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.

Harry Potter and the Dirty Robe

Or how JK Rowling finally succeeded in retroactively ruining her own books.

Welcome, my wee readers to the first of many rants well thought out think pieces on the Wee Blog.

Let us begin, much like Rowling herself, with a boy on a train.

His name is Harry Potter.

Ah, Harry Potter, that mythic golden goose that managed to ensnare both child and adult readers before…well every franchise under the sun was trying to do that. Like many in my generation I spent a good amount of my childhood reading the words of Ms. Rowling, and getting lost in the world she created. Thus, like many of my generation, and let’s face it everyone else, I was ecstatic to hear more tit-bits from the world of Harry Potter. However, I don’t think it took us very long, relatively speaking, to notice a bit of a trend with this new information.  

She seemed to be trying to retroactively ruin the Harry Potter books.

We all kind of know where it started – with the revelation of Dumbledore’s sexuality. But don’t get me wrong, Dumbledore being gay wasn’t the problem – it was the fact that she chose to reveal it retroactively on Twitter. Why would you do that? Why not just put it in the books to begin with – I mean it doesn’t have to be the focus since its Harry’s story, but it would have been really good to have that representation in the books. To have the leader of the Light be an out and proud Gay man, would have really added something to the story JK Rowling was trying to tell.  But okay…guess we’re just going to put it on social media and collect the praise without doing any of the work for actual inclusion.

Still, that revelation didn’t ruin the books themselves per say, but it did cast a shadow of doubt on the author. Was she really as progressive as she made herself out to be? Or was she just playing the part to court the favor of both the LGBT community and the homophobes? And if so, could we continue to like her books even if she turned out to be a terrible, terrible person? Could we separate Harry Potter from his Author? It’s a questions fans of works written by writers who turn out to be human garbage, have asked themselves since the beginning of the written word. In the end I think it’s a personal choice – and I very much doubt that ‘the Dumbledore is Gay’ revelation ruined the Harry Potter books for many people. After all, it didn’t exactly prove JK Rowling was an awful person, just maybe a little thoughtless in her actions sometimes.

The Next strike – or at least the next strike I remember – came in the form of supplementary material from the site Pottermore (a site I’ve never quite understood the appeal of myself, but many people seem to like so I’ll leave it be). In preparation for her new Fantastic Beast Films, Rowling released a series of short stories detailing the history of magic/wizards in North America and… oh boy, was it a racist slock.  I’m not entirely sure which was worse, the fact that she had written the Navajo Skinwalkers into her text as misunderstood Animagi; or that when she was confronted by Native American readers, she declined to respond and instead let her more rabid fans do the answering. No, no, I’m being unfair…both actions can be awful.

So where does this leave us? Do I think JK Rowling is actually racist – a bit, but probably not consciously; she’s more likely just very, very lazy in her research. Or, and I like this idea the most, this is just another step in her dastardly plan to ruin the Harry Potter series. Think about it, would you really want to read the books of a racist? I know I wouldn’t. Still Harry Potter is such a well written, if slightly flawed in sections, work that even if JK Rowling does turn out to be a terrible person and not just a very, very daft one – it isn’t a difficult thing to separate her from the work. You can still enjoy the books and the films, even if you dislike the author.

It’s what I had to do when Rowling stuck her ‘terribly large nose’ into Scotland’s business – and then refused to talk about it like an adult. Still that was back in 2014 and I can be an adult, who cares if she described the SNP as Deatheaters, and the head of Scotland’s Labour branch – one of the leaders of the ‘No Thanks’ Campaign – as a ‘good little Gryffindor’. It’s not as if it was an important political situation, that would affect the lives of almost everyone in Briton and deserved to be treated as such…oh wait.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make before that trip down painful memory lane was, that all these mistakes – and there have been many more that I haven’t mentioned here – all lead to one solid explanation:

She’s doing it deliberately.

She wants to ruin the Harry Potter series for us.

 By now you must be thinking, Wee Lassie, how have you come to this ridiculous conclusion? When there are so many more sensible ones on offer: maybe she’s just not very good at Twitter, maybe she’s just lazy, or maybe she’s just a terrible person. All excellent well thought out conclusions, my wee Readers, but all proven wrong by one new fact about the wizarding world that Rowling released relatively recently at time of writing.

Before they had toilets, Wizards would shit themselves and then just magic it away.

This has ruined Harry Potter for me…I will never again be able to take any books or films set in the wizarding world seriously. And I cannot believe that an author who wrote something so profound as the Harry Potter books, could reveal something that stupid about her own world with sincerity…ergo… this must be a deliberate campaign to sabotage her past success.

Now, why would she do that? Possibly because none of her other forays into writing have been as universally loved as Harry Potter – pigeonholing her as only the writer of Harry Potter in the public’s eyes, instead of a successful author in her own right. Perhaps she’s simply trolling us for the giggles. Or maybe I’m just seeing conspiracies where there’s really only a shitty person.

What do you think?

If you enjoyed this little foray into the frightening world of my mind, check me out on Twitter or click the follow button on my Wee blog if you haven’t already.

Until next time, my wee readers, farewell and have a bonny night.