Fandoms, more classist than you know

Truth time here Wee Readers, you know what powerful political figure I’m really getting sick of… Harry Potter. Okay, maybe a bit of a clarification needed here – in previous posts, I have made my feelings of one JK Rowling quite clear. I don’t believe she’s a a good person, and I sort of have the impression she’s trying to retroactively ruin her own books. Which, honestly is not the worst thing she’s done recently, but is probably the most weird. I mean horrible, sexist, trans-phobic beliefs are just that – but where’s the motivation for trying to ruin the thing that made you so much money? Sorry, got a bit carried away there, because for once this post is not about JK Rowling – that’s right Ms. Rowling is not the reason I’m so sick of whiny, wealthy Harry Potter. No, that responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of her mildly insane fandom.

Backstory first. I’m a bit of geek, always have been ever since I was a…well, an even smaller wee lassie. And I had the luck of being born just at the right time, Anne Rice was no longer hounding people in their own homes for ‘infringing’ on her copyright, and J.K Rowling had yet to reveal to everybody just what a terrible person she was. It was the age of the fan-fiction. And I, like any 12 or 13 year old with a healthy imagination, got stuck right in. I read a lot of fan-fiction while I was growing up, in fact strangely enough it was one of the things that made me want to be a writer. But here’s the thing, when you read that much fan-fiction you begin to notice patterns, particularly in certain fandoms. The same plots, and or tropes, appearing over and over again from authors so varied they cannot possibly have consulted each other. What do I mean? Well…what if Harry was not as gullible as he seemed? What if he got wise to the manipulations of Dumbledore and / or the Weasleys – say he discovered they were doing something terrible, like …stealing from his bank vault. So thus he decides to break away and become a power in his own right. I hear you say, why Wee Lassie that’s a very specific plot, surely it can’t have been reproduced that many times. Oh how I wish I still had your hope in mankind, but sadly Wee Readers this plot is just one of many such repetitive narratives found with the Harry Potter fandom. Now, I’m not here to judge…people like what they like, and yet you do sometimes have to wonder why? What motivates all these writers to go back to the same plot again, and again?

I focused on the…let’s call it, ‘Non-gullible Harry’ story-line (although I am sure it’s gone by better names than that) because it has the strange peculiarity to have at once everything and nothing at all to do with canon. While in cannon Harry is indeed manipulated, by Dumbledore no less, into sacrificing himself for the good of the many. And yet more often than not, Dumbledore’s faults are exaggerated to such a degree that it almost seems ridiculous that anyone would believe he was a good man. Of course, whatever the argument Dumbledore is not a nice man, he’s barely a good one – despite what J.K Rowling seems to think, he certainly deserves all the bile the fandom can throw at him. However the same cannot be said of the Weasley family – who are so hated in the fandom that they’ve even got a whole trope named after one of them ‘Ron the Death-Eater’. But for a long time I put this down other to sour-grapes about their ship not being cannon, or to the film’s butchery of the character of Ron. And yet that same repetition of plot kept repeating and I notice a troubling detail in many – though certainly not all – of these stories. Namely that when it’s revealed that the Weasleys are using Harry, it’s almost always for wealth and or status of some kind – often specifically stealing from his bank vault. Putting aside that this is complete nonsense when it comes to canon, it always struck me as strange that this is what people focused on as the great injustice that has been done to Harry Potter…his wealth being stolen by the poor. Think about that for a moment, in our world of austerity, food-banks, children being denied benefits if their family already has two children (yeah, that’s a thing now in Britain, go check it out here)- the worst thing you can think of that happened to Harry Potter – The Boy who Lived – is his wealth being stolen by the poor. For Calgacus’ sake! The boy was raised in a cupboard!

Looked through this lens, suddenly all those ‘Weasley-bashing’ fics – not limited to but certainly including the live action adaptions themselves – take on a sinister twist. After all it is a classist writing practice to portray lower-class characters as significantly stupider than middle and upper-class ones. Which I can tell you is certainly what happens in the films to lower-class Ron, compared to middle-class Hermione, and (arguably) upper-class Harry. And I’ve gotta say, this continuous putting down of Ron as stupid or beneath them is really making making me not like Harry Potter or Hermione, or the people that ship that.

So let’s say that all this hate – or rather the peculiar way it comes out in fan-fiction and adaptions – is an underlying classist sentiment, follow me to that peer. Would we then say that this is a problem confined purely to the Harry Potter Fandom? After all, J.K Rowling is a terrible person as I think she’s thoroughly proven by now – and she certainly was one of the loudest voices sneering at the actual left-wing candidates in our modern neo-liberal time; while clomping on to Blair who I’m sorry – no matter what you want to say about anyone else, is an actual war criminal and should be in jail. But no, it would be easy to say that – ridiculously easy – but this problem, for once is bigger than Madame ‘J.K.’ Voldemort; I think it’s more to do with our society as a whole. In our neo-liberal society, wealth has become a virtue in itself, rather than just an abstract fact about a person.

