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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Harassment is Not an Argument

So, over the past few days, this happened (or, perhaps I should say, I became aware that this has been happening):

http://www.shakesville.com/2014/07/this-is-what-has-been-happening.html
http://www.shakesville.com/2014/07/follow-up-on-what-has-been-happening.html
http://www.anamardoll.com/2014/07/metapost-this-shit-hurts.html
http://www.anamardoll.com/2014/07/metapost-to-ska-site-owner.html

I’ve been struggling to come up with anything coherent to say, aside from that what these “Shakesville Kool Aid” people are doing is despicable and that Melissa, Ana, and everyone else they are or may be targeting have my complete support… and I probably still haven’t got much of anything coherent to say, but I find the alternative of staying silent to be much worse.

I can’t be the only person who in reading this sees the continuation of a pattern, in a larger context which includes the harassment campaigns targeted at people like Rebecca Watson, Anita Sarkeesian, and so many others. It’s gotten to the point where any time I see writers (and especially female writers) addressing feminist issues publicly, it seems only a matter of time before I also become aware of a vicious targeted backlash against them. This is so commonplace that I would be more surprised to discover a case where it wasn’t happening – which I say not as an attempt to diminish it, but rather to highlight the extent of the problem.

And aside from that all I can think to say, really, is to bring up Lewis’ Law: “the [response to] any article about feminism justifies feminism.”

If the best response you can think of to somebody arguing a thing you disagree with is to attempt to harass them into silence (or otherwise cause them harm and prevent them continuing to speak), aside from being a horrible person you are also admitting you don’t have an argument or you wouldn’t need to resort to such tactics. If it weren’t for the fact that these tactics also cause substantial harm to people (I was almost going to say “people who don’t deserve that”, except that that’s redundant because nobody deserves such treatment. Ever.), I might be tempted to suggest to these people that they continue shooting themselves in the feet. To continue that metaphor beyond all sense, may I kindly suggest that they remove other people’s limbs that may be between their gun and their foot before pulling the trigger?

I might even go so far as to argue that I think the true cause of the people engaging in this behaviour is the harassment itself, and that the people they choose as targets they wish to silence because those people are saying things that are specifically anti-harassment, or (via moderation, etc) have interfered in harassment they had been previously attempting to engage in. (It’s a similar pattern I’ve noticed in child bullies, actually – in my experience, the children they singled out for the most intense bullying were usually the ones who tended to speak out. I suppose there’s no satisfaction for them in silencing somebody who was silent already?)

I wish I knew of anything that could be done about these people’s behaviour, but until then you have my support and if there’s anything I can do to help you need only ask.

 

Edit by Loten: Mitchell speaks for both of us here.

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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in mitchell

 

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Pottermore: Quidditch World Cup, part 2

LOTEN:

So, Quidditch part II, which really did not need to be in a separate update since it only covers six matches, most of which are too boring to comment on. No, the 1998 entry doesn’t mention that OH HEY VOLDEMORT WAS DEFEATED A MONTH AGO GUYS, so apparently she did forget. That entry will be commented on in a minute though since what is mentioned is pretty bad. Krum resigned in tears in 2002 after Bulgaria lost the final again, which just amuses me because of how blatantly OOC it is, but it’s all right because he’s coming back again for the 2014 tournament.

1998 final, Senegal vs Malawi. “Only the second ever all-African final.” Why this matters, who knows. Tight security because of the riots at the 1994 final, never mind the fact that the reason for those riots no longer exists, JK is a moron.

Senegal almost refused to play when their team mascots (Yumboes) were arrested outside the stadium. Yumboes are a kind of African house-elf and they took their arrest in reasonably good part, merely stealing every bit of food within a ten-mile radius in revenge and vanishing into the night.

Let me just review this. The African sentient-but-stupid slave race known by a stupid-sounding name were all arrested on sight, apparently for absolutely no reason. But it’s okay because they then showed they really were criminals by stealing everything and running away in a cowardly fashion, thus proving it was totally acceptable to arrest them for nothing.

JK.

How can you possibly think this is a good idea.

How can neither you nor your Pottermore team realise what you’ve just written.


 

MITCHELL:

Ugh, Pottermore. I really have no idea what to say at this point either. Just what. So Krum was dragged OOC kicking and screaming for the sake of pure drama because Rowling can’t give less of a shit about her characters, and racism because that’s what Africa’s all about. Joy. (Though I will be a bit embarrassed if it turns out Yumboes are an actual thing from an African mythology; I highly doubt it, but you never know. I’m not sure which way would be worse though, because associating them with house-elves is awful if they’re an actual thing :P).


