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Category Archives: mitchell

Deniability is no longer plausible. Stand with trans people.

I should apologise for not having written recently; there are lots of things I want to talk about (and frankly should have talked about), but my depression’s been really getting to me and I’ve barely had the energy to be functional a lot of the time.

That said, I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but I think I/we need to weigh in because we’ve discussed the subject here before (there’s been a spike in hits to a certain chapter of the Silkworm review, as there often is when something like this happens). As I don’t use Twitter, I’ll be commenting on the brouhaha here instead.

Joanne Rowling is a transphobic asshole, click through to see it in her own words. She’s not even trying to hide it any more. No more “oops how does the internet work, what is a like button teehee” shenanigans. No more “but Cormoran Strike is transphobic, that doesn’t mean she necessarily agrees with him” excuses.

Let’s unpack this just a little bit. She’s literally going out of her way to perform wokeness on as many other axes of bigotry as possible, before getting to the punchline of “trans women? nope, not them”. Unlike everyone else, she seems to say, trans people deserve special condemnation and transphobes are the real victims.

(A helpful bit of context in case it isn’t clear what she’s commenting on there.)

I can’t say I’m surprised. This isn’t news; everyone who’s more than vaguely aware of the things Rowling says on Twitter should already know this (as friend of the blog Ana Mardoll has already pointed out), but she said the quiet part out loud this time so more people are noticing. Good.

(This made me laugh, admittedly. Image of a fanzine titled “Harry Potter and the Problematic Author”)

I’m not going to tell anyone they shouldn’t read her writing or can’t continue to be fans of Harry Potter, if they get something out of it. Goodness knows my life wouldn’t be the same if not for those books; Harry Potter fandom is the reason I met the person I love most in the world, and I can’t imagine who I’d be if I hadn’t. Go ahead and employ death of the author to your heart’s content and make something better out of them (but maybe give someone else your money).

But that fondness is not an excuse to ignore transphobia, or any other form of bigotry. I realise it can be hard to be a fan of problematic things while still acknowledging those problems, but the alternative is denial and apologetics. You can like things without them being perfect, and you can like things without that necessarily being a referendum on your character. Nearly everything is problematic in some way, after all. But we cannot deny the existence of bigotry just to make ourselves feel better.

And the natural consequence of that sort of denial is extrapolating it. If we train ourselves to think that a certain work of fiction we like can’t possibly contain bigotry because we’d feel uncomfortable liking it if it did, what then happens if we come across a similar example of bigotry in real life? The easiest way to resolve that cognitive dissonance is to refuse to see the real life example also, and that tends to be what people do.

So it is likewise important to acknowledge when a person has shitty beliefs, and that those beliefs might come out in their work.

I’ll say this as nicely as I possibly can: fuck off, J.K. Rowling.

There is a serious problem with transphobia (and specifically the TERF variety which parasitises and exploits feminist rhetoric) in the world right now, and it’s especially virulent in Britain for some reason. This is not to say it’s not a problem elsewhere, of course, but we can’t ignore the trend. Pay attention.

And if you know a trans person, for fuck’s sake let them know you support them.

[I don’t have anything else to add except to repeat: fuck off, J K Rowling.]

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2019 in mitchell

 

Harry Potter, going forward

It’s time to address the elephant in the room that is the Harry Potter series. I keep getting asked whether it’s going to continue, which is understandable given how long it’s been. (Incidentally, I see all comments, not just the ones on the most recent posts. If your comment isn’t about the newest post, please try and leave it on a relevant post instead.)

The honest answer at this point is that I don’t know. I want to keep going but every time I think of starting up the next chapter I just don’t have the motivation. When we started, it was supposed to be fun; we were supposed to enjoy at least the first two books and gradually ease in to the bad stuff later on, and slowly pick it apart over time while still preserving the good parts. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

I never thought these books were the most amazing literature to ever grace the earth, but I really didn’t think they were this bad, and part of me doesn’t want to keep going because I don’t want to end up actively hating them. This series has been a huge part of my life and had a tremendous impact on who I am, dumb as that is, because of what it led to, and I don’t want to lose that or taint the memories. I’m also still planning to write more fanfics someday (ah, the elusive someday), and while I don’t think I’m ever going to end up hating my favourite characters specifically, I’m not going to be able to write about them if I hate literally everything about their entire universe and canon history.

Rowling is really not helping matters by her constant gleeful abuse of a very, very dead horse. Everything she says about the franchise makes me dislike it more, which makes me harsher when analysing it, which makes my opinion sink further.

So I don’t know. I’m doing some thinking and juggling some ideas, I’ll try to come up with a way to keep going without burning out and ruining things for me (obviously in consultation with Mitchell). It might be that he takes over and I just drop the occasional comment, though he’s not much more motivated than I am at this point. It might be that we stop doing every single chapter and just cover scenes we think are worth discussing. Not promising anything, it might well be that we stop completely.

