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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Final Thoughts and Attempted Rewrite

So, we’ve finished the book, and we’ve watched the film. We concluded that the film does individual scenes better than the book did, but that it falls down on characterisation and suffers from being unable to show us a villain (whereas the book suffered from too many villains). And both fail hard at representing anyone who isn’t white and male, though the book is fractionally better in that regard. Fractionally. Both fail at showing anything of magic school, too.

In this post I’ll be rambling a bit about some of the flaws, then attempting a full rewrite, then talking about spells. It’s going to be another long one. Cut time! Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Spoiler Review

Those of you who have been paying attention will have spotted this post that went live yesterday morning, containing photographs of notes taken by Mitchell in the cinema as we watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (IMDB). The release date allowed us just enough time to see it together before he goes back home tomorrow. Now we’ve had time to put this together, enjoy our full rambling review. Spoilers later.

It probably won’t surprise any of you that Mitchell and I had pretty different views of the film by the end. We both picked out the same issues with it – spoiler, there were a lot of issues with it – but I’m far more willing to overlook most of them than he is. I’m more forgiving of bad writing in films than I am in books, too. Though we both hated the ending.

[I don’t actually think we disagree on much of anything, except how much we’re willing to forgive. I found this film utterly infuriating overall, while Loten enjoyed it, but when we started comparing complaints we found they were pretty much identical.]

If you go into this film with the right mindset, it’s mostly a lot of fun. Just don’t expect miracles. A lot of it makes no sense, there are some bad plotholes, and a lot of it is wildly inconsistent even by the already inconsistent rules of the Potterverse. But it’s pretty, and mostly silly in a good way, and has some cute moments.

[Here’s a quick attempt at a spoiler-free review for anyone who wants that. Overall, this is the sort of film that can be mindless fun if you like that sort of thing, but definitely don’t forget to switch off your brain before watching or you’ll be heavily disappointed. The core conceit of “absentminded zoologist loses magical monsters in New York City, needs to track them down, chaotic shenanigans ensue” is reasonably fun and the creatures are visually interesting (and the way they move is mostly well done too, the CGI is pretty good). Those parts are mostly fine, and we’d have liked the film much better if they’d just stuck to that (I’d probably have still complained about it being pointless, but that’s really just a matter of CGI slapstick not being my genre). But they decided it had to have an overarching plot beyond that, so they shoehorned in political intrigue and personal drama (and cringe-inducing “romances”) and very forced connections to Grindelwald and so on, and those things… just didn’t really work, and created so many issues that could have been easily avoided.]

Spoilers below the cut: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: The Film

Despite the world going to Hell in a handbasket, life goes on, at least for now, so let’s do this. As you may know if you happened to see our post aptly entitled WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED yesterday, Mitchell and I are currently in the same country. Bore da to you all.

We didn’t have a plan for this post, particularly, so it’ll be even more rambling than usual for us. Our method, such as it was, was just to watch the film together while we each took notes and occasionally paused to talk about things. You’re welcome to go watch the film now to refresh your memories before reading this if you like. We’ll wait.

I’m also going to attempt to learn to use ‘read more’ tags properly because this post is going to be ridiculously long. If it doesn’t work, which it probably won’t because I suck, please scroll down to see our other recent non-HP posts if you missed them earlier. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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Various Recent Developments in Potterland

I’m sorry, I can’t bring myself to talk about American politics, it’s too fucking depressing. I’ve been trying and failing to come out with anything coherent, in all honesty. So let’s talk about Harry Potter.


Firstly, sometime in September, Pottermore apparently added a feature where you can take a quiz to be assigned a Patronus animal (here’s an article about that). We knew about this at the time but never quite got round to writing about it; let’s just say we found it to be quite the mess.

I personally have not experimented with it at all, I can’t be bothered, but Loten did attempt it and apparently got assigned an osprey (which she wasn’t particularly pleased with, but I’ll leave it to her to complain about that if she wishes to).

[I don’t particularly object to ospreys, they’re nice birds. But there was no comment on what that’s supposed to mean about you, and I can’t see how the quiz led to that specific result – there seem to be a couple of dozen possibilities, but the quiz is just six or seven ‘here’s a few words, pick the one you like best and don’t take too long’. So I assume it randomly assigns you a set of possible animals before you even start.]