 

LOTEN:

I did a bit of digging on Yumboes and they are real African mythology creatures, so I apologise for the ‘stupid-sounding name’ comment, but as usual JK got them totally fucked up – they’re not servants in the least, they were a kind of faerie nobility who sound similar to the sidhe, they threw feasts and dances on moonlit nights where they were served by other mythological creatures and sometimes they’d invite mortals to eat with them. The only thing they steal is corn, everything else they produce themselves.

That was it for the History of the Quidditch World Cup, anyway. Turns out the reason for it was that JK’s actually writing coverage of the nonexistent current Quidditch World Cup in the form of Daily Prophet articles. Written by Ginny for some reason. I don’t even know. Anyway, nothing interesting – the opening ceremony involved dangerous mascots getting loose and injuring a lot of people, it’s hard to tell if this is meant to be funny but it probably is and certainly there haven’t been any prosecutions or attempts to cancel it. The first match report is even less interesting, I’ll spare you. 😛


 

MITCHELL:

Interesting. That Pottermore content all sounds just dull to me, honestly – Rowling’s attempts at humour, and lots of meaningless Quidditch blather because for some reason people seem to care about it? Count me out, thanks. 😛 (The Daily Prophet, really? I thought Rowling hated it :P)

[Note: despite Mitchell’s less than enthusiastic response here, I did not in fact count him out, and there will be more detailed posts about the rest of the Quidditch World Cup over the next few weeks.]

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2014 in loten, mitchell

 

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Reader Question! Snape, Littlefinger and Tumblr

Yesterday we received the following comment from emmyaist:

There’s an incredibly popular post making rounds on Tumblr, which goes “friendly reminder that if harry would have been a girl snape would have treated her like petyr baelish treats sansa stark.”
What do you think? I’d say false, but it’s more more intuition than logical reasoning; however, I’d really really really appreciate it if either/both of you could help me come up with a refutation.
Thanks in advance!

As such questions tend to do, this spawned a rambling discussion that eventually became a full blog post, because we’re both incapable of short answers when the subject is interesting! As with emmyaist we both felt the argument was false, but it took a while before we managed to frame reasons why. Hopefully this makes sense.


MITCHELL:

If you’re going to map Snape onto Game of Thrones characters, you’d get a lot closer by imagining him as Walder Frey, with Voldemort in the role of Robb Stark (who broke his word regarding an important promise, in Snape’s case not to kill Lily) and Dumbledore in the role of Tywin Lannister (manipulating Snape into sacrificing everything for the sake of revenge). Not that that’s much more flattering, but still – and I’d argue he still comes off much better than Dumbledore there at least.

Despite whatever surface similarities they’re reacting to, there actually isn’t much of a parallel at all between Snape and Baelish. Baelish’s revenge fixation is over the fact he feels slighted by the world and wasn’t given the things he felt he deserved (e.g. he believed the trope that the underdog gets the girl, etc). Snape is motivated by a desire to expiate his own past mistakes more than anything else; if anything, what you’d get if Harry weren’t male (and therefore didn’t resemble James Potter so closely) is a likelihood that his very appearance wouldn’t be triggering to Snape and he might be treated like any other student.

You can’t draw a parallel between Brandon Stark and James Potter – if they’re trying to say that Catelyn’s preventing Brandon from killing Baelish after the duel is comparable to Lily’s half-hearted attempt to stop Potter’s abuse of Snape (notice that even at first, before Snape lashed out at her, Lily is portrayed as struggling not to laugh along with his abusers), they’re missing the actual important differences between those scenes. Baelish was the instigator there, and challenged Brandon to the duel; if it hadn’t been for that, and for his naively optimistic belief in certain tropes, it’s doubtful Brandon would even have noticed him. Contrast this with Snape; James Potter had been bullying him for years, and their enmity began entirely in Potter’s head. (Let’s note that if anything, James maps more closely onto Baelish than Snape does. Look at James and Snape’s first meeting, which I think you have to read at least partly as James becoming jealous that someone he views as inferior is friends with someone he likes the look of, and deciding to ruin Snape’s life as a consequence.)

