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The Sorting Hat Is The True Villain Of ‘Harry Potter’

sorting hat

There’s no doubt that the Harry Potter series of books and movies have a clear protagonist and antagonist. From the first page, the stage is set for a years-long conflict between the growing Harry Potter and the power-hungry Voldemort. The very catalyst of this story happens away from page and screen, when Harry becomes “the boy who lived,” but the effects of this crucial moment ripple throughout the entire series.

It’s obvious that Voldemort is a bad person and rarely sympathetic. He murders recklessly and selfishly. He unites dark wizards under a bigoted cause to elevate purebloods. But not enough is said about the environment that made a person like Voldemort happen. We can blame Voldemort’s actions on Voldemort himself, but his values came from somewhere else.

Further, there’s a reason he’s able to grab so much power in such a short amount of time. His power in the literal sense draws in followers, yes, but these people also believe in Voldemort’s vision as feverishly as he does, and we shouldn’t be that surprised by this. The wizarding world is incredibly conducive to having a latent streak of division among its people.

And it all starts with Hogwarts.

sorting hat

There are four houses in Hogwarts, each based on one of the four founders. And each founder has a somewhat simplistic personality trait assigned to each house at first glance: Slytherins are ambitious, Ravenclaws are curious, Gryffindors are brave, and Hufflepuffs are patient. In truth, each founder had some overlap of these qualities, based on the short glimpses we occasionally get into their lives. There’s a reason why these four people were able to come together under one vision, despite some fallout with Salazar Slytherin later on. Each of these traits were more like driving forces in their lives, aided by other characteristics, not conflicted by.

In theory, a four-house system is a competent way to organize the school into appropriate, productive factions. But it has inherent problems that lead to how and why someone like Voldemort can happen, Slytherin or no. It’s not because Slytherins are inherently “evil,” but rather that the school cultivates and fosters aggressive division amongst the students, who are too young to even have established personalities. As a result, they become “who they are” through intense competition and disdain for others who are different.

And this falls on the Sorting Hat, a sentient, magical object who seems to also realize this in Book 5, despite making no effort to do something about it, aside from singing a lofty song about unity that falls on deaf ears. The stranger truth is that the Sorting Hat also admits to some students that their choice gets taken into account, placing the burden of a life’s identity on the mood of an eleven-year-old, whose knowledge of each house is usually based on their immature understanding and influence from family.

sorting hat

This results in what we see throughout the series: divisiveness, paranoia, and close-mindedness. Even a Gryffindor like Ron treats S.P.E.W. (Hermione’s elf rights campaign) as a total joke, because he buys into the self-contained bigotry that the wizards seem content in. It’s no wonder the Slytherins (a group I would be sorted into, undoubtedly) hold so much contempt for the other houses. They’re often accosted and labeled for their mistakes, while other renegades from Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff are hardly ever chided for theirs.

Let’s not forget that the last two headmasters of Hogwarts (McGonagall and Dumbledore) were Gryffindors (Armando Dippet might have been, as well). For a long time, both the Deputy Headmistress and Headmaster were from one house, which is a clear sign of lopsided power, not unity. The Sorting Hat even belonged to Godric Gryffindor, which is also indicative of corruption, though unprovable.

There’s something to be said about encouraging children with limited understanding of who they are to spend most of their time with kids who are exactly like them. Though this is somewhat offset by allowing two houses to share a class, tensions are still razor sharp thanks to institutional competition that becomes the focus of each year, rather than a way to incentivize hard work. In practice, the House Cup actually drives students to either cheating to victory or holding passive aggressive angst against other students that never really subsides.

On the one hand, we do see at least a semblance of unity among the adults. In fact, we can only speculate on the house affinity for many adult wizards, like Amelia Bones and Cornelius Fudge, which makes it seem like that past Hogwarts grudges are eventually forgotten by the time wizards finish coming of age. Voldemort’s main lackey is technically a Gryffindor, after all.

For the professors at Hogwarts, we see a lot of loyalty among the staff that crosses house lines, and an unspoken desire for fairness, despite bias. But this seems more like an accident than what we would expect from reality, like with how Slytherin students have a preconceived disdain for Hagrid (a Gryffindor). Snape, of course, regularly mistreats Gryffindor students (especially Neville) and favors Slytherins, even when they’re at their most vile. In what world does that not have a purely negative affect on these kids as they enter adulthood?

sorting hat

There seems to be no concern for this, either. The Slytherins were sent to the dungeons during the battle of Hogwarts, mostly because some automatically sided with Voldemort. Yet there’s no indication that efforts were made to resolve this after the fact. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is apparently considered canon (unfortunately), and the events of the story make it clear that absolutely no effort is being made to correct the errors of the past. When Albus lets himself sort into Slytherin, his anger toward Harry only grows over the course of a few years. It’s not logical, of course. Only grounded in how damaging it can be to isolate kids and provoke distrust in differences.