That said, we noticed quite a few things that irritated us about the apparent selection of animals. There are a lot of varieties where horses and dogs are concerned, but in many other cases you simply get a catchall term like ‘wolf’ or ‘dolphin’ where there are huge numbers of subspecies being ignored. And then, too, the type of variety provided is questionable: for instance, in many case it’s described as a certain colour of horse (not a breed or subspecies, a colour!). Patronuses don’t have colour. They’re ethereal silvery-looking things, how are you supposed to tell the difference between colours of horses? Somebody didn’t think this through (as if that’s a surprise at this point).

[To clarify – dogs have specific breeds, like huskies or Jack Russel terriers or whatever. The options for horses were ‘grey mare’ or ‘white stallion’ – which is a fail in itself; in equine circles all white horses are referred to as grey anyway. It’s not like there aren’t diverse horse breeds around – you could have, say, a Shire, an Arabian and a Shetland pony, or something. The weird gendering was odd as well – ignoring deer and apparently horses, nobody seems to be paying attention to the (apparently visible) genitalia of their Patronus.

There were also some really random animals as possible outcomes. The ones people seem most disappointed by were a mole and a salmon.]

The questions were also all extremely generic and we couldn’t tell how (if at all) they correspond to the results. You have to create an account to take the test, you can only do it once per account, and it moves through the questions rapidly enough that it would be difficult to record them; we certainly find it too impractical to experiment with and try to figure out how it works (not to mention we don’t care nearly enough, to be honest), and that difficulty is probably why we haven’t seen anyone else doing it either. Let us know if you do come across anyone gathering data about it, though.


Moving on. This thread is very much worth reading, more indigenous peoples’ reactions.

I didn’t feel comfortable contributing (or excerpting), but seriously, go read it.

[Agreed. Go read. We’ll wait.]


As we anticipate Fantastic Beasts, have some more history fail:

In short, it’s a reveal of some more details about magical society in America as fleshed-out for the setting of Fantastic Beasts. For a while, I honestly didn’t know what to say about it, and the article I’ve linked does a decent job pointing out the more obvious problems.

What it reads like is this. It reads like she’s gone down a list of buzzwords that sound American and thrown them together in a blender. As they pointed out at Tor, she has “MACUSA” existing before there was any such thing as the United States of America, under that name. This isn’t necessarily surprising, given the stew of anachronisms that she so often uses in her fictional history, but that doesn’t make it less nonsensical.

Hey, white Americans, maybe now you will understand what cultural appropriation feels like, and what marginalised populations have been trying to tell us? Even if you don’t find this particularly painful – I don’t – look at this amount of cluelessness about your culture, your polity, etc, see how ridiculous it looks and imagine that being nearly universal. Imagine that being the mainstream conception of what you are and what your society is.

If you can understand why MACUSA and Magical Congress and all of these other things are stupid and problematic, you can understand why Native Americans have been and continue to be so pissed off. That’s not nearly as bad as the bullshit they’re regularly expected to swallow.

[I don’t have anything to add here, though I almost want to apologise for Rowling. Almost. #NotAllBritons]


And in other news, there are apparently going to be five Fantastic Beasts films, because somehow this cash cow’s udders have not yet started bleeding or falling off. Fuck everything. I really haven’t the slightest clue how they’re going to get five films out of this when it seems to be primarily composed of history fail and cultural appropriation, and barely has any plot to speak of aside from ‘there are monsters. also there are conspiracies.’ It also sounds like she’s going to be trying to give us detail on the Grindelwald war, because taking history fail into the World Wars and possibly Nazi Germany is a brilliant idea that cannot possibly go wrong in any way. I am utterly atwitter with anticipation.

[Grindelwald is going to show up in the second film. Johnny Depp has been cast in the role, despite not looking remotely like the pretty blond we’ve been told to expect. I assume this means Rowling, Warner et al are fine with the fact that he abused his wife…]


And for the sake of proving I can be even-handed and don’t hate everything Rowling says on principle, I did think this was rather clever.


More to come this month from both of us – expect two film reviews, and hopefully the conclusion of Philosopher’s Stone, possibly more. Watch this space.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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So, about that accursed play…

I don’t think we really wanted to talk about this, but I feel like we probably need to. (Also: we’re still working on the next chapter of Philosopher’s Stone, I swear we’ll finish shredding that book eventually. Then there are only six more to go… FML.)