Now, truthfully, I don’t know what the Tumblr meme is even trying to say. If we accept the surface reading it’s based on, I can’t see it as anything except an attempted insult of anyone who respects Snape more than they do Baelish. The problem is that it relies on that surface reading to do so, and the vast majority of people who actually do like Severus Snape as a character aren’t doing that themselves, so the attack fails. Admittedly, there is one respect in which I think they might not be wrong: I don’t think Rowling has any respect for the character she inadvertently created, and she might well agree with that misreading of his motivations if she herself were doing the alternate-gender rewrite.

And on another note, I feel it’s imperative to point out that Sansa Stark is significantly brighter than Harry Potter, and comparing the two is a grievous insult to her.


LOTEN:

Overlooking the gender-essentialism of the Tumblr meme – why would such a situation only occur between a male and a female? – I think the premise behind it is flawed. On a personal level without the revenge fixation Mitchell explains above, Baelish’ apparent motivation is that if he can’t have Cat then he’ll settle for Cat 2.0; her father never did anything to Baelish except perhaps mildly inconvenience him and can be completely ignored. Snape would never want Lily 2.0 because regardless of the child’s gender he or she would still be the spawn of James.

In addition, the way genetics appears to work in the wizarding world, a female Potter would look exactly like Lily and rather than being attracted I feel he would be triggered as powerfully as he is by the James-clone, only in a different way; I think we’d see less rage and more depression, but in the end we’d get the same dislike (and assuming female!Harry is as stupid and thoughtless as male!Harry we’d end up with the same justified anger after stunts such as the Pensieve).

I’d also like to point out that in one specific way Snape does treat Harry as Baelish treats Sansa – both men take risks in order to protect the child of the woman they love. The difference is that for whatever reason Baelish likes Sansa because of her parentage, whereas Snape dislikes Harry because of his. I don’t see that changing regardless of Potter Junior’s gender, and that essential difference between the two characters is likewise not going to change.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in loten, mitchell

 

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Pottermore: a sporting interlude (rugby; Quidditch World Cup part one)

Goblet of Fire hasn’t updated in quite a long time, but JK’s been busy with some very odd extra content. During the Six Nations rugby tournament a few months ago she provided a short entry stating that the entire wizarding world are huge rugby fans and all support Scotland including the non-Brits, though of course this has nothing to do with her personally being a Scottish rugby fan…

LOTEN:

Regarding the HP rugby thing, the actual entry on Pottermore itself doesn’t say anything else new, just the obligatory backstory involving horrible people – some kid in a family known for being big and muscley was born a Squib and his siblings helped him hide it because their father was pureblood elitist scum. They even forged a Hogwarts letter for him and flew him there via broom and he pushed in front of someone at the Sorting, so the Sorting Hat yelled to the entire hall that he wasn’t a wizard and he got thrown out. Father wouldn’t take him back, so he wandered off and was adopted by some Muggles (instead of dying or being kidnapped by unpleasant people as you’d expect from a sheltered 11 year old boy suddenly being homeless in a world he’s never been in before) and grew up to be an amazing rugby player, blah blah blah. No explanation of why anyone except his siblings would care, or why the entire WW supports Scotland because of it when apparently there are rumours that there’s a Squib on every team (lol as if; Squibs get secretly killed off except Filch and the random Weasley accountant, we know this already). Pointless BS as usual, basically.


MITCHELL:

Ugh, that’s… well, I was going to say “that’s something special” but it really isn’t, it’s of a piece with everything else she writes these days. Pointless cruelty, casual anti-Muggle bigotry, utterly implausible sequences of events glossed over by narrative smoothness…


Pottermore then decided to capitalise on all the footballing World Cup hype by staging a Quidditch World Cup. This started with the first of two posts about the history of the tournament…

LOTEN:

So, here we go. History of the Quidditch World Cup… blah blah blah sporting tropes blah… the rulebook for on and off pitch magic is nineteen books long? Sorry Rowling, you’re long past the point where hyperbolic exaggeration is cute or funny.

Probable numbers fail! Up to a hundred thousand spectators routinely attend the finals. I think that could only add up if every single member of the WW is a die-hard Quidditch fan with the time and money to get to the Cup every time. Though actually now I think about it, as a percentage of the worldwide population that’s honestly not much, she might be okay there.

Sometimes the locations are in deserts. I wonder how many idiots die of heatstroke or dehydration. Or why they use Muggle campsites given how many empty areas of the globe exist – oh, wait, so JK could torture Muggles, silly me.

