Last week, the news emerged that the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, scheduled to start filming this summer, would feature a young Albus Dumbledore, and that he would be portrayed by Jude Law. As with any casting decision these days, there has been controversy (honestly, uproar from readers prompted the Hunger Games movie people to re-cast a cat), but Law is actually a good choice for a couple of reasons, including his impressive resume of bringing to life on the screen characters we have already met on the page.
As March winds down to a close, hopefully lamb-like, the month’s traditional decorations of shamrocks and leprechauns begin to come down, and, causing much sadness in mint fans across America, McDonald’s stops selling Shamrock Shakes. Before we say goodbye to the month of green beer and PBS marathons of Riverdance specials, let’s take a peek at the way in which the Hogwarts saga has, rather like St. Patrick’s Day activities in general, has both celebrated the Irish and reinforced stereotypes and assumptions.
It’s red carpet season, which would probably be more meaningful if the big glitzy ceremonies were actually about giving out awards for exemplary work. Instead they seem to be about which celebrity’s outfit was the most shocking, who made the biggest gaffe (And the Academy Award goes to…), or about the technical glitches that reveal the true natures of singers and their actual abilities, or lack thereof, with the searing clarity of a kid yelling “The Emperor is naked!”
The other aspect of these shows that seems to get more attention than the artistic accolades they are supposed to celebrate is the way in which celebrities use the red carpet and the on-stage podium as a bully pulpit from which to proclaim their own political and social agendas. With the addition of social media outlets like Twitter and Instagram, celebrities can tell everybody how they feel about everything, sometimes whether or not everybody wants to know or has any inclination to care. Though we expect this nonsense from movie stars and rappers, we are now seeing more and more of it from everyone from political leaders to brilliant writers, whom we might have hoped were above such shenanigans.
J.K. Rowling’s recent public tweet-wars with everyone from television personalities to disappointed readers have drawn attention to the way in which our technology now makes it possible for living authors to be remarkably outspoken and accessible, in ways previously un-imagined. Publicists and handlers of best-selling authors doubtless encourage them to engage in these spectacles to keep the fame machine cranking, in the belief that there is no bad publicity. But not all authors, living and dead, have allowed themselves to engage at this level. Author accessibility is a tricky minefield, one that individual authors navigate differently, placing them at different levels on what I like to call the “Scale of Accessibility,” ranging from Hermit to Gadfly, and everywhere in-between. Let’s visit a few spots on that scale, and the authors who epitomize different ways of coping with, and using, their fame to present, or protect, themselves and their views.
Since much of fantasy literature is accessible to readers of all age and education levels, writers often use a variety of methods to work around and through difficult or unsavory topics. These techniques also help with creating an alternate view of these subjects suitable for the alternate worlds in which these stories unfold. One subject that frequently manifests itself in unique ways is that of Death. While figures like Voldemort fear and flee death, it is an inevitable part of life, and no amount of Horcruxes or Invisibility of Cloaks will hide us from it forever. To personify Death, authors sometimes rely on the conventional imagery of the Grim Reaper, but when it comes to speculative fiction, on the page or on the screen, this image sometimes is conflated with another, that of Father Time, and, in the process of fusing Time and Death, these stories use creative imagery and unique symbolism to portray the brief candles that are all of our lives.
On that cheerful note, cue up the cowbell and follow me after the jump for a look at a few recent and popular treatments of Time and Death in fantasy worlds. It really is less depressing than it sounds, TRUST ME.
Apparently, since the groundhog did behold his shadow, six more weeks of winter are on their way. Quite honestly, the groundhogs where I live could see the shadow of Elvis and we’d still be lucky to get off with only six more weeks of ice melt, mud, bitter cold, and static electricity that could easily torch a Zeppelin. However, in the spirit of things, since today is Groundhog Day, references will abound to the Bill Murray film about maximum déjà vu. It is also Thursday, which has become the day to post pictures of the past. In honor of those two events colliding, I thought it would be fun to re-visit some past posts that I really enjoyed writing and which, since they were some time ago, some of our newer Hogwarts Professor readers might have missed. So, turn that alarm clock back a few years, Mr. Murray, and let’s relive a few past posts that may ignite new conversations!