Monday, July 20, 2015

Nostalgia Review:: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Still Good?


I'm really sad. I remember sitting down and reading Goblet of Fire on our kitchen table. I remember liking it so much. Being so excited.

And missing all of the really gross racism. Now, as I pointed out, The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You! had some racism problems, but not to this extent. And what makes it sadder is that without that subplot, Goblet of Fire would have been fine... and quite a good book that didn't make me feel gross.

So, what's the problem? Hermione notices that there's a big problem with house elves. They are slaves. They have no choice but to serve their masters. In fact, they are magically bound to do as they are told and cannot do anything that they don't have permission for. They are born into this life and will live it for their entirety.

Like any decent person, Hermione decides she's going to do something about it. She creates the Society for Promotion of Elvish Welfare... or S.P.E.W. as it's generally referred as. Right here, we can see this is going to be more about jokes than anything else... and it is.

What makes it worse is the arguments everyone has for keeping elves as slaves: "They like it that way." "They don't want to be paid." "What else would they do?" "They're meant for it."

Why is this especially fucked up?

Well, these are the exact arguments anti-abolition groups in the United States made to point out that slavery was a good thing. It kept black people happy. It gave them something to do. They weren't smart enough to do anything else. They wouldn't want to be free.

Now, granted, J.K. Rowling is not from the US, but I feel like it doesn't take a lot of thought to realize how screwed up those kind of comments are. And the fact that she shows Hermione as so over the top, making a caricature out of the campaign itself... it just makes my skin crawl.

That on its own is pretty terrible, but then...

The subplot is just dropped. Because we're dealing with more important things. Now, that's not to trivialize Harry Potter's struggle to stay alive, but fuck. It's not a zero sum game.

I probably would have liked the book if it weren't for all of this. The plot isn't terrible. It's a bit too long, all things considered, but the story is good. The prose has once again gone up a bit. But making fun of people who are trying their hardest to end systematic oppression and invoking racist tropes?

Not cool.

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