Fun stories of lovely wizards:
-In 1809 a Romanian player somehow jinxed an entire forest to come and flatten the stadium and kill a lot of people. Apparently a lot of wizards forgot they can do magic to get out of the way or stop the trees. Also Rowling evidently liked the Lord of the Rings movies.

-In 1877 the entire WW was mindfucked. Not kidding. Every single witch and wizard has no memory of the tournament:

Neither those in possession of tickets nor any of the players could remember a single game. However, for reasons none of them understood, English Beater Lucas Bargeworthy was missing most of his teeth, Canadian Seeker Angelus Peel’s knees were on backwards and half the Argentinian team were found tied up in the basement of a pub in Cardiff.

Cardiff. Despite the final taking place in Kazakhstan. Okay. Anyway, I’m interested in why the WW didn’t panic on discovering someone or something is capable of erasing the memories of every single one of them across the entire globe, because that seems like a threat to me. Or it would, if it was remotely possible.

-Boring story about a strict committee chairman in the 70s, probably a dig at a football or rugby manager at the time, I don’t really care. He tried to ban wands in the stadium, which sounds bloody sensible if you ask me.

Wow, three whole stories. The damned tournament’s been running every four years since the 1400s and that’s all she could come up with.

The GoF cup took place on Dartmoor. Nice to get a location at last… but Dartmoor’s a national park. It’s riddled with campsites and villages and wildlife-watching stations and farms. In summer it’s full of tourists. What moron would pick somewhere like that, instead of somewhere that’s actually deserted?

In part two of this exciting entry, released next Friday March 21, J.K. Rowling details amusing recaps of Quidditch World Cup games from 1994 through to the upcoming 2014 World Cup.

Gosh. I can’t wait. (Especially since the first final after GoF would have been in 1998 about a month after the Battle at Hogwarts. I wonder if JK will remember that.)


MITCHELL:

I’m not even sure what to say about this one, because for the most part it seems entirely uninteresting and within her usual style (I am entirely sick of the unthinking hyperbolic exaggeration also, you can’t do that and simultaneously expect your setting to be taken seriously. Stop trying to have your cake and eat it, Rowling :P).

The numbers fail is more of the same really; I’m honestly not sure whether a hundred thousand attendees is plausible or not. I don’t think it’s plausible if we go by the number of schools that’s been established (whether the three discussed in canon, or the eleven she’s claimed in Pottermore), but if you consider a typical American football stadium holds around 60k people and can often fill up with primarily residents of a single city/region, it doesn’t seem *entirely* absurd for a worldwide event. There’s really no way to assess the size of Rowling’s wizarding population though, because she doesn’t understand maths 😛

The stories she tells are complete and utter fail, though. The “somehow, this absurd magical calamity occurred, isn’t it so funny?” schtick lost its appeal a long time ago, and never made any sense; it’s another one of those things that’s utterly terrifying if you take the setting remotely seriously and only works if you’re going for childish whimsy. Rowling never did make up her mind which she was doing, did she? 😛

LOL, excellent point about the 1998 thing, it’ll be interesting to see if she fails that one 🙂


LOTEN:

It’s not even that, she’s trying to have her cake and eat it and win a prize for it at the same time 😛 This wasn’t anything new though, you’re right – boring and not thought out, with the occasional wtf story that just makes it even clearer that all her imaginary people are terrible.

Regarding the numbers, if a regular stadium can hold that much, and the Quidditch pitches are absurd multi-storey affairs meant to be much larger, then 100k is actually not very good 😛 but really, I’m sure 100k would have to be almost every adult not actually playing in the stupid match, plus at least half of them bringing at least one child. Not every single person loves sport, JK. Honestly. Your supposed ‘self-insert’ didn’t, you ought to pay more attention. Anyway, I really am interested in the population dynamics and the numbers here, and not just to prove her wrong 😛 let’s see what Google can tell me…
-There are about 3200 secondary schools in England, which at the last census had a population of about 53 million. That works out to one school for every 16,600 people, approximately. So if there are eleven schools in the wizarding world that would work out at a population size of around 182,000. Obviously not everywhere has the population density that England does, but given that JK grew up in the UK and would be most familiar with the frequency of schools here, let’s say that’s about right in terms of the HP world. I don’t know how to adjust for the fact that wizarding schools have much smaller class sizes than our secondary schools tend to have, either. Nor do we know that those eleven schools are all secondary schools just because Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang are. But she’s pretty much claiming that over half the entire global population go to one sports game.