[Honestly, the most likely outcome is that I take over so that the brunt of the impact falls on me. It helps that I’m more comfortable hating them than Loten is, so that particular issue isn’t a deterrent for me, but it’s still a matter of not knowing when I’ll have the energy. I’ve tried to start the next chapter on my own a couple of times and didn’t get anywhere, but I’m not giving up yet. One of the reasons we started this project was that it was something to do together, after all, and doing it separately is less appealing. There are a lot of things in the series I do think are well worth getting to, but I guess we’ll have to see.]

I am aware that most of you are only here for Harry Potter content and that the other stuff gets far, far less attention, but so it goes.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2019 in loten, mitchell

 

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Character Development vs Character Assassination, a Failure Mode Analysis

Well, hello there. This is Mitchell, the person you’ve probably forgotten exists because I’ve barely written anything substantial for the better part of two years (fuck depression and fuck the ability of politics to exacerbate depression), but technically this is my blog too. I’m back to talk about a story about wizards and how it disappointed me. No, not that one, sorry. The other one.

Over two years ago, I wrote this post, and, more significantly, the Magic: the Gathering fanfic I link to in it. That context may be helpful to understand the rest of this post, but I’ll try to write this in a way that is comprehensible without it. I mainly want to use this opportunity to talk about character development, what makes it work and ways it can go wrong, but in order to do that I’ll need to go into detail about this particular example.

Honestly, writing about this at all is a bit self-indulgent, but please bear with me, I think there are some useful lessons to take from it.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2019 in mitchell

 

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Bad Movies Are Bad, Film at 11 (but don’t watch The Crimes of Grindelwald)

We all knew it was going to be bad, the only questions were how bad and what kind? Reviews have been coming out and the picture isn’t pretty, needless to say, so here’s a link roundup for the time being. I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to subject myself to this (I may do next week, solely so I can write about it, but I’m not sure), but hopefully this will tide you over for now. Honestly, these reviews remind me of nothing so much as the first leaks of Cursed Child spoilers; it’s just ludicrous.

Emily Asher-Perrin at Tor: The Crimes of The Crimes of Grindelwald (This is the most detailed dive into the wtfery, if you only read one I suggest this one)

Jeremiah at The Fandomentals: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a Post-Mortem for J.K. Rowling

Ani Bundel at NBC (yes, NBC): Harry Potter Franchise’s new Fantastic Beasts sequel should not have been written by J.K. Rowling

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw at the Daily Dot: Queerbaiting is Ruining the Fantastic Beasts Franchise

To make a long story short, it sounds like there’s pretty much a bingo here. Character assassination of some of the last remaining likeable characters, pointless unexplained retcons (among other things, how the fuck is Credence alive when the climax of the first film was literally him being killed? I’ve still yet to see an answer to this), needless overdramatic bullshit, plotlines that make no sense, forced cameos and attempts at continuity that somehow just break everything further, casual appropriation without even a good reason… oh, right, and Johnny Depp. Can’t forget about him.

[Links above contain extensive spoilers, obviously. For my part I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said; it’s more of Rowling’s tiresome refusal to put the franchise out of its misery already. It ruins everything that was decent about the first film, it invalidates the entire point of the first film, and it fucks up every single story arc without even having the grace to do it well on a technical level. There aren’t enough pretty imaginary animals in the world to compensate for this one.]

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2018 in loten, mitchell

 

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On Nagini apparently secretly being a human

Apologies for the dearth of content recently. I don’t have much excuse except that I just haven’t had the energy to write; hopefully this will change soon, but I can’t make any promises.

[I’ve had some stuff going on recently that drains my free time and energy. Chamber of Secrets has not been abandoned but it could be a while yet.]

I have to admit that we haven’t had our ears to the ground in Harry Potter fandom as much lately, so we’d missed hearing about this one until All-I-need brought it to our attention in the comments. Here’s the article she linked us to.

So. Um. That’s a thing, apparently. Nagini is now a “Maledictus”, a “blood curse that only affects women, and one that Nagini has no control over”. Charming. So it’s like a werewolf but not because reasons, like an animagus but not because reasons, and it only affects women because why not have more sexism? [There’s been no mention of a male equivalent. Unless werewolves are the equivalent, since it’s just occurred to me that we’ve never heard of a female werewolf in this universe, but I didn’t see Greyback being turned into Voldy’s pet/food source/soul vessel and deprived of all agency and freedom.]

There is also apparently a fair amount of discussion about racism happening, because the actor is Asian and this may have been an attempt to use something from Southeast Asian culture (and no doubt badly, given Rowling’s track record; that said, I don’t know enough to comment on that). [All I know for sure is that Nagini is the name of the female cobra in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and given Kipling’s usual naming conventions it probably just means ‘female cobra’. Potterverse Nagini is not a cobra. Beyond that, I have nothing.] What I can say is that “maledictus” is far too Latinate a name, which comes off as rather colonialist: if it really is based on something Asian, why not use the actual name, or come up with a variant on that?