For instance, look at the character of Iron Man. At the time he was first created, which was sometime in the sixties I think, Stan Lee intended to create a character that was something young people would hate – that is, a war profiteer, a figure of the establishment, and a millionaire – and make them fall in love with him. Jump to today, and that idea seems to have worked a tad too well – Tony Stark’s fan-base is larger than most other heroes put together, and he is one of the main power houses’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Granted he’s dead now, but that still hasn’t stopped both Disney and Fans alike from gushing about him like he’s the second coming of Jesus-Christ, despite the fact that he’s a morally dubious character at best. Now I’m not saying that a love of Iron Man instantly makes a fan classist (that would be ridiculous) but once again, it’s how this adoration is expressed. Namely by tearing down other superheroes of more humble origins. No better example is found of this then the many fan-fictions dedicated to ‘bashing’ Steve Rogers -the former sickly son of a first generation immigrant, raised in the great depression – or Wanda Maximoff – an orphan from a war torn nation, whose parents were killed by one of Stark’s own bombs – that popped up around the release of Captain America: Civil War. Many of these portraying the millionaire not only as always in the right, but as the victim of his former friends; despite the original film being deliberately opaque in who was actually in the right. I mean god Steve, how dare you put the well-being of your PTSD suffering, formally brain-washed best-friend over the feelings of your privileged work colleague’s feelings.

This post took a very long time to complete – not helped by me being pulled away by yet another assignment half way through writing it – and looking back now, I can see that it comes off as more judgmental of fan-fiction writers and fandoms in general, than I meant it to be. Not all people who write ‘Ron-bashing’ fics do so for reasons anymore sinister than anger over a ‘ship’ and just not liking the character. All characters are flawed by nature, and not everyone is going to gel with the same ones. Same goes for those who like Tony Stark – he’s a funny character, and very hard not to like – trust me I know, I’ve tried. Rather the point of this post is to get people to stop and ask why they express themselves in the way they do. If you hate Ron, or Ginny, or any of the Weasleys so much – why make them steal from Harry Potter’s vault? Why that? And why so often? In the same vain, if you love Tony Stark so much, why act like he is the greatest victim in all the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Why demonize the characters of different classes – and I haven’t even touched upon what many fans do to characters of different races, nationalities and genders – to defend the most privileged one? If he’s so great, why do you need to bother? Why do so many people love this fairly selfish, privileged ( I know this is the second time I’ve used that word, but I feel it’s important to emphasis it) jerk? It has to be more than just that he’s funny, that doesn’t explain the hate. Rather I propose, that this may be an unconscious veneration of the wealthy – something that started out as ‘look at Tony Stark, he’s so rich, isn’t that fun to watch’ quickly became ‘look at Tony Stark, he’s so rich, and therefore better than everyone else’. Ah I see you roll your eyes at me, and you’re probably right… maybe I’m reading too much into this – but look me in the eye and tell me there isn’t something innately classist in a society that venerates Draco bloody Malfoy, over Ron Weasley.

If you’ve enjoyed this wee exploration into some of the classism – even I admit there’s deeper to go with that – within fandoms, or just think I’m full of crap, drop me a note down in the comments and tell me what you think. And don’t forget to follow the wee Blog, if you haven’t already; also you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Goodreads. Until next time Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

4 thoughts on “Fandoms, more classist than you know

  1. Interesting comments about Tony Stark/Iron Man. I’m old enough to have been around when Iron Man was created, in the early Sixties (though not to have seen any of the comics: my part of Manchester was exclusively DC). Certainly, the original motive behind Stark/Iron Man was that he was a classic commie-basher, and a hero by virtue of that. As for the war profiteer, in the comics Stark’s been out of munitions for decades. Not to contradict you in any way, just to say that things aren’t entirely as black and white if you go back to the source. Very interesting post.

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  2. This is an interesting post – and I’m also one of those absolutely horrified by the stance Rowling has taken regarding the trans community. As I haven’t ever dipped a toe in the fanfic pool, I’m intrigued by the tropes of Harry being continually robbed by Ron – as you say, the poor stealing from the rich…:). Thank you for sharing.

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  3. My brother once said “fandoms are cancer”. He’s a Star Wars fan.

    Fandoms can be really great – feeling you’re a part of something, especially if something big is coming and you’re all sharing the excitement (Infinity War/Endgame is a good example in Marvel fandom) – but they can also suck. I try to stand sort of on the fringes, especially as I sometimes have unpopular opinions. Which usually means I like something, not hate it, strangely enough. Because I like all sorts of characters (good guys, villains and anti-heroes, I appreciate everyone), I don’t tend to hate anyone in any of my favourite things (Game of Thrones or Star Trek or Marvel). When I do hate a character, it’s almost always against a grain and I’m not then usually into the thing they’re in. I hope that makes sense!

    I’m not that big a HP fan, though I like talking about it and analysing it etc, it’s very enjoyable. I had no idea people hated the Weasleys. I’m on Tumblr a lot and I’ve seen the exact opposite. I know about the Ron the Death Eater trope, of course but because I don’t really read fanfic, I can’t sincerely comment on it (I always support fanfics and should read more but I just don’t, lol. I wrote only one myself, a Jane Eyre one). It’s possible that the fanfics can be inspired by each other and that’s why they’re similar, but I may be talking total nonsense for all I know. Anyway my guess for the RTDE trope is that it interferes with the ship (Dramione I guess, or whatever). I honestly never thought of the poverty thing, if anything I’d think it makes fans like the Weasleys even more but what do I know… Harry would happily give half his fortune to Weasleys because they were the first people to make him feel like he had a family, Ron was his very first friend. I admit sometimes Ron cold get on my nerves, but he is very human. Ok I’ll stop rambling now, this got way too long.

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