so apparently without realizing that's what she was portraying, and her readers seem largely to be missing the point as well.

That means to me that the casual racism isn't going to be taken as a cautionary tale because there's very little in there that indicts moderates for their complicity with the atrocities committed by zealots who are merely acting on those beliefs.

Most readers aren't going to learn anything, and if they do it's that you can actually be pretty racist and as long as you aren't actively out murdering people you're probably still the hero of the story. I think that's incorrect, and I really think we've got enough of that messaging already. JKR could have done better, and I think that the real people in the real world who are still impacted by racism deserve to have stories that do better, both for themselves and for the children of their would-be oppressors so that they can pick up better habits early on when it counts.

Date: 2012-07-12 12:32 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] dayzdark.livejournal.com
Yeah, the "being too hard on wizards" bit was probably out of line and not really intended entirely seriously (yes, I know, I know). I'm not defending wizards. I agree that JKR could have done a better job either making the wizarding world a bit more of the idyllic society the portrayal of it seems to suggest or actually give the reader some hint that its awful aspects are awful rather than simply showing us that, say, slavery is okay as long as you don't abuse your slaves.

I maintain that a lot of this is the result of common flaws in the genre. It's easier to come up with excuses for why magic wouldn't change anything than to conceive of a world where it makes a huge impact. As to the house elves and miscellaneous awful, fantasy invites writers to explore the darkest recesses of their imaginations, to conceive of and bring to life things they would never approve of in real life so that their protagonists have something to fight against.

It doesn't make the wizarding world less terrible on the points you bring up, but then I can't remember the last time I saw a fantasy world and thought "wow, I wish I lived in *that* world." These places are usually violent, corrupt, ruled by despots/tyrants, and subject to the whims of unpredictable supernatural beings and forces.

Date: 2012-07-11 05:40 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] motherwell.livejournal.com
In a world where magic is real and a known factor, corporations start hiring mages to do magical espionage on the competition.

Sounds a lot like "Ubik" by Philip K. Dick, where companies hire psychic/paranormal talents to do their dirty work, and other companies hire anti-talents to neutralize said talents.

Date: 2012-07-11 04:47 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] admnaismith.livejournal.com

I love you, just a little, right now. Not for the first time.
User [livejournal.com profile] inverarity referenced to your post from Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle: Author's Notes (Chapter 21 — The Hodag) (http://inverarity.livejournal.com/174172.html) saying: [...] made this point more succinctly than in Harry Potter Wizards are Useless Assholes and I Hate Them [...]

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