(Loten adds: my bad, guys. As I mentioned on my FFN profile, I’m tangled up in ‘real life’, in the process of buying a house, working a lot more, etc etc. It’s hard to find time to settle in for a few hours of book shredding. Once I’ve moved into the new place, sometime in the next few months, things should be easier and our posts should be a lot more regular. In the meantime, sorry!)

This is the most complete plot summary we’ve seen, if you need to catch up.

And for the record, we first learnt about this from this DTCL thread. So thanks for covering this and giving me a jumping off point.

It seems like Rowling is trying to insist on keeping the plot secret, and a lot of people have been humouring her, so for a while it was hard to discern the truth amidst the rumours. Truthfully, we had a hard time believing a lot of what was being said also; a lot of the rumoured plot points sound like bad attempts at trolling. We had no intention of paying through the nose to see it and even less desire to do so now, but that said, I do agree with the people who have been saying that all of this secrecy is insulting to the fans who cannot afford to travel or buy overpriced tickets for this rubbish. At least let them learn the plot, for fuck’s sake.

(I assume she knew deep down that if anyone found out the plot there’s no way in hell they’d fork out to go and see it or to buy the script when it’s published.)

So far, what I’ve been able to discern is that the plot of this thing resembles what would happen if you fed the content of fanfiction.net into an algorithm, and then decided the result wasn’t stupid enough. Go get your badfic bingo cards and strap in.

We’ve got a villain who could not be more of a barely-literate teenager’s OC, right down to the implausibly coloured hair, whose very existence contradicts canon to a ludicrous extent. An insane ‘plot’ involving all the time-travel garbage Rowling always claimed to hate dealing with. And a protagonist bearing deep emotional scars because Harry went on to become even more of an abusive asshole than we predicted he would.

I have also run across a common apologetic, which goes something like this: “Of course it sounds stupid when you just list off the plot! It was written as a play, so you have to see it in that format before judging it! Lots of plays seem lacklustre in script form. When you add in the stage effects and the suchlike, it’s pretty good.” Well, to answer that in one word: bullshit. Okay, so it looks pretty, special effects are fun and you see people playing recognisable characters, so fucking what? It’s still a remarkably stupid, shallow and incoherent story, and adds absolutely nothing of interest to the greater canon.

(Me again. As I said on Skype a couple of days ago when we were first discussing this, I’m not sure how seeing a bunch of people who don’t look or sound anything like my headcanons acting out a really bad story is any better than reading about the bad story. If anything, I think it would be worse. I resent the implication that we’re all toddlers who can be distracted by shiny things and forget to be upset.)

I think that’s about the extent of what I want to say about it. Except, perhaps, this: it has apparently given us alternative timelines in which Hermione becomes a rather Snapelike professor, and in which Snape apparently survives (possibly not simultaneously, but I suppose we can hope?), so there may be some potential for half-decent fanfic in those. I leave that possibility open to any authors interested in taking it on. (Likewise, I will admit to having taken some pleasure in watching the Ron/Hermione shippers implode over various implications in the play.)

Anyway, Rowling’s a hack and her involvement in this travesty does not speak well of her as a writer. Of course, her writing and plotting abilities have always been rather poor, so has her knowledge of her own canon, as we’ve been discovering over the course of our reread… but as low as the bar was, she’s failed to surmount it. That’s rather impressive, honestly.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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More musings on Game of Thrones (and rape)

[Content Notes: Game of Thrones, discussion of rape]

[Spoiler Warning: Game of Thrones S04E05 “First of His Name”]

A short post – I’m not dead. Homecoming post will be delayed this week, I had a lot more to say about chapter one than I thought I was going to and I haven’t quite finished with it yet. Hopefully I’ll get it finished in a day or two, but if not I’ll try for a double feature next week.

In the meantime, some musings about Game of Thrones.

