Hogwarts Inspired Style – Hufflepuff

So far, I’ve shared outfits inspired by Slytherin, Gryffindor, and Ravenclaw. We are now at our final House, Hufflepuff. Fun fact: I was actually sorted into Hufflepuff on Pottermore once, and I remained in Hufflepuff until I deleted my account so I could start fresh and get re-sorted (this time, I got sorted into Ravenclaw). But, for a good year, I was a proud Hufflepuff. I think I do identify a good bit with Hufflepuff (valuing hard work, fairness, and equality), and I love how Hufflepuff doesn’t care about whether students are pureblood, or more intelligent than average, or willing to fight–whatever the student’s aptitude and interests, they’ll be welcomed and taught all the same.

Hufflepuff Inspired Look

Jeans: J Brand / Sweater: BP / Boots: Valentino / Belt: Gucci / Bag: Louis Vuitton / Rings: Frasier Sterling / Earrings: Kendra Scott

I actually think Hufflepuff and Slytherin have more in common than people think (and I may be alone in this, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that JKR introduced those two Houses first, in HP1). Both Hufflepuffs and Slytherins value loyalty, and their members share a familial bond. Both Houses are often misinterpreted and misunderstood. Slytherin is often mistaken as “the evil house” while Hufflepuff is often mistaken as “the useless house.” Both Houses get a lot of negative attention when in reality, the traits that characterize both those Houses are incredibly important, valued traits to have. Loyalty, dedication, hard work, justice–those are important and require their own kind of courage, intelligence, and ambition. And both Houses represent different versions of the other three Houses. I like to think of Hufflepuff as a more selfless version of the other three Houses. Hufflepuffs can be brave, but their bravery is for the good of others, rather than for the glory or the thrill. Hufflepuffs are willing to put themselves in danger and fight for what is right, simply because it is what’s right. Hufflepuffs value knowledge, but not simply for the sake of knowledge but rather for the sake of helping others. Hufflepuffs are ambitious not for the sake of power or selfishness, but rather because their ambition is toward a selfless cause for the greater good.

Because of Hufflepuff’s subtle similarities to Slytherin, the outfits inspired by Hufflepuff do look a bit similar to the Slytherin outfits, but with their own unique, Hufflepuff-y twist. I didn’t want to create looks that were stereotypically girly or hippie-like or earthy. I wanted to stay away from those kinds of Hufflepuff stereotypes, and rather create looks that still felt like Hufflepuff but also captured their vastly underrated fierceness.

For this first look, I wanted to have a similar aesthetic to Slytherin, but with a cozier and more laid-back feel. Since the House colors are black and yellow, I wanted to do a black skinny jean, but instead of a clean, simple jean like the Slytherin look, I did a destructed jean with cool knee rips. Instead of pairing the jeans with a slim, clean-cut sweater, I chose a chunkier, more relaxed knit sweater, loosely tucked in at the front, and I pulled this all together with a statement Gucci belt. And, to add a subtle nod to Hufflepuff’s badassery, I added some Valentino rockstud booties.

Hufflepuff Inspired Casual Look

Jeans: Mother Denim / Hoodie: Beautiful Halo / Sneaker: Adidas / Backpack: Kate Spade / Sunglasses: Ray-Ban / Bracelet: Alex & Ani / Earrings: Halogen

For the casual look, I wanted to do a look that was more athleisure. Functional, but still cool. I think of this look as a sportier version of the Slytherin casual look. It has a lot of the same elements–a skinny jean, a sneaker–but the pieces have a different feel. Cooler, sportier Adidas sneakers, ripped skinny jeans, a cropped hoodie, a backpack instead of a handbag, and teardrop/hoop style earrings. The look is sporty, easy, effortless–but with a glam touch. It captures Hufflepuff so well–Hufflepuffs aren’t “what you see is what you get.” They’re multifaceted, often underestimated–but beneath the surface, they are brave, fierce, and powerful in their own way.

