Harry Potter and the Political Humorists

politico-harryThis election coverage has generated more media attention that ever before, and many of the stories have turned into fodder for writers, sketch comics, late-night stand-up routines, and internet memes.  It is not surprising that many efforts at humor, from both sides of the aisle, employ our favorite Shared Text.

There was, for instance, an early report that Trump nemesis Megyn Kelly had jokingly compared him to Voldemort, though a close reading of the quote in context made it seem more like a jab at the other Republican candidates for forgetting Dumbledore’s wisdom that “fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself.”

hilary-love-childThere are also innumerable memes comparing Hilary Clinton to Umbridge, though, interestingly, as many seem to be the result of an admittedly less-than-attractive pink outfit she choose for a campaign appearance as for her politics. The truly anti-Clinton political nerds seem to prefer to compare her to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s power-hungry and self-entitled Kai Winn Adami, a comparison that goes back at least to 2008. Those of you who are not Trekkies can read about Kai Winn at the above link, or you can just rest in the kai-hillaryknowledge that she was played by Louise “Nurse Ratched” Fletcher, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know. This commentary, from a Clinton supporter, on those comparisons, will be of interest to anyone who has read Patrick McCauley’s work on violence against women in Harry Potter.

For sheer cleverness and clear Shared Text Appreciation, my vote for funniest piece goes to this essay on the destruction of Donald Trump’s Hollywood Star.  trump-star-vandalised-smallWhile I in no way advocate property destruction as a political statement, the author manages to simultaneously demonstrate knowledge of horcruxes, basilisks, Quirrell’s turban and house-elves, and gave me a laugh-out-loud that I could sorely use this political season.

potter-for-presFinally, I’ll close with the most non-partisan Harry Political cartoon I could find, and a link to this article (Hat tip to John!) that tells us Voldemort is more popular among Generation Hex than either of the two major candidates. Nonetheless, you are a US Citizen, get out and exercise your right to vote next week—  for someone, even if you must write in “He Who Must Not Be Named.”  Or maybe Harry Himself—  the Potter for President signs and buttons sold like hotcakes last week at Chestnut Hill.




Harry Potter Halloween in Scottsville, VA.

choc-frogNestled on the James River in one of the most beautiful parts of central Virginia, the tiny town of Scottsville has been throwing a Halloween bash every year for the past three. Today was the first time I went. No Quidditch, no scholarly content (note to organizers– I am available for public talks at very reasonable prices—  just buy me a butterbeer!) but it was a great venue for a perfect fall festival.

wanted-1This party was orders of magnitude smaller than Chestnut Hill’s annual extravaganza but had a lot of the same elements of both that festival, and last summer’s first (and almost certainly annual) block party in Staunton VA:  local businesses transfiguring themselves into Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley establishments like Honeydukes and Ollivander’s, lots of homemade and commercial Potter merchandise for sale, activities for the kids, elaborately decorated spots for selfies (I couldn’t decide whether the Chocolate Frog card or the Azkaban wanted poster was my favorite!)  and lots of costumed characters of all ages.  My favorite was a dog in full Harry attire, although the Gilderoy Lockhart who appeared at the local library was also great, and threw himself into the role. The lines for candy, butterbeer and wands were long, but otherwise things were pretty manageable, and there were big fields available for parking.  This festival, for now, is in no danger of outgrowing its space, unlike Chestnut Hill, which was recently compared to Woodstock.

I love the way they adapted their sign!

I love the way they adapted their sign!

Perhaps my favorite spot was a small Episcopal church that renamed itself “St. Jerome’s” for the day, meaning someone must have read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  They had set up the church yard as a replica of the Goodric’s
Hollow cemetery, complete with gravestones matching the book descriptions perfectly, from the wreath of roses Hermione conjured up for James and Lily’s headstone, to the Deathly Hallows symbol on the Peverell grave,  to the scripture verses on the Dumbledoregraves and Potter stones. All we needed was a coating of snow and some light shining through jewel-toned stained glass windows, but I guess it’s the wrong time of year for that.  In any case, it was a peaceful detour to the tranquility of the books, away from the main Hogsmeade strip and its mostly-movie-inspired merchandise and costumes.  This is one house of God that welcomes Harry and its message, and it alone was worth the trip.

bathildaEven better, they were thoughtful enough to provide dear old Bathilda with a final resting place, which must have been a fairly messy undertaking after Nagini co-opted her decaying corpse for some rather nasty cosplay.  RIP, indeed, Madame Bagshot, and many thanks to the congregation of St. John’s.