Yeah, I would legitimately be terrified if it was possible to fuck with the minds of the entire world, this is not a funny story 😛 Not to mention the casual hilarious violence…

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in loten, mitchell

 

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Pottermore; Goblet of Fire, part two

LOTEN:

Starts at chapter 12, start of term feast. Nothing new yet, though we note that of the entries on the Four Founders, three of them follow the same template – X was the founder of X house after whom it is named, and together with three others X helped to found Hogwarts, etc etc – whereas Salazar’s entry just says Slytherin house was named after him. Good to see the racism hasn’t diminished.

We move on to the ferret scene, otherwise known as haha isn’t child abuse funny, or tell us again how it’s Snape who’s the evil teacher. Nothing new there either, though you can make the ferret panic and run around if you hover over it.

On to Moody teaching Dark spells to fourteen year olds in traumatic ways while still totally not being evil. You can click to watch the spiders dance, get tortured and die, which makes Ron scoot back in his chair. Nice touch. No new info though.

On to Hedwig delivering a letter from Dogbreath. Still no new info, not sure why this scene was even there.

On to Beauxbatons arriving in the pointless carriage of prettyness. Egad, actual new content. Beauxbatons is in the Pyrenees, mostly French students but also lots of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Luxembourgians and Belgians. It’s larger than Hogwarts. Nicolas Flamel went there (so it’s confirmed that the film is bollocks, it’s not a girl’s school. Though we knew that anyway, IIRC Parvati gets asked to dance by a boy from Beauxbatons). And we’re told Maxime is “brilliant, elegant and undeniably awe-inspiring” despite her being onscreen for about three scenes and playing no fucking part in the story. If she’s so wonderful, Rowling, maybe you should’ve used her. Nothing else new.

On to Durmstrang’s random pirate ship. More new content.

Durmstrang once had the darkest reputation of all eleven wizarding schools.

Solid numbers at last; there are eleven schools. Though naturally we’re not told what they are, where they are or how big they are. And Rowling’s record with numbers is well established. Previous headmasters include a guy named Harfang Munter… um, Rowling, ‘munter’ is rather unpleasant slang in parts of Britain, you should know not to use it as someone’s name even if they are evil… Anyway. It was founded by a witch. Visitors get mindraped so nobody knows where it is, how lovely. Grindelwald was totally super dangerous you guys isn’t Dumbles amazing for taking him down. That’s it.

On to champion selection. No new info, pretty goblet.

On to Harry meeting the other champions. Krum’s art is… really, really bad, lol. No new info.

On to Draco hexing Hermione. You get to collect a Potter Stinks badge; I shall treasure it. You can also make Hermione’s teeth grow by hovering over them, and make the boils on Goyle’s face burst. Not convinced either were necessary. Still no new info, this was an almost totally pointless update.

On to Skeeter interviewing Snowflake. New content about the Daily Prophet, which actually isn’t new at all and just says what we already know. It’s the only newspaper, it’s biased, the Ministry can influence it. But apparently that’s okay since according to Rowling the wizard community is so small that everyone’s interested in the same kind of stories (no really she actually says that). Oh, and wizards will keep their newspapers even though Muggles use the internet now. That couldn’t possibly be because THEY DON’T HAVE COMPUTERS, could it, Rowling? Also Skeeter’s art makes her look like Dame Edna Everage (famous British drag queen).

Onto Snowflake seeing where the dragons are being kept, we’re skipping a lot. The dragons are ugly, though one of them breathes blue fire, which is interesting. No new info.

Final scene of this update is Snowflake flying around his utterly ineffective dragon. Again, no new info.


MITCHELL:

Heh, this Pottermore update seems pretty boring and pointless, honestly. I’m not sure if the anti-Slytherin prejudice thing is even surprising any more, except for the casual and gratuitous way they seem to have done it; I don’t even know why, because honestly I think it’d have taken LESS work to just make them all the same! 😛

Oh joy, fake!Moody stuff. Figures they’d make a minigame where you get to join in the abuse of ferret Draco and laugh at his distress; let’s make the protagonist-centred morality more explicit, shall we?

Hmm, new content on the schools, except it doesn’t really tell us much (except more numbers fail, of course! I’ve no idea what to do with the figure of eleven schools). At least she confirmed Beauxbatons isn’t all-girls; I still have no idea why they did that in the film (except possibly extrapolating from Fleur+sister and Maxime because they’re the only people from Beauxbatons IIRC :P). I’ve never heard of munter before, what exactly does it mean?