And again, it all comes back to the Sorting Hat, the only character with the power to change any of this, as well as the only character who really acknowledges that a problem exists. His passivity, in a lot of ways, has contributed to never-ending aggression between people with prepubescent temperaments. He’s the true villain of Harry Potter, in that most of the issues the characters face can be traced back to the flawed rearing system that he knowingly allows to continue. As the (seemingly) only objective force at Hogwarts, he could easily do something about everyone else’s apparent blindness to Hogwarts’s archaic provisions, but instead, he is indifferent to them.

His songs are catchy, though.


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Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


 

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Yes, Ron Weasley Could Secretly Predict The Future In ‘Harry Potter’

ron

Too many people don’t get how great Ron Weasley is. Well, the people who only watch Harry Potter movies, at least.

He’s fiercely loyal, incredibly grounded, and sharp enough to beat both Harry and Hermione at chess. He’s an understated character at times—sometimes grumpy and quick to anger. But he’s also the life of the Potter trinity, and for good reason.

But that’s enough anti-Ron shaming. There’s another grain of the character that often gets lost in the conversation. Yes, Harry’s signature spell is the Disarming Charm and Hermoine is fantastic at potions, Transfiguration, and being embarrassingly book smart. But what’s Ron’s hidden talent?

You know…besides fashion…

ron

OK, fine, his mother gave him that dress. But Dumbledore help us, Rupert Grint pulls that look off.

True, the books and even one of the movies gets it across that Ron’s a competent Quidditch player (at least when he’s not bogged down emotionally). But going further, he’s actually adept at predicting the future, and the books quietly provide this insight throughout.

I actually came across this interesting revelation on Quora, where Jakub Handlíř outlined this convincing theory:

Book 2 – (about why Riddle received the award for special services to the school): “Maybe he got thirty O.W.L.s or saved a teacher from the giant squid. Maybe he murdered Myrtle” – Riddle truly murdered her and in a roundabout way truly received price for it.

Book 3 – In his first attempt at reading tea leaves, he predicted that Harry would receive “a windfall, unexpected gold” – Harry received gold as a prize for winning the tournament (book 4) and inheritance from Sirius (book 6).

Book 4 – to Harry when doing housework for Trelawney: “Why don’t you get stabbed in the back by someone you thought was a friend?” – Harry is truly later betrayed by his best friend (Ron) both in book 4 and book 7. 

Book 4 – when discussing Crouch sr. disappearance in the Forbidden Forest and Snape’s involvement in it: “Not unless he can turn himself into a bat or something,” said Harry…“Wouldn’t put it past him,” Ron muttered. – Snape gains ability to fly in book 7 while using a bat-like wings.

I couldn’t agree more, and I would add that this is exactly why Divination was given so much attention by Rowling throughout the books, despite Hermoine dismissing the class early on. Of course, Ron jokes with Harry all the time about their fake predictions, but as noted above, he was actually pretty good without realizing it. With the tea leaves, he even predicts that he will one day work for the ministry.

Agree? Disagree? Have more evidence of Ron being a secret prophet? Sound off below.


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Ep99: Pete’s Dragon and the Cursed Child

pete's dragon

You can also download this podcast episode on iTunes and Stitcher.

It’s time for another episode of Now Conspiring, the weekly podcast on all things…anyway.

This week, we review Pete’s Dragon and Sausage Party, which are two movies that couldn’t be any more different. We also discuss Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Adonis’s ill-fated Harry Potter fan theory getting roasted on Snarcasm, and the state of modern film criticism. Don’t worry, the segue works.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Who are your favorite film critics and why?

Go on…Ep99: Pete’s Dragon and the Cursed Child

Snarcasm: Ezra Miller from ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Is Obviously Voldemort’s Dad

ezra miller fantastic beasts

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

It’s been a while since I revisited this column, so why not kick it off by Snarcasming one of my good friends?

Most of you probably know Adonis Gonzalez, recurring cohost of our Now Conspiring movie podcast since early 2015. He’s also a writer, though, and despite him writing plenty of silly things over the years, this one deserves a Snarcastic response.

Fresh off the news that Ezra Miller will portray a character named Credence Barebone in the upcoming Harry Potter spinoff movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Adonis ignores the obvious question — does Ezra Miller have to be in every Warner Bros. film? — and instead asks a question too obvious to even think up:

Is Credence Barebone Actually An Important Harry Potter Character?

Well wow, Adonis, way to cut Miller down before the movie even comes out. Even if your fan theory ends up being true (because the universe demands that even .00000000001% chance odds are still, by definition, possible), how does that mean he wouldn’t have been “important” otherwise?

So for those of us who think Ezra Miller still gets roles where he’s an important character, this just comes off as a bit hostile. Now, let’s see if Adonis can lend credence to his fan theory about Credence.

Miller’s character, Credence Barebone, is shrouded in mystery.

Untrue. We actually know a lot about Credence already thanks to a comprehensive preview of the character offered by EW and even Slashfilm, which Adonis credits for the story.

