In a World Full of Umbridge, Who Would You Be?

Like a lot of Potterphiles, I have Harry Potter merchandise popping up on my social media feeds on a near-daily basis. One of the more recent appearances was a T-shirt reading “In a world full of Umbridge, be a Fred and George.”  While the mischievous redheads were undoubtedly major nemeses of the Toad Lady, I found it hard to envision myself wearing one of these shirts. I guess I’m at the age where I identify more with the middle-aged ladies of the Wizarding World than the kids.

Which led me to think, who would I put on mine?  Two answers immediately sprung to mind.   First, the teacher who was the antithesis of Dolores: Minerva McGonagall. In our humor episode of Reading, Writing, Rowling, several McGonagall v. Umbridge moments made it into our “funniest scenes” lists. Certainly McGonagall is one of the finest teachers in the series, one with high standards of excellence and who daily earns the respect of her students. In other words, everything dear Dolores wanted to be. Harry’s regard for her is clear: when even his own godfather’s murder could not push him into performing a Cruciatus curse on the perp, Amycus Carrow’s spitting in McGonagall’s face did.

The second, of course, is the best (or, at least the best living) mom of the series, Molly Weasley. In addition to being a surrogate mom and regular source of comfort (as opposed to pain) for Harry, Molly is also a loving mother to the twins. Yes, she gets exasperated with them frequently, sometimes seeming as short-tempered as Umbridge, but her love never wavers and she is never cruel. In the end, she accepts that the twins are successful in their own right, even with their poor OWL results, aborted education and non-conventional career choice.

More on Minerva, Molly and T-shirts after the jump! [Read more…]

Shared Text: SNL Impeachment Trial Skit

Last night, Saturday Night Live troupe in its ‘cold open’ skit a wish-fulfillment fantasy for everyone who wanted witnesses called in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump: The Trial You Wish Had Happened. The actress playing John Bolton refuses to answer questions but tells the judge “There’ll be no more free spoilers!” from the book about to be released, which tome s/he holds up to promote sales on Amazon.

The book’s title? Harry Potter and the Room Where It Happened.

It got a good laugh which meant I think the audience understood that Bolton was being accused simultaneously of being childish, of profiteering in the midst of an impeachment trial, and of writing opportunistic fiction.  I suspect they may have missed the slash at those in Generation Hex, now all grown up, who were waiting for Bolton and his book to appear ex machina to defeat the Dark Lord.

Once again, though, the chief take-away is that Harry Potter almost ten years after the last film release is still the global shared text. No one said, “Who is Harry Potter? Why is this funny?” As a cipher for best-seller, fiction, and good defeating evil, nothing beats the Hogwarts Saga.

Shared Text: The Games Fandom Plays

The game these two Potter enthusiasts play is choosing a Wizarding World spell from one hat, a Potter character’s name from another, and then doing an impression of that character saying the spell. The object of the game is not deceiving the other player but doing such a great impersonation that she ‘gets’ it immediately (I suppose to make this competitive, the game requires two or more pairs of players).

Perhaps there are other fandoms in which devoted fans could play this game with variations on the spells feature. But could they podcast such an amateur-hour production and expect more than three quarters of a million viewers to watch (881,000 at the time of this posting)? FYI, that’s a rhetorical question.

New additions to my Harry Potter Christmas Tree

I have never had any interest in braving the crowds for Black Friday shopping. For me, the day after Thanksgiving is the day to hang around the house, maybe catch up on grading, contemplate creative uses for Thanksgiving leftovers and start decorating the house for Christmas. This includes setting up my tabletop tree with all of the Harry Potter ornaments I have accumulated over the years. Hallmark keeps coming out with more each year; eventually I am going to need to get a bigger tree. Here are a few pictures of additions made to my collection since I first posted on this topic.

I have acquired quite a few buildings, most recently Hogwarts itself and Honeydukes Sweets.  Olivander’s and Gringotts have been around longer.  I have started setting all the buildings, except for the castle, which is scaled much smaller,  up around the base of the tree in some fake snow in the style of a Christmas Village.  The Honeydukes is especially festive, with the snow-covered roof. Note to self:  purchase some battery-operated lights to light them up.

Ornaments acquired in the last few years include the first Fantastic Beasts addition, the Niffler in the suitcase, and the first in a series of 3D book covers.  I only wish it said “Philosopher’s Stone” instead of “Sorcerer’s.”  There’s also one of Snape drilling Harry in his first potions class (another that plays dialogue from the movie) and, perhaps my favorite from an artistic perspective, one with Dumbledore and Harry exploring memories in the Pensieve.

Of course, like a lot of Hogpro writers, I am hoping the Cormoran Strike series will become popular enough to merit such merchandising tie-ins.  Can you imagine the holiday scenes?  Lula Lovegood’s body in the snow?  The near-collision on the snowy highway? Strike punching Whitaker in the gut? A yapping Norfolk terrier with a chorus of “Shut up, Rattenbury!”?  The possibilities are endless.

Shared Text: Voldemort’s Farm Subsidies

I have an American friend residing in Sri Lanka, a man writing a Young Adult series of novels with whom I correspond about ring composition and other writing devices. I look forward to sharing more here about Michael and his nomadic adventures when his books are published.

In our frequent email exchanges, he often sends links to articles available online about subjects of interest to him; it’s a relatively random set of news pieces and commentary, though Michael has set in granite political convictions and beliefs about the world, few of which I share. I suspect he sends them less to say ‘Hurrah for our side!’ or ‘Can you believe this?’ than to note that I need to change my ideas to better ones, say, his own.

I confess to clicking through in each email he sends, despite or because of my complementary aversion and addiction to news stories (cue link to ‘Avoid News’ by Rolf Dolbelli). Today’s piece was from The New York Times, in my youth a bastion of journalism, for at least a quarter century an advocacy newspaper: The Money Farmers: How Oligarchs and Populists Milk the E.U. for Millions. If you want an education in why millions of UK voters voted to leave the EU and why the elite have fought that mandate in order to remain at the trough in Brussels, this article is an excellent short course.

Why do I share it here? Even in an article about corrupt politicians in Central Europe and how they continue the feudal traditions of the Catholic Middle Ages and of the Marxist serfdom in the Communist era by redirecting subsidies to farmers from the EU to their own coffers, we get a reference to Harry Potter.

In one example, a powerful Fidesz lawmaker, Roland Mengyi, inserted himself into the leasing process in Borsod-Abauj Zemplen County, where one of his associates won leases for more than 1,200 acres. Mr. Mengyi is an outsized character, who referred to himself as “Lord Voldemort.” He was later convicted and sentenced to prison in a separate case for corruption related to European subsidies.

Clicking through on the link provided, I didn’t find the reference to Lord Voldemort made by Mengyi; it seems to be rather hearsay that the newspaper writer wanted to include to cast the villain in the properly dark light. The Times repeats it because the reference works. Everyone reading the article knows who the Dark Lord is, that he is a very, very bad man, and will conclude that any man referring to himself as “Lord Voldemort” is as indifferent to others and to right and wrong as can be.

That’s the power and constancy of allusions to Harry Potter, our era’s shared text. Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below (click on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the post headline).