LOTEN:

Yeah, it was noticeably very skimpy on the content this time around. I was expecting more on the Triwizard, maybe some background on Moody. Half the scenes were only included for pretty pictures, and some of them didn’t even have that going for them. The only extra content was three paragraphs on Beauxbatons, Durmstrang and the Daily Prophet, and the latter really wasn’t new. Still, from here onwards there’s the war, so hopefully it’ll be fractionally more interesting.

Eleven schools… Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, Durmstrang. Possibly Salem, I forget if that’s canon or fanon. The unnamed one in Brazil. Presumably at least one in Australia, at least one in Africa, at least one in Asia. Three others. That’s not far off our numbers, except that the numbers in wizarding Britain mean that system doesn’t work and if Britain’s the same average as worldwide there should be a lot more than eleven in the HP world. I think at this point we’re meant to assume that Britain has a much higher proportion of wizards to Muggles for whatever reason, which is why they get one school to themselves when the entirety of mainland Europe has to be divided between only two schools, and the rest of the world is similar to the statistics we worked out. Never mind that there’s no reason why Britain should be special, island population dynamics don’t apply when Apparition is a thing.

As for munter, it doesn’t have a specific meaning per se, it depends on the context; it’s almost always used to refer to a woman and usually means ugly and sometimes slut. Not a nice word, as I said. Tends to mostly be used in the north. It does mean other things in German and French apparently, I just looked it up, but given the UK meaning JK should’ve used a different name 😛 Then again we know from the Cho Chang rant that she didn’t bother researching any names unless they were going to be Symbolic and Meaningful…

 

[Another short post, it was a short update, as you can tell. This is the last canon-content Pottermore post, we’re still waiting for the next Goblet of Fire update; next week we’ll start some extra content stuff from the past few weeks.]

 
11 Comments

Posted by on July 10, 2014 in loten, mitchell

 

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Humanism, Arranged Marriages, and Reality TV

Sorry for the lack of content recently; I’ve been suffering from a nasty case of writer’s block and am struggling with a few half-finished pieces. Hopefully this will jog me back into things.

This appears to be somewhat old news, but I just saw this today (an older, more detailed post about it can be found here) about humanist chaplain Greg Epstein working in an advisory capacity on a reality television programme called Married at First Sight. This makes me deeply uncomfortable; I think it’s a terrible idea for lots of reasons, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say anything.

I’m disappointed in Epstein that he decided to get involved with something like this. The first thing I thought upon learning about it was that not all publicity is good publicity: if the idea here was that participating in something like this would increase visibility for atheists/humanists, then all I can say is that participating in something that looks clearly unethical and exploitative to me doesn’t seem like a good way to advocate for humanism. Humanism is an ethical position and participating in unethical behaviour while promoting humanism will only make us look like hypocrites.

Why do I say this is clearly unethical? First things first (from one of the linked posts by Hemant Mehta):

There are just a few moments you really want to see. Like when the contestants find out about the premise of the show…

In other words, there is no notion of informed consent here at all. None. Despite the fact Mehta describes the show in one of the linked posts as “couples agree to get married, sight-unseen”, if they didn’t know the premise of the show before agreeing to appear on it, they could not have given informed consent to this (and if they did express consent, the pressure of having had to agree to that impulsively after a surprise reveal means we cannot consider this consent in any kind of meaningful sense).

Mehta highlights quite a few other issues with it, and then encourages the viewer to just not think too hard about them. Um, no, let’s not do that. His list is also not exhaustive, and I’d like to mention a few more.

Firstly, I have to wonder at the motivations of the contestants on a show like this. Why would any person in their right mind agree to an arranged marriage with a person they’ve never met (especially when there is no cultural pressure to do so)? I can only think it must have something to do with the way modern Western culture elevates marriage and makes people consider it an essential step toward adulthood. I’ve often encountered the idea (usually implicit rather than explicit, though I’ve seen it made explicitly as well) that people aren’t truly adults until they are married, etc etc. (Another variant just focuses on being partnered as a similar thing.) When there are pressures such as this, it’s understandable why someone might be tempted by something like this, but shouldn’t we be able to acknowledge this is unhealthy and not encourage it? If we really want to deal with this problem, the solution is not “come up with ways for unmarried people to more easily acquire partners/marriages” but rather “change the culture so people aren’t shamed for not being partnered/married”.