Tell me if this is “shrouded in mystery:”

(From EW) Credence is the adopted middle child of Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). We’re told that he “appears withdrawn, extremely shy and far more vulnerable than his two sisters. Credence is defenseless against the abuse that comes in response to the slightest infraction of Mary Lou’s strict rules. But his loneliness also makes him susceptible to the manipulation of Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), who has taken a personal interest in Credence.” Graves is a powerful guy, an auror and the Director of Magical Security in the American wizarding government.

Myyyyysssstteeeerrrryyyyyyy

I mean, sure, we know that he’s an adopted middle child, and we even know his “mother”‘s name, but do we know if he’s secretly another character entirely without any real evidence to back it up? The internet will see to that!

And believe it or not, Adonis actually points out that what he just said isn’t true.

But there’s nothing mysterious about that description, right?

Right!

No, what’s really mysterious is that reports are saying Credence will be a “notable” character in the Harry Potter universe. This seems to hint that we might have seen Credence somewhere before.

First of all, Adonis doesn’t cite a single source for these “reports.” What reports? Who reported this? The word “notable” doesn’t show up in the EW article, which broke the story, or the Slashfilm one, which reported it.

Show us your report certificate, Adonis!

Second of all, a character being “notable” does not mean the character is familiar to us viewers. A notable person within the Harry Potter universe simply has to be famous among the characters. It could also mean (because the word has disparate meanings) that Credence is simply an important character we should pay attention to.

Either way, there’s nothing here to plainly imply that Credence Barebone is somehow a character we’re directly aware of already.

For all we know, Credence could be anybody.

He could be in this VERY room!

Also, don’t forget that he could be…Credence Barebone.

Ezra Miller has been sworn to secrecy about his character, making the true identity and purpose of his character even more intriguing.

Wait, wait, wait. A movie studio doesn’t want an actor sharing too much information about the movie? How could this have happened under our watch?

Credence Barebone Is Tom Riddle!

And so it begins.

Specifically, Adonis is talking about the father of Lord Voldemort, not Voldemort himself. That would be Tom Riddle Sr. He goes on to remind tons of readers who Tom Riddle is, even though the only people who would deeply question this theory are book readers who are starting to get a crick in their neck from shaking their head so frequently.

Anyway, on to why I think that Tom Riddle, Sr. and Credence Barebone are one and the same. First off, it helps that we virtually know nothing about Credence Barebone. 

Yeah, that’s awfully convenient for your theory, isn’t it? “I can’t be wrong if you don’t know anything about what I’m talking about!”

We don’t know where he comes from, or what his purpose is in the film.

Right! We only know that he comes from America and is affiliated with Colin Farrell’s character! What are we supposed to even do with that information?

Fantastic Beasts is set in 1926 and, given the appearance of Barebone and the age of the actor portraying him, it’s safe to assume he’s in his early 20s at the start of the film. Tom Riddle, Sr. was born in 1905, meaning he’d be 21 years old in 1926, so the ages match up pretty accurately.

True, so now we’re just left wondering whether or not Ezra Miller can pull off a British accent.

Once again, Adonis goes on to disprove his own theory with a single sentence.

…age doesn’t explain how or why Tom Riddle, Sr. would be in North America with an entirely different name.

Are…are you reading my mind?

Poor Voldy could never catch a break, even in his younger years. His mother died giving birth to him, and his deadbeat father abandoned him before he was even born. But why did Tom Riddle, Sr. walk out on his family?

Because Merope wrote terrible fan theories?

Well, the only reason he married Merope Gaunt in the first place was because of the love potions she used on him. Tom Riddle, Sr. immediately ran off after seeing that he not only had a wife he didn’t love, but a son he didn’t want on the way.

To be fair, what would you do if a witch tricked you into impregnating her?

Tom retreated to his parents’ house in Little Hangleton, England. But what if that’s not exactly the case?

Then all logic and reasoning have ceased to exist.

In 1943, he and his parents were murdered by Tom Riddle, Jr., his son, in their Little Hangleton home. So we know that he definitely returned to Little Hangleton at some point.

Or…you know…he never left.

But if you think about it, between 1926 and 1943, that’s a whole 17 years of Tom Riddle, Sr.’s life unaccounted for.

Yeah! Let’s fill it with fan fiction!

Who’s to say he went straight to Little Hangleton and stayed there?

No one! Not even his family, legacy, property, money, friends, and power!

Let’s look at why Tom ran away from Merope. It wasn’t just because she tricked him into loving her, he was also disgusted and frightened at the fact that she was a witch.

Which he never told anyone, because he was too much of a muggle to let others think he was insane. According to the book, he told his family Merope “tricked” him. Also, it’s never implied that he was actually scared of her. In fact, he’s probably too aware of her devotion to him to believe that she’d want to cause him any harm.

Remember, Tom Riddle, Sr. was a Muggle, so the practice of witchcraft was likely taboo to him.