Rowling claims she’s been waiting to reveal this for 20 years. I categorically do not believe this, because it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and it is very typical of her tendency to retcon things that didn’t need changing for the sake of shock value. I would be utterly shocked if there was any evidence of this being a thing before the last year or two at best; it seems obvious to me that it’s an attempt to link the Fantastic Beasts films more closely to the original series in an effort to increase fans’ investment in them. [Yeah, it’s obviously a total ass-pull that came to her while putting together this clusterfuck of a script.] Also, the maths just don’t work (as per usual) – 20 years ago would have been 1998. The year Chamber of Secrets came out. It would be two more years before Nagini the character existed in canon.

So let’s get this straight. Rowling’s best idea for adding a female character of colour to the story is for her to have nonconsensual transformations into a snake form, previously only seen being used to obtain potion ingredients via milking venom, fed human flesh, made a vessel for Voldemort’s soul (again, presumably without her consent?), possessed and controlled (even just saying that feels gross in this context) as a weapon, and eventually killed. Killed only in order to make Voldemort vulnerable, for the exact same reasons as various inanimate objects: she has the same level of narrative agency as a goblet. [It’s particularly troubling since we now have a woman of colour being turned into a literal possession owned by a white supremacist. These people really do have no awareness whatsoever.]

This also raises the question of why Nagini’s venom would have been an effective restorative for Voldy if she wasn’t (as we previously thought) some product of his own power or a unique magical species. [And this also becomes yet another thing Dumbledore supposedly knew about all along – since he’s in this film – and just never bothered to mention.]

(On the human flesh thing, Loten’s complained about this to me before. Rowling doesn’t know how snakes work, a snake eating something as large as a human corpse would go into a near-hibernation state while digesting and that might well take over a month. I also seem to recall that snakes tend to prefer live prey to corpses?) [Yes, most snakes prefer live food. I suppose this stupid handwave would somewhat explain why Nagini doesn’t act like a snake; in addition to this, she never seems to shed her skin and seems unbothered by the temperature.]

I don’t have much else to add. If this Nagini character was a willing participant in everything Nagini did in HP canon, then it’s basically just another Bellatrix, another hate-sink character who is evil for evil’s sake and doesn’t serve much of a useful narrative purpose. If she wasn’t, then this is yet another female character being created solely for the purpose of her exploitation. Neither is a good look, really. (Also, is she older than Tom Riddle then? I’m not entirely clear on the timeline, but that also seems weird to me. Why would Rowling do this?)

[Presumably there will be a reason why Nagini is in human form in Fantastic Beasts 2 but only ever exists as a snake in the main canon timeline. Presumably this reason will be terrible.]

Before reading the article, my first thought was that Nagini being human was a (bad) attempt to patch the Cursed Child timeline problems – if Bellatrix didn’t have time to be pregnant, why not shoehorn in another female character who could be Dolphin Sue’s mother instead? (The mental image of her hatching from an egg or something and later being told Bella was her mother is something I have to admit I did find amusing.) This doesn’t appear to have been the motivation at all, but if anything there seems to be even less purpose behind it, so I figured I might as well share that for a laugh.

I really can’t see any way this could have been a good idea. I guess Rowling wanted more attention or something. Honestly, it’s all so stupid I’m having a hard time remembering it’s also problematic and offensive.

[Of course Rowling’s latest shock reveal is tiresomely racist and misogynist as well as making no sense whatsoever. Why wouldn’t it be, most of the others have been.]

Edited to add this – in case you wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, don’t.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2018 in loten, mitchell

 

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Monthly Spotlight: Tamora Pierce

something something Harry Potter soon mumble mumble

This month we’re looking at Tamora Pierce, a rather underrated young adult author who seems less well known now than she was when I started reading her stuff aged twelve or so. In many ways she is the first ‘young adult’ author, I suppose; her first book was published in 1983 and nobody was quite sure how to categorise it. Which caused a few issues, as we’ll see later. She’s known for decent female protagonists (before the world and his wife started throwing around the term ‘strong female character’) and for addressing everyday practical concerns such as menstruation and birth control.

Her books mostly consist of quartets following individual characters, and are set in one of two fantasy worlds, Tortall and Emelan. I’ve talked to a lot of her fans over the years, and without exception it seems that the ones you read first are the ones you like best. It has to be said that one of the reasons for this is probably because there are quite a few similarities in character and storyline between the two, but more on that later. Since I read Tortall first and Mitchell has only read Emelan so far [I did read the Alanna quartet also, just not the rest of them yet], you get both of us rambling at you this month. I’ll let him go first, under the cut. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2018 in loten, mitchell

 

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Monthly Spotlight: Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time

This month we’re going to look at some epic fantasy. The Wheel of Time turns throughout fifteen monstrously huge books (well, fourteen and one shorter prequel novel) that make the A Song of Ice and Fire books look like novellas in magazines. Seriously, I could kill someone with one of the hardbacks without much effort. The first eleven were written by James Oliver Rigney Jr, also known as Robert Jordan; after his death the series was finished by Brandon Sanderson. Mitchell gets to have some input this time too. Cut for length, though this is nowhere near as long as the Pratchett post.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2018 in loten, mitchell

 

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