Secondly: marriage is a legal contract with far-reaching effects, and marrying people in a situation like this (with a much higher chance it won’t work out and they’ll seek divorce) seems rife for legal problems. I should hope, at least, that the people running the show have some good lawyers available to write prenuptial agreements that ensure there aren’t issues with property becoming jointly owned, etc etc. I’ve no idea whether or not they have done anything like that, truthfully; they may well have done, because otherwise they could end up with a lot of really unpleasant situations and they have to have foreseen the likelihood these marriages wouldn’t last.

Thirdly: while I know nothing about the contestants, it would not surprise me if the sort of people who were interested in a marriage under these circumstances ended up being abusive and/or controlling partners, by dint of choosing to be married under circumstances in which the person they are marrying cannot say no. This is creepy.

It occurs to me that most of the ethical issues with the show are strictly related to the marriage gimmick, rather than anything else; if it were just setting up blind dates based on whatever pseudoscientific criteria they’re using, I don’t think I’d really object. But I suspect it’s also the marriage aspect specifically that they’re counting on for shock value to get viewers interested, and that without it there wouldn’t be any show at all.

In any case, I think this is a terrible and deeply problematic idea, and I’m disappointed that Greg Epstein (and, by extension, humanism) is involved with it. Epstein’s avowed reasons for participating don’t seem wholly bad, and if we assume the show was going to exist irrespective of his participation I do think he’s probably one of the best choices they could have made for the role they’ve placed him in. I’ll grant that much. That said, I still think he should have thought better of it.

And unless the advice he’s going to give is “don’t fucking get married and go home”, I have doubts about how consistent with humanism it is.

 

[Edit by Loten: the more I read about this the more sceptical I become. There’s just so much wrong with the basic premise of this show that I’m starting to think it’s faked and is designed purely as some sort of warped entertainment. That’s not a huge improvement, of course, it’s still pushing the tired old “marriage is the only possible means of vindicating your existence” message, but still. Of course this idea is probably just wishful thinking, but I just can’t see how this is legal, aside from all the other issues.]

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in mitchell

 

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Pottermore bonus content: Lockhart

Another short one this week, I’m on vacation.


LOTEN:

Present for you, for some reason some more bonus content’s shown up on Pottermore, way back in Chamber of Secrets – more crap about Lockhart.

Witch mother, Muggle father, two older non-magical sisters – instant mummy’s boy (once again JK ignores the interesting part of the story; what were his sisters like? What happened to them?). He and Mummy always thought he was the best, he was surprised when he got to Hogwarts to find out that actually all the others were pretty good at magic too. Supposedly has above-average intelligence (read: Harry Sue is even specialer by comparison for ‘defeating’ him later) but never liked not being top in everything, started cheating etc. to get more status, obsessed with attention – carved his signature into the Quidditch pitch, sent himself eight hundred Valentines, etc. Graduated and started conning and cheating his way to fame, gradually lost most of his magical abilities because all he ever used was Memory Charms, was eventually lured back to teach because omg Harry Potter!!111!

The real gem in this update? APPARENTLY DUMBLEDORE KNEW ALL ALONG AND DELIBERATELY HIRED HIM IN ORDER TO EXPOSE HIM. I’m laughing pretty hard right now. That’s Saint fucking Dumbles for you. He’s completely useless, can’t teach the children anything and will repeatedly endanger and even temporarily maim them, let’s hire him so we can look amazing and special afterwards. I don’t know which is worse, that he did know all along and went ahead anyway, or that JK’s talking crap and he had no idea but because he gives no fucks about the school just hired the only non-Snape applicant and then claimed credit afterwards.


MITCHELL:

WHAT THE FUCK? I don’t even. (“Above-average intelligence”? Rowling sure thinks well of most people, doesn’t she? Bloody hell. No wonder she’s not worried about inconsistencies in her books, if she thinks Lockhart is smarter than half her audience) Also, it’s possible to “gradually lose your magical abilities” by not exercising them? First we’ve ever heard of that in this universe, isn’t it?

Wow. Dumbledore works in mysterious ways yet again, isn’t it? Does Rowling have any idea what kind of monster this makes him? “The greatest headmaster Hogwarts has ever known?” What on earth did all the others do then, Rowling, to make them worse than him? I honestly don’t think I want to know.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in loten, mitchell

 

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