Likely…certainly…definitely…without a shred of doubt…obviously…I can’t believe this is even being questioned…

What if Tom traveled to America in an attempt to hide from Merope, afraid that she might one day use her powers to track him down.

Why? It’s never hinted that he feared her. The Gaunts were in Azkaban by the time this was happening, and they’d been tormenting the town for years and no one ever took them seriously. If anything, he’d probably welcome the chance to deal with her outright if she dared return to Little Hangleton. He has no idea that Merope is dangerous, and the pride of his name is likely too important for him to abandon it by leaving his home. This idea just doesn’t fit the character.

Also, if she can use her powers to track him down, like you say, then how does escaping to America fix that?

Going back to the town he met her in would be the easiest way to get caught, but a trip overseas and a quick name change would keep him hidden for a while!

Which would be the biggest tease of all, considering Merope’s untimely death months after this supposedly happened.

And as you probably didn’t want to expect, Adonis yet again asks a question that debunks his own theory, only so he can answer it in a way that doesn’t really fix the problems he’s pointing out himself.

If Credence has an adoptive mother, how could he possibly hail from the same pureblood family as Voldemort himself?

Gee, it’s almost like it isn’t possible.

Simple, Mary Lou isn’t his adoptive mother, she’s his REAL mother.

Oh, now we can just say things and they become true? OK! The sky isn’t made of gases…it’s made of STARBURSTS. See, I wrote it in all caps so you’d know how serious I am about wanting it to be true.

That’s right, Mary Lou Barebone is actually Mary Riddle!

What annoys me (the most) about this is that you don’t even position in an honest way. Mary Lou Barebone could actually be Mary Riddle (you know, if JK Rowling actually approved such a pointless and cheap plot twist). Just saying she is Mary Riddle and putting actually before the conclusion doesn’t make it so.

If you’ve already made up your mind, then this isn’t even a fan theory, really. It’s just a loud accusation.

Maybe he didn’t venture to America to escape Merope’s possible wrath alone. Maybe he was joined by his mother, Mary. Mary, whose son had apparently been enslaved by a witch and forced to love her, probably doesn’t have much love of her own for magic users.

See, the problem is that none of this makes sense. What indication from the text do we get that Mary Riddle isn’t keen on staying in Little Hangleton? What informs your guess that she’d want to follow her son to America and pretend to be his adopted mother? This just creates more questions upon questions, and I seriously doubt a movie that’s not even about Voldemort and his family would have the means to tackle such a left field twist.

Seriously, imagine if this “twist” actually happened in Fantastic Beasts. The movie would have to spend so much time positioning it in a way that makes sense that it would utterly distract from the plot we’re supposed to be involved in. It would have to explain all of these problems and inconsistencies, hoping that you don’t remember enough about Tom Riddle’s backstory to question it.

So what does she do when she and her son reach America? She becomes the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, the organization that hates witches and wizards.

So let me get this straight. Within months (at best) of arriving in America, a female immigrant is going to show up in 1926 America with an adopted son and a bunch of random daughters, then become the leader of a secret society she shouldn’t even know about?

After all, it was a witch who took her son away from her, so now she’s got a bone to pick with the magical community.

In America?? If she was that bloodthirsty toward witches, she’d seek out Merope and the Gaunts herself, not run away to America and invoke witch trials unrelated to her own history. She had wealth and power in England, but she gave it all up to hang out with her 20-something kid who she now has to apparently say is adopted because whatever? Also, he has sisters with him for some reason and is now shy, even though that’s not his character?

She and her son live in the USA for years, until they believe it’s safe to go back home.

“Let’s wage war on witches, then go back home when it’s safe!”

So there you have it, my theory for who Credence Barebone really is! He could just be a normal guy, or he could be poor Muggle Tom Riddle, Sr., desperately trying to escape his unwanted family! What do you think?

I think you need a nap and a coloring book, Adonis.


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just follow me on Twitter: @JonNegroni


The Ghostbusters Episode

ghostbusters review

It’s time for a brand new podcast episode of Now Conspiring, and all sorts of things happened. We reviewed Ghostbusters, obviously, but we also found time to chat about some of the big movie news of the week.

Wondering what the deal is with those new Power Rangers posters? Confounded at the popularity of the gentleman’s smartphone game, Pokémon GO? Well, it’s time to conspire by listening to our conspiring.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK (and you’re required to answer this): If you could choose ONE film franchise to never be rebooted (or rebooted again), which would you choose?

Go on…The Ghostbusters Episode

Snarcasm: Harry Potter Has Sucked This Entire Time

harry potter sucks

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

I wasn’t allowed to read the Harry Potter books when I was a child. And as a book-obsessed fourth grader who watched his friends read Prisoner of Azkaban during recess instead of playing four square  with him, this was one of the more sinister things my parents have ever done to me.

For that reason, I’ve never felt a part of the Harry Potter fandom quite in the same way I did with Pokemon, Pixar movies, and other fixtures of my childhood. Yet when I secretly watched my cousin’s DVD of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at age 13, I fell in love without even trying.

