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Ravenclaw Giles- by _extraflamey_

In honor of the upcoming release of The Half-Blood Prince...

... I would like to dip a tentative toe into HP fandom and ask the following discussion question of certain members of my f-list:

Why Slytherin? Why Draco?

As someone who really isn't a fan of Draco or the Slytherin children en masse, I have my own thoughts on the subject, but I would like to hear from you. Let's get a real discussion going if we can.

Comments

Slytherin has the potential to be interesting, although canon Slytherins (exception: Snape) on the whole tend to, you know, completely not actualize on that potential. And instead, to be totally lame ... the sort who'll grow up to be thugs and second-rate moustache-twirlers at best.

As for Draco ... your guess is as good as mine. :-P
Slytherin has the potential to be interesting, although canon Slytherins (exception: Snape) on the whole tend to, you know, completely not actualize on that potential.

That is my feeling as well. Of course, the series is not yet complete and JKR may be going somewhere surprising with this. But at this point, canon Slytherins, Draco included, really are somewhat... lame. Which is why I wonder whether the Slytherin fans I know have adopted the cause out of a desire to render canon more morally complicated. If so, that's an impulse I understand. I myself have a real problem with the concept that the Slytherin children are universally destined to be bullies, especially in a series that elsewhere rests so much on the importance of personal choice.
A Ron fan, huh? As I understand it, that's truly contrarian. ;)

A lot (not all!) people see Draco, see that he's a jerk and think he can be redeemed.

And the fact that Draco is a child probably enhances this force. Yes, teenagers are still children in many respects. And who believes children cannot be redeemed?



...and for a second by "Spike factor" I thought you meant he was an effemminate little platinum blonde punk with a bad attitude whom I desperately want to smack around.

My mistake.
Why does any fannish faction attach itself to a "bad guy?" Me, I think it's a knee-jerk impulse to be contrarian. To be a daring rebel, to embrace what the conventional don't-rock-the-boat sheep recoil from.

It's one thing to be curious/intrigued by the kids from the "wrong" side of the tracks (the Spike-thing spoonishly mentioned - the "he's not really Bad, *I* can bring out the Good in him"), and another thing to buy into the "oh, you think *he's* bad? I can be Bad like that, too! Just look!"

Contrarian for the sake of going against the grain. That's what I think.
There may be an element of "rebellion for the sake of rebellion" in all of this, but a number of these fans strike me as a little more thoughtful than that- which is why I threw the question out there in a public post.
Why any of them? I find all the children in HP to be annoying little snots at best.
*shrugs* YMMV, of course. I just thought this particular phenomenon was rather curious and I wanted to ask people more in the know about it.
Well, it's the whole bad boy mystique, and also the fact that Draco seems very comfortably sheltered in his upperclass wizarding family. Should he ever have to leave and face a real world... things might change.

That said, the adults in HP are about ten thousand times more interesting than the children themselves.
the adults in HP are about ten thousand times more interesting than the children themselves.

I do agree with you there. Though I rather love Neville.
Hm. As much as I love them, it's hard to put it into words. I'll try. ^_^

Part of it comes from loving the underdog and totally despising the little brats who get everything on a silver platter. No, not the rich brats. The stupid heroes who get free house points, get to run wild over the rules and who you generally know are gonna win. I know, Harry's had the typical hero bad childhood and Draco's had the silver platter before, but it's just galling the way Harry's always on top in the end.

I've never liked many of the heroes we're given in stories. They've got so little personality or too much nobility, they're hardly human anymore. So what if Harry gets angry and pissy sometimes. That just shows that 1. he has little discipline and 2. doesn't make him likeable. Now Draco...there's personality potential. Sadly, Rowling seems to want to make all of Slytherin impotent bullies (back to my underdog love) but there's potentially a lot more under these books.

Wizards are far more powerful than Muggles, but they have to hide. This belies the notion that the burning times were easy on the wizards (right, the flames just tickled, I'm totally calling whitewashed history there). If I was a pureblood who saw their culture being stuffed into dark crevices just to hide, heck, saw their culture vanishing entirely, and not just from the outside.