Hufflepuff Inspired Dressy Look

Dress: Ted Baker London / Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti / Bag: Valentino / Ring: Kendra Scott / Ear cuff: Zoe Chicco

For the dressy look, I wanted it to capture Hufflepuff’s more formidable side (I mean, there are so many badass characters that were Hufflepuffs–like Tonks, Cedric, and Newt Scamander). I chose to use black as the dominant color, and add gold accents. I love the simplicity of this LBD–it’s not overtly sexy, but it is body hugging and the arm cutouts add interest while baring a little bit of skin in a different way. Plus, the simplicity of this dress works so well with a statement shoe, like this amazing sandal from Giuseppe Zanotti. Instead of traditional earrings, I went with a simple gold earcuff, as well as a gold two-finger ring from Kendra Scott. And finally, to complete the look, a black clutch with subtle gold-stud details.

So there it is–fashion inspired by all four Hogwarts Houses! Which House-inspired look was your favorite?

Hogwarts Inspired Style – Ravenclaw

So I’ve shared outfits inspired by Slytherin House and Gryffindor House, and now we’re moving on to my actual, official Hogwarts House (according to Pottermore, at least): Ravenclaw. 

Fun fact: On almost every sorting quiz I’ve taken, whether it’s the Myers-Briggs inspired one on Time Magazine, the official Pottermore one, the old official Pottermore one, or random ones on Buzzfeed, I have always, always gotten Ravenclaw. (Notable exceptions are a one-time Slytherin result on a Buzzfeed quiz and a one-time Hufflepuff result on my old Pottermore account….but I’ve since made a new account and retaken the sorting quiz–thrice!–and have gotten Ravenclaw twice and Slytherin once. So I officially consider myself a Slytherclaw.) By this point, whenever I take some kind of Hogwarts sorting quiz, I already know the result….and the result is always the same. I guess numbers don’t lie; I really am a true Ravenclaw.

Oh but wait!! It is our choices that determine who we truly are, far more than our abilities!! Either way–I am nerdy by nature. I love learning. I love reading. I love research, weirdly enough. I’m a bit eccentric. I will say–I do appreciate the ambition and resourcefulness that comes from Slytherin House (aka my favorite House), and I have been sorted into Slytherin officially as well, so I’d say I’m Slytherclaw (Raverin?). (Again, I really think this combination is basically Thunderbird–which is my Ilvermorny House.)

Ravenclaw Inspired Look

Dress: Ralph Lauren / Coat: T Tahari / Boots: Stuart Weitzman / Hat: Rag & Bone / Bag: Kate Spade / Ring: Kendra Scott / Earrings: Monica Vinader / Sunglasses: Gucci

So for Ravenclaw, I really wanted to create looks that were a bit more unique, a little more fashion-forward, and looks that took a bit more fashion risks. Ravenclaws are intelligent, they’re clever, they’re inquisitive. They value knowledge and wisdom. But they also can be a bit quirky, a bit eccentric. They tend to march to the beat of their own drum (aka, Luna Lovegood, Ollivander, Flitwick), and they see the world in a different way. They’re more perceptive than most. They see what others typically overlook. 

So to capture the essence of Ravenclaw, I wanted to create looks that bent the fashion rules a little. Still fashion-forward, still wearable, but a bit more unique, with unexpected silhouettes, or unexpected accessories, or unexpected combinations. And, I wanted to choose pieces that had both form and function. Pieces that were unique, but still functional–like larger bags, to carry books in, or pieces that felt more comfortable. After all, Ravenclaws need to be dressed comfortably for all those classes and all that research in the library. 

For this first look, I wanted to break away from the typical pieces/silhouettes I had been using for the other Houses. For both Slytherin and Gryffindor, the typical formula was some type of skinny pant, a sweater, topped off with a statement jacket, and finished off with some kind of heel. For Ravenclaw, I wanted the formula to be different. I wanted the look to be a departure from what the other Houses looked like. So, I picked a sweater dress because it was a piece that was both comfortable yet a little different. And I paired it with thigh-high heeled boots, because I love the combination of a mini-dress and thigh-high boots, and I thought it was a fitting combination for Ravenclaw–a different silhouette, but still comfortable. I topped off the look with a cozy, wool wrap coat–in my head, I see the coat worn open, rather than buttoned/tied. And I added a hat, because why not? It adds a bit of a cool, quirky factor. And of course, a large tote to carry all those books. I used rose gold jewelry since it’s the closest I could find to bronze. It’s like, an elevated, more feminine version of bronze. 