Years later, I’ve seen every movie a handful of times and have a very basic knowledge of the Harry Potter mythology. Just this past week I’ve started reading the first book and am about halfway done, but before I join the legions of book fans who evaluate the literary value of the adaptations, I want to speak out just once more as a movie purist (almost).

Which brings us to this week’s Snarcasm, based on a recommendation from the comments last week. In 2013, Witney Seibold of CraveOnline wrote a “troll” piece about Harry Potter just to “piss people off.” He says this outright in the subhead.

It’s decent armor because anyone who disagrees just has to shrug and say, “Well, he announced himself before trolling, so that’s somehow fine.” But we of the Snarcasm know better.

WARNING: Spoilers for the Harry Potter movies from this point forward.

Headline:

Harry Potter SUCKS!

In other news, Lord of the Rings is BASIC! Kendrick Lamar is BAD at Rapping! Expired Milk is DELICIOUS!  And other obviously wrong hot takes.

Look, to say with all-caps that Harry Potter simply “sucks” is just anti-intellectual. And it reeks of sensationalism before we’ve even gotten to the text.

Of course, there’s plenty to criticize with Harry Potter, and an article that attempts to start those debates is welcome. But when your headline and first few paragraphs are nothing but monologuing about how brave you are to say something outlandish and obviously wrong, intellectual integrity goes out the window.

Welcome back to CraveOnline’s Trolling, my dearest readers. This is a series of articles devoted to building up the things most people hate, and tearing down the things most people love.

He forgot the last part of that sentence: for oh-so-delicious clicks.

It is designed to spark thought and debate, and perhaps shake up the complacent geek status quo.

Debate? Sure. Thoughtful debate? Not even close.

A natural byproduct of this series will naturally be outrage and argument, so if you have hateful things to say, I wholly encourage you enter them into the comment section below. Be rough. I can take it.

In other words, there’s nothing valuable about this article. It’s trying to be dismissive in order to get a rise out of you. They believe that joking as trolls is somehow different from annoying, troll behavior. It’s not.

You may feel like going on the attack when I make the following statement: Harry Potter sucks.

“So I’m saying everything aloud to make it better.”

Seriously, this is getting boring. We get it, Witney.

He goes on to explain how it’s been some time since the last Harry Potter film released, and the buzz around the franchise has mostly subsided.

I’m not going to let it go so quietly. Based largely on the Harry Potter movies, I am going to dissect and analyze, in a very general way, what Harry Potter did wrong.

His idea of “dissecting and analyzing” boils down to a 4-argument slideshow that mostly just nitpicks (and not very well). Let’s begin.

#1 Harry Potter is a Murderer

harry potter sucks

What?!?! That sucks! You’re so right, Witney! The main character killed someone and that NEVER happens in fiction! Burn your books, everyone!

Think of Harry Potter’s story arc.

Well, someone has to.

He starts his saga as a put-upon 11-year-old boy who learns he is has magical powers, and was unexpectedly enrolled in a complex and dazzling school for wizards and witches. While at school, he learns that his parents were murdered by a wicked classmate of theirs, and it’s up to Harry (tracing shades of Hamlet) to avenge their deaths.

This is a lazy summation. Harry Potter is about a boy wizard who tries to prevent a powerful sorcerer from being resurrected. It has about as much in common with Hamlet as the trailer for Good Burger.

As the books and the movies progress, they get increasingly dark and turgid, characters die, and everyone mobilized for a great war with the evil classmate in question.

Evil classmate? At this point, Voldemort is way beyond that sort of modifier.

So the whole point of the story is to watch a sweet-hearted 11-year-old boy be whisked into an enchanting world, only to be primed for combat, to feel hate and fear, to watch loved ones die, and to ultimately commit murder at age 17.

There’s so much wrong with this statement, I’m about to revoke Witney’s Internet discussion license.

“The whole point” of Harry Potter is how friendship and love is more powerful than magic. Some people may have their own interpretations, but Rowling is quite clear about how this is framed. The dark elements of the story exist for two main reasons: to make the power of Harry’s love for his friends more believable and compelling, and because it’s a coming-of-age story set within a magical world. The story has to be dark for it to make any sense.

Harry is not “primed for combat.” He’s primed for defense. And ultimately, his “final” act is sacrifice, not brutally murdering Voldemort. Snape even says to Dumbledore that he’s been setting Harry up for “slaughter” because they both know Voldemort has to kill Harry.

harry potter sucks

Of course, Witney would know this if he paid any real attention to anything that has to do with Harry Potter. Or he’s just conveniently leaving it out because those clicks just look too darn good to pass up.

Aside from that, Harry’s cunning, wit, and luck is what helps him overcome many of the obstacles throughout the movies, and that’s what’s rewarded. His loyalty to Dumbledore in the 5th movie, getting over his angst and loneliness throughout the series, his realization that the government and media aren’t always right, and his acceptance of the burden that is fame and being “the chosen one,” are all key examples.