The dark arts have barely been explored and I'm apt to think that we're only getting one side of the story. Maybe they really are evil, maybe they aren't. Plus, the dark arts has the niftiest artifacts. If the dark arts are being demonized, the practitioners would be demonized as well, for better or for worse. But I don't think they're all that bad. Granted, they toss muggles for fun and profit, but although they talk big they don't hurt them until Voldemort gets involved. The Death Eaters all ran when they saw the mors mordred in the sky. Voldemort's the big bad using the unliked parts of society to do his work.

And the Slytherins are treated pretty lousily. Despite their wealth, everyone thinks they're evil, the Weasley twins hiss at innocent newcomers sorted into the house, etc. Slytherins are the arrogant little bastards in the dungeons rumored to enjoy the dark arts, why not treat them like slime? And that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the Slytherins not only band together tighter but learn to hate outsiders.

And finally...Draco never hides his emotions. If he's smug, you know it. If he's angry or sad, you know. There's an innocence there that's almost animal in nature. When we watch the Weasleys plan tricks, or when Harry pulls a prank, we're supposed to laugh. When Draco and co. pull pranks, we're supposed to dislike them and laugh at their downfall. It got to the point where I actually wanted Buckbeak to buy it. Mean, yes, but darkly satisifying.
Part of it comes from loving the underdog and totally despising the little brats who get everything on a silver platter.

I wish I could find the link now, but selenak (I believe) pointed me to a good discussion that denies the silver platter charge. Damn it. Suffice it to say that I would've been interested to hear your take on it.

I do believe myself that the accusation of privilege, especially where Harry is concerned, is exaggerated by Slytherin fans. Quite often, Harry himself has been treated very shabbily by his classmates and by the wizarding world at large. Many Hogwarts students believed Harry opened the Chamber of Secrets, to cite one example, and ostracized him because of that suspicion. And just look at how he's treated in the wizarding press.

Still, a number of your points are valid. I think you're absolutely correct regarding the whitewashing of wizarding history, for one. And I certainly have problems with how Slytherin is presented by JKR in existing canon. As I mentioned above, in a series that champions personal moral choice, a Hogwarts house that is seemingly destined for evil- or, at the very least, petty nastiness- is profoundly out of place. Either JKR plans to deepen the dynamics between the houses, or she is inadvertently undermining her own message.
I do believe myself that the accusation of privilege, especially where Harry is concerned, is exaggerated by Slytherin fans.

*gasps* I'm scandalized! And I would definitely argue the point, except there's a much better explanation than I can provide at Harry Potter--Pampered jock, patsy, fraud.

Many Hogwarts students believed Harry opened the Chamber of Secrets, to cite one example, and ostracized him because of that suspicion

Very true. All but Draco, it seems. He must've heard the rumors flying about Harry being a parselmouth and that Harry was a dark wizard, maybe even the heir of Slytherin, but he automatically knew it couldn't be Harry. There's no explanation of that given and I'm really curious as to why he never suspected him.

And just look at how he's treated in the wizarding press.

Again, quite right. But then it seems to be standard operating procedure for muggle celebrities to get it both ways in life, mocked by the press but receiving their adoration and celebrity through it as well.

she is inadvertently undermining her own message

I hadn't even thought of it that way, but you're right. In a series that seems devoted to tolerance and justice, the Slytherins are getting the shaft. I remember spotting a passage in one of the many Harry Potter explication books out there answering the question "why does Dumbledore allow the Slytherins to stay if they're all evil?" and the answer was that Dumbledore has to give them a chance to redeem themselves, or else it just wouldn't be fair to automatically exclude them. It's like they're considered evil from the start, do not pass go, don't collect 200 dollars.
The Harry-as-privileged (or the opposite) discussion hobsonphile referred to is here:

http://www.livejournal.com/community/hp_essays/25893.html

So I won't repeat any of the points marinarusalka makes.

Re: Slytherins - I have to point out here that even leaving Snape as the ambiguous character par excellence aside, book 5 offers Phineas Nigellus (or rather the portrait of same), who is presented (by the author, not fanon) as sarkastic but dead-on in most of his observations, and most certainly a Slytherin. Also, the song the Sorting Hat sings directly points out the division between the houses was originated by all of the Founders, not just Salazar, and that it wasn't good, that they won't survive unless it's overcome.
There are definitely two ways (at least) to read Harry's privilege or lack thereof. I'm buying the Slytherin view not just because I'm enamored of muggle-tossing but because the author's preferences become grating when she refuses to give much more than a 2-D characterization of the majority of Slytherins.

