Shared Text: Donald Trump called Voldemort?

AngryTrumpThe Muggle World Daily Prophets are today abuzz over the supposed latest step in the Megyn Kelly/Donald Trump duel, where Ms. Kelly allegedly compared the Presidential candidate to the Dark Lord Himself, Voldemort.  However, the headlines seem to me to be a bit misleading, and the writer of this article seems to have missed the point when she concluded, “so the revelation that she referred to him as such an evil character will probably only worsen their feud.”

Voldemort_angryThe actual quote was from Iowa Caucus winner Ted Cruz, who said to Ms. Kelly, “Well, you know, you were joking just before we went on air that it was sort of like Voldemort, He Who Must Not Be Named.”  In that context, it seems that what Ms. Kelly was noting was not Trump’s villainy, but the reluctance of the other candidates to mention him in the last debate. In which case, her remark would have been not so much a dig at Trump, but a jab at the rest of the candidates for their timidity in the face of Trump’s bluster.

Donald-Trump-1I guess it depends on how much of a Potterphile Ms. Kelly is.  And I’ll leave it to John to remark on what it means for a staunch Evangelical candidate to acknowledge familiarity with Harry Potter; I suspect there was a time when that would not have happened.

gilde smileBut anyway, I think the Donald’s trademark coiffure is too much a part of his image for him  to be a truly convincing Voldemort.  Perhaps more of a Gilderoy Lockhart, with his own line of hair care products.

Hat tip to John!

Guest Post: Kylo Snape? Is ‘The Force Awakens’ the Eighth Harry Potter Story?

Kylo 1Kylo Snape?

by Emily Strand

I know it’s hard to believe. It’s even harder to admit, but until this fall I’d never seen Star Wars. Any of them. I was too young to watch the original films in the 1970s and 80s, and while I know I went to see the one with Jar Jar Binks when I was in college (because who can forget Jar Jar?), it certainly wasn’t my idea, and my brief encounter with the franchise was just that: brief.

You see, I am a Harry Potter person. Although I’m too old to have grown up with Harry, still he has been, for me, the portal of my interest in imaginative fiction of all kinds, including Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton, etc. And happily, many of the authors and books to which my interest in Potter has led me, I have come to realize, inform Rowling’s own books. Harry Potter has been, for me, a literary boomerang.

Kylo 2Content in my love of Potter and related works, and blinded by my ignorance of the ‘verse, I had not even heard that a new set of Star Wars movies would roll out beginning this year. Still something (grace? the Force?) pushed me to investigate George Lucas’ epic, just in time for a seamless transition to The Force Awakens. I borrowed all the released films from my niece and began my journey. With my Potter-colored lenses, I immediately noticed resonances with the Potter series: the influence of the hero’s journey, the “rhyming” or ring composition of the plot, minor elements like “life debts” and mis-directive titles (eg. Attack of the Clones and Prisoner of Azkaban), and major themes such as the redemption of ambivalent characters.

Kylo 3These observations made me wonder: how much had Star Wars influenced Harry Potter? I filed the question away for future investigation and readied myself to enjoy The Force Awakens, having become, in just a few short months, almost as big a Star Wars fan as I am of Harry Potter.

So, despite being a very recent convert to all things Star Wars, on December 17, this self-proclaimed Harry Potter person sat in her local cinema, trembling with as much excitement as anyone who has worshipped the franchise since 1977. Yet I’d like to think I came to The Force Awakens with a considerably different (lighter?) set of baggage. I came without treasured vintage collectibles or directorial partiality. I came without preferences for animation style or positions on the film’s genre (fantasy or sci-fi? or who cares?). I came only with my Great Lakes Christmas Ale, and a newly-awakened love of the Star Wars saga acquired, in no small part, from loving Harry Potter first.

f39174246Like Potter, I came to love Star Wars because it is a story set in a believable and comprehensive universe, with genuinely interesting and compelling characters whose adventures propel the viewer’s interest both forward and backward in time. Like my more fundamental love for the Potter story, my love for Star Wars also has to do with what lies at the heart of the story: the Force, that mysterious power that takes the characters beyond the mundane, beyond themselves, beyond hatred and even death, and appears both systematic and magical in its origin and application.