But no, let’s dumb it down by saying he’s motivated by “hate and fear” because…I’m not even sure where you got this?

This is not fun or magical or dramatic. It’s just dark and sad.

That’s your fault for mischaracterizing the entire story. And even with your own logic, watching characters “die” is actually quite dramatic. 

Harry is no hero.

Despite all of the heroic things he does, like sacrificing his life in the final book.

Hogwarts is no school.

Don’t let those classes and teachers fool you.

Harry is a brainwashed soldier who was intentionally psychologically damaged by his bootcamp.

harry potter sucks

Brainwashed? Harry spends the majority of these movies rebelling against his teachers and the Ministry of Magic because they don’t believe a thing he says. This argument is completely, bizarrely unfounded, as the students as a whole are consistently punished for taking unnecessary risks, misusing their powers, and being violent.

He may be depicted as heroic, but one can easily see the parallel between Harry and Gomer Pyle from Full Metal Jacket.  

Yes, “one can easily” see a lot of things, like a writer finishing his point with an obviously irrelevant comparison. I hope Witney starts “dissecting and analyzing” soon.

#2 Voldemort is a bad villain.

Now this is a common criticism actually worth debating. I think the Voldemort character is somewhat mishandled in the movies, but overall, his effectiveness as a villain is more subtle than I think people realize.

If our hero doesn’t quite cut the mustard, maybe the villain of the Harry Potter world can pick up the slack. Sadly, Voldemort doesn’t really have much to add to the proceedings either.

Well then pass the ketchup and turn on that there lawyer show.

Let’s take a look at his arc. He was found to be an immensely powerful young lad who was rescued from the Muggle world by Dumbledore, only to eventually flip out and go on a genocidal spree that is never fully explained (at least not in the movies).

Maybe not “fully” explained, but I would argue sufficiently explained. Voldemort very clearly has it out for the non-magic people of the world, as well as anyone who isn’t of pure blood. His arc makes more sense when you put it up against the other villains of the series who are influenced by him. Voldemort is a more understandable figure when you consider the beliefs of the Malfoy family, Severus Snape, and others.

Unfortunately for Witney, that’s too much dissecting and actual analysis for him to keep up with.

Along the way, Voldemort picked up hundreds of disciples who would obey his every command. Why do people follow this guy? He’s a slimy, pale, clearly evil noseless crackpot. 

harry potter sucks

Yeah, I bet he would only be dangerous if he was…hmm…maybe immortal or something? Oh, and super powerful. But since when do people follow leaders with power?

Again, even the most casual HP fans pick up why Voldemort is so influential. Prejudice in the wizard world (which we mostly see in Hogwarts) is a major theme of the movies. Of course someone who wants to capitalize on that prejudice would pick up followers seemingly out of nowhere, especially if he’s killing anyone who tries to stop him.

He has no charisma, no philosophy to sell, and only seems to rule his minions with threats of violence and death.

Even a fourth grader should be shaking their head at this. Voldemort has power and wants to use it to make the dreams of bigoted wizards come true. Respect through fear is also a very real thing, Witney. If an all-powerful wizard who can’t die threatened you to do something, I’m quite sure you’d go along with it.

We are never really given Voldemort’s motivations.

Wrong.

He’s just a bad egg from the start.

Wrong.

Yawn. Bad eggs are not rich or complex, and certainly cannot lend any texture to what is supposed to be the central conflict in the entire Harry Potter film series.

Not joking, guys. I absolutely do not want to know what kind of “texture” Witney is asking for here.

#3 What the Heck is the Function of Hogwarts?

Ah, we’ve arrived at the most common complaint lobbed at Harry Potter, mostly because answering it requires listening comprehension.

Because one of the first things Harry asks in the first movie is what people do after they go to Hogwarts, and guess what? This is answered.

Harry is a wizard, and goes to a wizarding school, which lies hidden in the remote hills of England. He goes there to hone his wizarding skills. He learns to mix magical potions, cast spells, and ride around on broomsticks. This is all very neat and fun and adventurous. But I can’t help but wonder: What exactly does a diploma from Hogwarts offer a young wizard?

If only the movies explained this all the time.

Even if they didn’t, these “fun adventures” are usually very dangerous and frightening, which motivates Harry and his friends to become more powerful. So of course, a diploma is more of a symbol of how these wizards can contend with the dangers of an even more dangerous world outside of Hogwarts.

harry potter sucks

The only other adult wizards in this universe are either shop owners or teachers. Some work for an ill-defined Ministry of Magic, whose function isn’t too clear either. Are those the only choices of employment once you graduate? 

You just said that all of the adult wizards in Harry Potter either run shops or teach. Now you’re saying they work for a mysterious wizard organization that you confess you know nothing about, despite how straightforward the ministry is in these movies.

Seems legit.

That said, we do meet many wizards with specific jobs and roles throughout Harry Potter, and even more are alluded to. Some use magic to keep the wizard world secret, others track down dangerous beasts all over the world, aurors act as magical police, Ron’s dad works with cursed muggle artifacts, and so on.