I wonder if that division of the houses isn't just a story point but is also perpetrated by the author.
For the record, that's why I think most of the kids in HP are little snots. There are a few I don't hate, but by and large, the adults are much more interesting.

You're making points that make me think I should try and finish the fourth book after all. I've heard I'll enjoy the fifth one, and I enjoy a good wank. You do have to figure that there's a reason the Wizards aren't dominating the Muggle-born through sheer superior power-- the Burning Times is a good point. (Although, wizardry in HP is /grossly/ overpowered, so you have to wonder how they managed to ever catch any wizards at all? Maybe lack of education, maybe the power they have now has developed extensively to combat mortal threats?)

The problem, I sense, between me and HP, is that I'm much less interested in what the fashionable wizard wears, and more interesting in why things are the way they are, sociologically. I don't care about Dobby, but I do want to know why wizarding society thinks it's acceptable to continue the practice of institutionalized slavery. And I'm never gonna get those answers from JKR. They get in the way of the latest magical McGuffin.
so you have to wonder how they managed to ever catch any wizards at all

Darn it, I hate it when logic gets in the way of my theories. That's a darn good question. Worse, I'm gonna have to think of answer for my fanfic 'cause I've got that in a coming chapter.

You're right, the social structure in the wizarding world is really interesting but not touched on very much. Why is dark magic so hated yet can have an entire alley devoted to it in a school town? Why is the servitude of magical creatures okay? It's like it works on the surface but look too closely and there are obvious places where what we're told just doesn't match up.
Well, I answer it for you: magic prior to the Burning Times was largely uncodified and unstudied. The Burning Times struck a match--literally-- for a need to find, identify and train all those with wizardly power in how to defend themselves in safe hideaways before precocious showoff pre-teens could get an entire community found out. The Ministry of Magic, and it's related laws (no magic outside of school, no magic in front of muggles, blah blah) are the natural outgrowth of the need to keep safe.

As time went on, naturally wizards saw less and less reason to leave their-- dare I say-- wizardly ghettos and interact with the outside world, leaving muggles to their own devices. And so they are now like an extreme version of the Hassidic or Amish, completely incapable of functioning outside their own communities.

Now, I find that interesting, and I think JKR does too, in her own way. She just wants to spend more time on uninteresting crap like who Harry is dating.

My answers: because Dark Magic is still essentially needed, should muggles ever discover and attack wizards en masse again. And the servitude of magical creatures is okay because the wizarding world really hasn't progressed much beyond the 15th century. Someone should slip the poor souls a copy of Voltaire.
So pre-Burning Times, magic was likely more of a parent-to-child or master-to-apprentice thing, not the bureaucratic mess it is now. The downside is that some magic becomes taboo and kept in the dark like a dirty secret, but a useful secret. The upside is that no one goes up in flames anymore.

I was just about to make the Jewish ghetto connection and you beat me to it. Could it be that the books are actually advocating the idea that a group of people should go out of their way to avoid those not like themselves, and that this separation is good and proper? The wizarding world could then be considered almost like Death Eaters in their philosophy, except for the whole killing muggles thing. Of course they have a good reason to withdraw, but still, it remains that they are withdrawn and setting themselves up as outcasts.

I've got a little notion in my head that house elves might not be slaves per se, but might rather have a symbiotic relationship with wizards. I'm not entirely sure how that would work because we don't have much info on elf society and elves in the wild (do they have their own communities or are they feral?), but it would help explain how generally sensitive wizards could accept house elves while muggle borns, not being indoctrinated into this culture, would see it as slavery.
I'd say the real downside is that without a code, rules, then you're open to your neighbor noticing that you're not really subsisting hand to mouth, like they are, and that your cows are never sick. Which breeds jealousy, and as Yoda says, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering!

Unfortunately, I think whatever JKR means by that is muddled and confused. Just like any other moral judgement she tries to make in these stories. I almost want to tell her that she's a very nice person, and a very good teller of fluff and Hero's Journey, but that she should leave the Big Questions to people better equipped to handle them. (Say what you will about Phillip Pullman, and I can say plenty, but the moral intent behind His Dark Materials is crystal clear.)