Firstly: it’s a very weird experience watching the show now, because they’ve now changed enough things from the books that I often have no idea where things are going to go. Obviously I still know a lot of the broad strokes and major events, but as to which events are going to happen when (or in what order) and the fates of a lot of pseudo-minor characters who were changed substantially (Shae and Bronn in particular, Locke who was the replacement for Vargo Hoat, probably a few others that aren’t immediately coming to mind), I almost feel like I’m unspoiled. It’s very bizarre, and I’m not sure I like it. I feel weirdly anxious watching the show, partially because I’m not sure what they’ll be changing and how that will impact the show as an adaptation of books I love, and partially because I’m never sure when there’s going to be a cringe-worthy GANG RAPE ORGY out of nowhere like there was last week (my eyeballs were given no opportunity to consent to that!).

That said, I think this week’s episode was pretty solid, and a definite improvement over the last two in that I didn’t see anything to get truly outraged about. There is, of course, still problematic content and I’m not going to say the show is perfect, but there were a few things I definitely appreciated.

Mainly, what I wanted to comment on was the fact that I thought the women at Craster’s Keep were able to regain some agency in this episode, which was a welcome relief after the aforementioned gang rape scene in episode four. There was a scene in which Jon Snow is fighting a losing battle against Karl (the man who shouted “rape them until they’re dead” in the previous episode, and ostensibly the leader of the mutineers), until one of the women comes up behind him and stabs him in the back. A bit cliche, especially for Game of Thrones which tries to subvert and avoid cliche wherever possible (or at least the source material does), but it was a welcome sight. And after that, once Jon et al were finished with killing the mutineers, he asks the women what they’re going to do and offers them a place at Castle Black; the oldest one refuses – “we’ll find our own way” is what she says – citing the fact they’d been abused by Craster and abused by the mutineers who were formerly Night’s Watch. Jon also asks them whether they intend to stay at Craster’s keep; the spokeswoman says no and tells them to burn it to the ground, which they do.

It’s not perfect – in particular, notice the fact that these women are all still nameless, which I struggled with while summarising it – but I nevertheless think it was a significant improvement and helps to make up for the awfulness in the previous episode a little, though obviously it can’t negate it. At least in this episode I didn’t feel like those women were being treated as props by the narrative (thank god for small favours!).

I won’t say the episode was completely free of problematic material; there was a scene in which Meera Reed serves as a damsel in distress and is threatened with rape only to be conveniently saved by the bell as the Night’s Watch party arrives and begins their attack (not only do we once again have a competent female character forced into a situation in which she must be rescued by the actions of men, but the ‘conveniently interrupted rape’ is also a horrible cliche that I’d prefer not to see the show resort to). And there is still the problem that the rape of Cersei Lannister by Jaime is completely ignored by the show, as if it had never happened at all (not that I honestly expected otherwise).

I’m not going to pass a verdict overall; if you decided to stop watching the show in the wake of the last two episodes, I don’t think it’s in your best interest to start again (particularly if you wish to avoid triggering material), but this week’s episode may leave a better taste in your mouth than they did.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2014 in mitchell

 

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Game of Thrones, Rape Culture, and Bad Adaptation Decisions

[Content Notes: rape, statutory rape, incest, Game of Thrones]

[Spoiler Warnings: Game of Thrones S04E03 “Breaker of Chains”, A Storm of Swords]

(This is expanded from a conversation I had with Jennie in this open thread at Shakesville, as well as a conversation I had with Loten on Skype)

Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was… strange. Things happened but I couldn’t think of much to say about it, and in talking to Loten last night I didn’t even think to mention what, in retrospect, was clearly the part of the episode that most needed talking about.

I’m referring to a certain scene between Jaime and Cersei Lannister. I’d been anticipating this scene for some time out of curiosity about how they’d adapt it; I suspect anyone who’d read the books found it a memorable one (if not necessarily pleasant). It’s the scene in which Jaime and Cersei have sex in the sept of Baelor next to their dead son Joffrey’s corpse on a bier. Disturbing, and creepy, and fucked-up in myriad ways. But, in the book, it was consensual, and for the most part enthusiastically so (Cersei is a bit reluctant at first but quickly gets into it and is very vocal about that; her only fear appears to be getting caught).

In the show, for some reason, they decided to change this into a rape scene. A forcible rape scene, in which Jaime, apparently overcome by lust (I hate that narrative but I’m not sure what else to call it), seizes Cersei, holds her down as she struggles and shouts things like “No!” and “Not here!” and rapes her. (The scene ends with both of them pretty much fully clothed, which I suspect may be due to a no-nudity clause in Lena Headey’s contract). This change makes no sense, honestly. I think it’s wildly out of character for Jaime to rape anyone, let alone Cersei (who is one of very few people he really cares about, his twin sister and longtime illicit lover).