Polyjuicing in the Cursed Child

Polyjuice_potionAnd I’m not just talking Delphi, Draco and Albus trying to break into Hermione’s office.

Rowling has said Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was for the fans, and when it comes to treasured glimpses of our favorite characters, it delivers in spades. But some of the most fun moments for me came from seeing old characters in new bodies.

Rose-Granger-WeasleyTake Rose. She’s clearly her mother all over again, even to the extent of being mistaken for young Hermione (and played by the same actress) at the first Triwizard task. The only addition is  that she is also a champion Quidditch player, like her aunt Ginny and most of the other non-Percy Weasleys. But, there is, ironically, a pretty big streak of Hermione’s nemesis Draco Malfoy running through her. On her first Hogwarts express trip, she’s the one who seems a bit puffed up with family pride with her  tumblr_lofpzpsG3u1qahisxo1_500“I’m a Granger-Weasley and you’re a Potter–everyone will want to be friends with us” as she makes elaborate plans to “rate them all and make a decision.” And after Scorpius introduces himself, she suggests to Albus they go sit somewhere else, and Albus elects to stay with Scorpius and share his candy, Rose reminds him she “won’t wait” for him to make her fabulous new friends. She may not use the same words, but the meaning is the same:

“You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.”
“I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks.”

Young ASP is a bit more like his dad than he realizes. [Read more…]

Cursed Child Comments From a Theater Junkie.

95875-300x211-Comedy_tragedyLive theater is absolutely my favorite form of entertainment. Most years, I get season tickets to the Mary Baldwin theater and I try to see at least a few shows a year at the American Shakespeare Center or ShenanArts. When my husband asked me how I wanted to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday, I immediately said, “I want to go to New York City and see some Broadway shows.”  He just texted me that we have tickets for Wicked and Fiddler on the Roof.

I also love reading plays. It was always one of my favorite parts of English class, because we would often read the entire play aloud in class, with different students taking different parts. I remember Romeo and Juliet and The Glass Menagerie in 8th grade, and Julius Caesar and A Doll’s House in 9th:  the teacher particularly liked my interpretation of Krogstad.  As I got older, acting was one of my major extracurriculars.  I played such roles as Ruth in Blithe Spirit, Marilla in Anne of Green Gables and Mrs. Sowerberry in Oliver!

CCSo, am I looking forward to the publication of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? Merlin’s beard, yes!  If I were wealthy enough to hop on a plane to London and see the shows I would already have done so.  I can’t avoid spoilers until the play comes to Broadway (maybe as soon as next season?) so reading is the next best thing.  I don’t care so much about whether the story is the “8th book” or not. I don’t care if there are some changes from the cannon of the book, which there certainly will be.  I confess to being vaguely curious to see if young Scorpius Malfoy has a henchman, and if so, is his last name Goyle (book-cannon) or Crabbe (movie-cannon). What I am most looking forward to see seeing the wizarding world in a different medium. [Read more…]

A Slice of Divergent Fandom, as seen through Twitter

MaeAAMThe Divergent series may not have the dedicated fandom that Harry Potter and Hunger Games had—otherwise the movies would have done better and this post would not even be necessary. But there is clearly a core group of fans that are most distressed at the news that the final installment (Ascendant) will most likely appear as a TV movie rather than in the cinema. Several hashtags (#AscendantOnTheBigScreenm #MakeAscendantAMovie, #MakeAsendantMovie) have cropped up on Twitter. I was surprised by a few things as I read through them and so, like a good Erudite, I decided to do a little very informal analysis.

flyingallegiant-640x345Of the 126 tweets I read and classified, slightly more than half (70) were in English. The rest were all in other languages, the majority (35) Spanish.  Other languages I recognized were Portuguese, Italian and French. I knew Divergent had a strong international audience but I was surprised by how strong an international voice turned up on Twitter. I guess that is why Ms. Roth’s jetsonsnext book (Carve the Mark) will be released in 33 languages when it debuts.  It also reaffirms my opinion that lots of the movie decisions (e.g. replacing the rickety old planes with George Jetson-style sprockets) were made based how they would play in international markets, or how they would fly (pardon the pun) in future theme park attractions.   [Read more…]