Maybe I'm wrong. I haven't read 4 or 5, because I wasn't that enthralled with the first three. I keep up with the gist, but I don't care. And she still has two books to pull it all out of her hat and make it work.

Isn't there a bit where Voldie is actually a half-blood himself? Tom Riddle? For some reason I had that impression, which makes me think that much of the story has to do with it, and that only the full blooded wizard raised by mortals: Harry, can really start finding a way to solve that rift. Which, you know, makes sense considering the other two protagonists: the poor Ron, with his family that skirts closer to the muggle world than most, and Hermione, who has muggle parents.
I guess it would be weird to see a family at that time that not only had only two or three kids but who all lived to adulthood.

Yup, the dark lord's father was a muggle who left his mother. I forget what happened, but Voldemort was stuck in an orphanage, essentially mirroring Harry's lousy childhood. And Harry's not actually fullblooded, from what I understand. His mother was half-blood, too.

Rowling's writing improves a bit as the series goes on (my God, the first book nearly killed me when it broke the fairy tale rule of threes and it took multiple attempts to get the letters to Harry). I'm interested to see what she does in the next two books, but I'm not holding my breath on Big Issue topics. I think there's definitely a reason why all those Harry Potter universe explications books came out, the bestiary, how the school works, stuff like that.

What's funny is that the Weasleys, for being as close to muggles as they are, don't really know what muggles are like. Arthur has the ministry job dealing with them but he gets the most basic things wrong. It's like they're not even trying.
What's funny is that the Weasleys, for being as close to muggles as they are, don't really know what muggles are like. Arthur has the ministry job dealing with them but he gets the most basic things wrong. It's like they're not even trying.

Well, yeah. She plays it as dry comedy, but I find it tragic-- that the member of the secret society responsible in part for collecting information on the outside world to keep said society safe has no idea what he's doing.

Which is why, I suspect, the few HP fics I have enjoyed were the ones where magic is utterly destroyed in the war and what remains of the wizarding world is thrown into the big wide sea of what we call reality.
I can totally see a seventh book being where magic and reality start mixing until the two worlds kind of leak into each other and everyone's kind of left hanging.

It's a bummer remembering that this is a kid's book, and it's sad 'cause there are other kids books that remain awesome into adulthood, deepening with more and more thought, while this series just seems to clam up the more you look at it.

Ah well. We'll always have fanfiction.
I don't care about Dobby, but I do want to know why wizarding society thinks it's acceptable to continue the practice of institutionalized slavery. And I'm never gonna get those answers from JKR. They get in the way of the latest magical McGuffin.

Not true. Major plot point of book 5, in fact.
Sigh. Do I have to read the fourth one?
You don't have to read any of them if you don't want to - reading should be fun. But personally, I liked the fourth and the fifth one, the fifth one most of all because I'm an angst and anger addict. The fourth one, once you get beyond the endless Quidditch match (I strongly suspect there is so much Quidditch in 4 because there is none, for plot reasons, in 5), is excellent. In terms of the ever darkening wizarding world, it goes like this:

1: Harry finds out about the WW, and it looks like the ideal haven after eleven years from the Dursleys, magic and fun etc., safe for that pesky psycho trying to kill him.

2: First signs of not so dandy things in the WW, such as elf slavery and Azkaban, but the only one we see practicing elf slavery is a villain.

3: Azkaban, the full time explanation, which casts a pretty dire light on othe WW justice system. Also the first time Harry wants to kill someone.

4: Turns out everyone, not just villains, is practicing slavery. Turns out in the last stages of the Voldemort war, the Aurors got pretty dark privileges. The glimpses of the trials are chilling. More glimpses of Snape backstory. First instance of death of a character. ESB ending in that the villain scores, not completely as our gang is still alive, but scores a major victory nonetheless.

5: In which Harry finally can't do the nice kid thing anymore and lashes out at everybody and their dog. In which Hogwarts gets turned into a prison, we get sadists supported by the Ministery, the hypocrisy of the seemingly good relationship between wizards and magical creatures is exposed for what it is, and just about everyone screws up big time. More deaths.