What bothers me the most about this is that it seems to be at least the second time the show creators have changed a consensual sex scene into rape.

In the first episode of the first season, with Daenerys and Khal Drogo. In the books, while the scene was still rather problematic (in the book Dany is thirteen and by any reasonable standard cannot meaningfully consent to sex, even disregarding the surrounding coercive circumstances of it being her ‘wedding night’ after she’s been sold to Drogo by her brother), there was at least some notion of consent there, and Drogo legitimately seemed to be trying to respect Dany’s consent somewhat (and, notably, her internal thoughts express consent). It’s still problematic, and at least somewhat rapey (truthfully considering the circumstances I’d probably classify it as coercive rape), but it’s also not the brutal rape we see in the show during which she cries and grits her teeth (and in which they twisted Drogo’s using the word ‘no’ repeatedly into something sinister rather than the more complex way it was portrayed in the book). But as Jennie said in the Shakesville thread, regardless of the problematic aspects of the source material, “the show took what was at least a very complicated story and just turned it into a straight up rape because they thought it was more thrilling.”

That time, I could talk myself into excusing it. Maybe because of my white male privilege, and various racist narratives about what ‘barbarians’ (who are usually people of colour) do to white women, I explained it away with the thought that they may have been trying to make the scene more ‘realistic’. Drogo is the chief of a nomadic warrior tribe who is heavily implied to maintain his position by force (references to his never having been defeated in battle, etc), and who engage in rapine and pillaging, so I thought it was at least consistent to have him using force in a sexual context as well; the book portrays at least a more interesting character even if it’s not clear where or how he would have learned to respect his wife’s consent.

Now, while I do not intend to defend the above reasoning, I can think of no comparable rationale (however problematic) for them to have changed the Jaime/Cersei scene. They seem to have changed it to a rape solely for the sake of changing it to a rape.

Game of Thrones (the television programme) has never been particularly good about its portrayals of sex; there is far more female nudity shown than male and almost always in a male-gaze kind of way where the intent is clearly to titillate (leading to people coining the term ‘sexposition’ to describe scenes where objectified women are displayed to the audience while a character is monologuing about backstory), there are some very problematic portrayals of sex workers, among other things. But I have to say none of that strikes me as nearly as bad as this; does somebody working on the show have a rape fetish? Do they think rape is “edgy”?

This is rape culture. I’m not sure what else I can say. I have no idea why they would change this except that they thought it would be more interesting to audiences, and for the life of me I can’t imagine why it would. (Rape culture is why, but I can’t personally imagine the appeal).

And now that they’ve done it more than once, I’m afraid the trend may continue.

Do the creators of the show seriously mean to tell me that it was more important to them to squeeze in more rape than to tell a consistent story? Fuck.

I’ll continue to watch, because I love these books (I will fully acknowledge their problematic elements, but I still enjoy them and admire their craftsmanship), but I’m not sure it will be the same. I’m going to keep wondering when they’re going to betray the story for the sake of rape again. And how many viewers, who may themselves be rape survivors and find these scenes triggering, they will lose each time they do. And how many rapists and potential rapists will feel validated each time they see a scene like this.

Edited 22 April 2014 to add:

It gets worse. Apparently they weren’t even intending this to be interpreted as a rape scene? (If this isn’t proof we live in a rape culture I’m not sure what is, it’s about as rape as rape gets)

clownybee at Shakesville linked me to this interview (huge content notes/trigger warnings for rape, rape culture, and rape apologetics)

And Loten found this interview with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (the actor who plays Jaime), which she said “sounds like he’s trying to make himself feel better about having to act in a rape scene, which is fair enough.”

This image of Apple Chia is (c) 1999-2014 Neopets, Inc. and used for non-commercial purposes.

I’ve got nothing.

Edited to add: Melissa McEwan makes a very good point on Twitter that nobody seems to be asking for Lena Headey’s perspective on this, or considering it at all relevant to the discussion, but seem to be talking to all of the male persons involved. That’s a huge problem in and of itself, even independent of all this context.

(Image of sentient apple is copyright 1999-2014 Neopets, Inc. Used for non-commercial purposes with permission.)

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in mitchell

 

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