So as I sat waiting for the opening scroll of The Force Awakens, I knew that as long as these elements remained central to the newest film as they are to the franchise as a whole (and how could they not?), I was going to love it. The Force Awakens did not disappoint.

However, I did not expect to find Severus Snape in the film. And yet, there he was, just as bold as brass. And Severus Snape’s film equivalent to a photo-bomb on my Potter-shaped imagination pointed me to a question even more compelling than my first: how much does Harry Potter influence Star Wars?

Kylo 4Let’s talk about Kylo Ren. He’s young, he’s stoic, he’s emo. He runs around in a cassock and mask. He’s got daddy issues. He flies a ship that looks like an overgrown bat. If these aesthetic echoes of Severus Snape (plus the casting of Ren with an actor who is far more believably Alan Rickman’s son than Harrison Ford’s) aren’t enough to convince you of the power of Potter to influence even Lucas’ ancient and venerable franchise, let’s take a deeper look.

Like Severus Snape, who was born to a witch mother and a Muggle father, Ben Solo (Ren’s given name) is of mixed origin. Ben/Ren is the child of one Force-sensitive (Leia Organa) and one Force-skeptic (Han Solo). As Snape inherited his mother’s magical abilities, Ren inherited his mother’s sensitivity to the Force. Both young men entered into formal training to harness this inherited power for the good (Ren with Skywalker, Snape at Hogwarts), but both men, in the course of their training, became seduced by a fixation on the shadows of their own heritages (recall Snape’s self-aggrandizing moniker “The Half-Blood Prince”), and joined an order of mask-wearing evil doers (the Knights of Ren, the Death Eaters). Both men take new titles for themselves, presumably, in part, out of a distaste for associating with their mundane fathers (though Snape does not use his new moniker professionally as Ren does).

f39080230Though both men are besotted with the dark side in their youth, neither can make a permanent commitment to this way of life, especially in light of former attachments (for Snape, Lily Evans Potter; for Ren, familiar and familial figures such as Poe Dameron, Han Solo and Rey seem to test his resolve). Snape is an accomplished Legilimens, and – not surprisingly by this point – Kylo Ren has the same talent for invading others’ minds. Importantly (and most spoilerifically), both men murder their fathers (in Snape’s case, father figure): for each, that figure who represents a last chance at redemption. Finally, both of these father/redemption figures are hurtled from a great height after each murderous confrontation.

It seems to this Star-Wars-via-Harry-Potter fan that the connections between Kylo Ren and Severus Snape are more than aesthetic. Although Snape’s redemptive trajectory is clear now that the Potter series is complete, Ren’s is still shrouded in mystery. Given the similarities I outlined above, it seems safe to suppose the redemption of Kylo Ren will be essential to the coming Star Wars installments, even if, like Snape’s redemption in the Harry Potter books, it is not the story’s main focus. But anyone interested in the cross- pollination between the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises will keep a close eye on Kylo Ren.

Hufflepuff Rules! A Parody Music Video

For my daughter Sarah, who has always thought Hufflepuff House was the coolest place to hang out.

Shared Text: Islamicist Terror and ‘The Voldemort Effect’ on Lateline

At 5:40 in the talking heads discussion below, please note the reference to “the Voldemort Effect,” the inability of Western liberals and the US President specifically to name jihadist terror as evil or even to accept it as existing. Whatever your politics, there’s no denying that Harry Potter is the only YA title mentioned in this challenging discussion between a public atheist and a Muslim committed to secular values.

The Hunger Games: Shared text and First Family Favorite?

President Obama joked about the number of candidates jumping into the 2016 Presidential fray, remarking that there are almost enough for a Hunger Games.  This isn’t the first time he has referred to the popular franchise; he mentioned it back at the 2013 Thanksgiving turkey pardon. Barack-Obama-shopping-in--005And we know Sasha and/or Malia were reading it as far back as 2010. The question is, did their father borrow their copy, or glean his knowledge from the movies?

In any case, I think Trump and Christie get cast as the Careers.