And this hardly matters, anyway. Rowling decided to keep the focus of Harry Potter on Hogwarts, rather than provide mounds of exposition in order to explain what will happen during a part of Harry’s life that the story doesn’t even explore. We still get clues and inklings of what exists beyond the school, but not so much that it would distract from the main story.

Why is it important to be a powerful wizard if you’re just going to work either as a retail wonk or a government clerk?

Well, Hogwarts doesn’t necessarily train its wizards to be “powerful,” just simply well-versed in magical abilities. Powerful wizards get the jobs I mentioned above, such as how one of the older Weasley brothers studies dragons.

The Hufflepuffs probably do a lot of the government work, I’d imagine.

If that’s all Harry has to look forward to, doesn’t his arc seem churlish?

He goes on to become an auror, you walnut.

harry potter sucks

Some of the wizards have no working knowledge of the “normal” world. Hogwarts, then, is painfully backward in their curriculum. Sure, there’s plenty of magic to learn, meaning classes in the sciences may seem a bit unnecessary, but where is the literature? The music? The sex ed? The three R’s? Do any of these kids ever do a single math problem? 

For beings who use magic to do everything, “muggle subjects” are quite unnecessary. This is somewhat alluded to by how amazed the wizards are by muggle things Harry takes for granted. Also, Hogwarts students don’t take any of these magic classes until they’re 11, so the rudiments of math, logic, and reading comprehension are probably focused on during their early education.

I feel bad for English kids who never get to read Shakespeare or Dickens. You learn to move things with your mind, but you never get to read David Copperfield. That’s a bad school.  

Right, let’s feel bad for kids who grow up with magical abilities. They’ll never know the joys of reading Gone Girl and watching Teen Titans Go. You know, unless they do all of that in the summer.

Besides, the wizard world has its own literature and even music more relevant to their culture. Ron mentions how The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a staple of his childhood that Harry and Hermoine compare to Cinderella. As for the rest of these weirdly specific subjects you mention, there’s certainly room for us to imagine that these children aren’t painfully ignorant of them simply because the story doesn’t waste time addressing it.

After all, there’s a reason Rowling doesn’t spend much time showing us what’s actually going on in these classes unless the teacher is doing something absurd.

#4 About Half the Movies are Just Bad

No, about half the movies are just OK. None of them are particularly bad, save for Order of the Phoenix, which is a bit mediocre.

harry potter sucks

That said, how does this mean Harry Potter sucks? This statement suggests Harry Potter only “half” sucks.

You didn’t even go to Hogwarts and you can’t do math…

The films based on the Harry Potter novels begin strong, and then take a dive somewhere around film #3.

A bold suggestion considering the third film is considered by many to be the best. But I’ll wait for you to explain yourself (for some reason).

The fourth is pretty good, actually, but the fifth through the eighth are, well, convoluted and badly filmed.

I really just want to end this Snarcasm right now.

Look, the Harry Potter films are far from perfect. And I have no qualms with anyone who simply dislikes them. But that’s just opinion, not a real analysis.

Here’s what I think, so take that for what it is: the films are consistently solid, with some highs and some lows. You can criticize all of them for many legitimate reasons, such as pointless, convoluted side plots and deus ex machina. But you also have to credit the films for bringing Rowling’s incredibly detailed and rigorous mythology to life. The cast is fantastic and ages well with the movie. The sets and effects provide some remarkable eye candy, especially with the wizard duels. The soundtrack is iconic, which the movie gets full credit for. And many of the performances are well above average.

The movies are perhaps the worst kind of literary adaptation, i.e.: they rely less on telling the story in a fresh way, and more on merely depicting what has already been fleshed out on the page.

This is idiotic hyperbole. The worst kind of literary adaptation is when you subvert the message of the books and make the source material seem worse.

We can agree that the movies mostly play it safe and just try to get the story out, not addressing what a truly good film this story could be. But that’s a fairly forgivable flaw for a studio that was tasked with bringing such a monumentally important book series to the big screen.

This means that the movies are not adaptations, but mere dramatizations of key plot elements from the books.

I’m seriously just repeating myself at this point: Witney, you’re wrong. The majority of everything you say either makes no sense or just comes off as intentionally idiotic.

The pace is too quick, the tone too dark, and the story too complex for most of the movies to work as actual dramas. Important stuff and unimportant stuff whizzes by without any sense of majesty or portent.

Finally, some fair criticisms that I actually, sort of agree with. But these problems are why the movies are not masterpieces. They don’t discount all of the positive aspects of this franchise that make it pretty good, if not great.

harry potter sucks

Is Harry Potter still enchanting and wonderful? For a short while at the beginning, yes. For the first two films, I had no complaints, and found them to be dramatic and fun and dazzling.

Really? Because I would argue Chamber of Secrets is one of the weaker films of the series, and it contains a lot of the complaints you were referencing earlier pertaining to Voldemort’s backstory. But hey, these are just your own words we’re talking about.

The world of Hogwarts and wizards is still a unique and enjoyable place to ponder, built on a complex and intriguing mythology, and seems like the type of place you’d want to visit or even attend for seven years. The series contains many flashes of adventure and fantasy that captured the world like no other fantasy novel. Eventually, though, the Harry Potter series climbed up its own ass and set up camp.

Witney, you’re wrong. The majority of everything you say either makes no sense or just comes off as intentionally idiotic.

 This is one of the laziest “hot takes” I’ve read in a while. It shows only a third-grade understanding of what’s being discussed, the text blatantly aggressive, and it contributes nothing to any real discussion about these films and what they mean.

In other words, it’s vintage 2013 clickbait.


Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Unopinionated: ‘Divergent’ Isn’t Terrible, But that Doesn’t Mean It’s Good.

Divergent terrible good

You’re different. You don’t fit into a category. They can’t control you. They call it Divergent. You can’t let them find out about you. (Tori speaking to Tris).

Every week, readers send me their unpopular opinions, and on Unopinionated, I explain why they’re unpopular in the first place.

From my inbox: “Here’s an unpopular opinion. Divergent is better than Hunger Games. There, I said it.” – Katie

Comparing these two films is obvious, mostly because Lions Gate Entertainment practically begged fans of Hunger Games to show up for their next young adult dystopia franchise in 2014. Based on a best-selling trilogy by Veronica Roth, Divergent is arguably better than the source material, but that’s not saying much.

The premise of Divergent is pretty much where the trouble starts. Years after an apocalyptic event nearly levels the world, a somewhat rebuilt Chicago has become home to a new, simplified caste system unapologetically inconsistent with nouns and adjectives.

The Amity faction is made up of happy farmers who live outside the city, Erudite holds the city’s intellectuals, Candor are honest and determine the law, Abnegation are selfless and drive the government, and Dauntless are the brave soldiers who protect everyone.

The future belongs to those who know where they belong. -Jeanine

Divergent terrible good

All people are born into a faction that characterizes one of these personality traits in which they’re most dominant, and when they come of age, these adolescents can choose to join another faction after taking what amounts to a personality test.

This is all fairly reminiscent of the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, but while that more mystical and even mysterious element of the Hogwarts house system was more of an aside to the central plot, Divergentattempts to build an entire narrative around how our personalities divide us. While not a bad concept in theory, it’s immediately overwrought by a plot that never moves on from its initial principle, which isn’t even that interesting to begin with.

The main character, Tris (played by Shailene Woodley in her breakout role), craves a life beyond the plain Abnegation, the faction she was born into. She gets her wish when she discovers she’s “divergent,” meaning she fits into too many factions.

In other words, she’s too special because no one gets her. As if.

Don’t try and define me. – Tris

Tris joins Dauntless, much to everyone’s surprise, fueling the only narrative within Divergent that has some meaningful entertainment. A step up from typical High School movies, Tris has to overcome her literal fears in order to survive fitting into a group of young adults she previously had nothing in common with. All while dodging the inconvenience of her status as a divergent, making her a target if the secret gets out.

There are genuine thrills and absorbing moments to be had while watching Tris bond with the recruits and mainstays of the more free-wheeling Dauntless, especially within the commentary of a city trying to rebuild itself with harsher rules and regulations.

Divergent terrible good

But the payoff is too familiar and derivative to contribute anything meaningful to dystopian epics for this age range. Rather than provide something novel to Tris’s character and how she fits into a new world, the film jerks backward to make this about oppressive, authoritarian adults messing up everything.

Having a “chosen one” in any given story is a quick way to ramp up the mediocrity in storytelling. Harry Potter cleverly sidesteps this by shifting focus to how special the villain is, making him an equally important shade of the titular boy wizard. Hunger Games turns this trope on its head by making the “chosen one” special only in the eyes of the masses being manipulated into war, a far more interesting culture point.

Fear does something strange to people like Al. But not you. Fear doesn’t shut you down, it wakes you up. – Four

But Divergent has nothing interesting to give its “chosen one” except that she has too many dominant personality traits. There’s nothing else to Tris’s character that shapes her decisions and struggles to move through the plot. She’s simply special because the script demands it, and this is too obvious for most moviegoers.

On the other hand, it’s not clear that denser lore would have improved anything. The world of Divergent is already stuffed with uninspired naming conventions and quirks that beat the moviegoer over the head with reminders that they’re watching a movie created for kids.

Grade: C+

Fans of the books have plenty to love in Divergent, as it’s a streamlined improvement over the schlock writing that inspired it. And it certainly has some entertaining moments that keep the story moving. But at this point, fans of the genre have plenty of options superior to an empty psychology lecture.


Do you have an unpopular opinion you want challenged? Let me know in the comments and I’ll take it on in a future Unopinionated article. Or you can email nowconspiring@gmail.com

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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