Ravenclaw Inspired Casual Look

Jeans: Mother Denim / Sweater: Madewell / Boots: Thursday Boot Company / Hat: Rag & Bone / Bag: Hermes / Sunglasses: Ray-Ban / Bracelet: Alex & Ani / Ring: Sofia Zakia / Earrings: David Morgan

Of all the looks I created for all the Houses, this one is one of my absolute favorites. It’s something I’d wear myself. I wanted the casual look to be a bit more rugged, and retain that unique, quirky factor. Think hipster, or coffee shop. So, since the Ravenclaw colors are blue and bronze, I really wanted to make use of denim. I went with a dark wash jean that has just a hint of distressing at the hem, and a navy chunky sweater. I paired these pieces with these cool suede Chelsea boots–they’ve got this really rugged, lived-in look that I love, yet they’re still chic. the way I see this worn is with the jeans cuffed a few times, to show off the boots. I added a wool hat ’cause it adds a little something extra to the look, as well as a large leather tote. The earrings are feathers–a subtle nod to the Ravenclaw mascot, the eagle. And a sapphire ring, as well as a bracelet with the Deathly Hallows charm–all nods to the Potter series and to Ravenclaw House. 

Ravenclaw Inspired Dressy Look

Jumpsuit: Leith / Shoes: Valentino / Bag: Chloe / Bangles: Monica Vinader / Ring: Wwake / Ear cuff: Joelle Jewelry

In keeping with the theme of unique pieces, for the dressy look, I decided to forego the usual dress and go for a jumpsuit instead. I love jumpsuits. Depending on the style, they can be either casual, modest, business-professional, or sexy and cocktail party-ready. I chose a navy jumpsuit with lace trim, and added bronze-ish accessories that were also more unique, like these Valentino Rockstud caged sandals, the layered upper arm bangles, and a statement ear cuff instead of earrings. 

Hogwarts Inspired Style – Gryffindor

Last time, I wrote a post on outfit ideas inspired by Slytherin House. Today, I’m sharing outfit ideas inspired by Gryffindor, aka, The Jock House. (Don’t @ me.)

Gryffindor Inspired Look

Jeans: Hudson / Coat: Burberry / Sweater: H&M / Bag: Kate Spade / Shoes: Christian Louboutin / Bracelet: Alex & Ani / Earrings: Gorjana / Rings: Gorjana / Sunglasses: Gucci

I wanted the aesthetic of the Gryffindor-inspired looks to be starkly different from that of Slytherin’s. Gryffindors are bold, fearless, sometimes reckless and hot-headed. They’re open books; what you see is what you get. They wear their emotions on their sleeve. They’re warriors; they itch for action and hate inaction. At their worst, they can be described as brutish, measuring their skill purely in physical strength and having a tendency towards self-righteousness. At best, they are courageous and self-sacrificing, putting the needs of others before themselves even at great personal cost.

When I thought of how I wanted to capture the spirit of Gryffindor House and translate it into fashion, I thought a really classy aesthetic would be fitting. I wanted to create looks that were classic, yet had hints of that fire that Gryffindors are known for. The colors were a great way to represent this; red and gold signify fire. I chose a more muted burgundy rather than a bright red–it’s a little more elevated, a little more sophisticated. And I chose to add pops of gold with jewelry and accessories.

This look is really classy, with the Burberry trench and nude Louboutin heels, but if you look more closely there are more subtle, edgy elements that add interest. I wanted to use a monochrome color scheme but play with texture and silhouette. I love the combination of a really luxe, cozy knit texture from the sweater, paired with the tougher, more edgy material of the leather pants. I also love how the pants have some cool details like the zippers on the front. The jewelry also has a touch of uniqueness. The drop earrings have a more imperfect shape, and the bangle and stacking rings add another hint of shine.

Gryffindor Inspired Casual Look

Dress: Rails / Cardigan: Treasure & Bond / Shoes: Madewell / Belt: Gucci / Hat: Rag & Bone / Bag: Alexander McQueen / Rings: Gorjana / Bracelet: Alex & Ani / Earrings: Argento Vivo / Sunglasses: Ray-Ban 

For Gryffindor, I was really conscious of the brands/designers I used in each look. I wanted to pick really classic designers–like Burberry, Gucci, Louboutin. For the more casual Gryffindor look, I wanted something quite preppy. I stuck with the same burgundy monochrome color scheme as the last look, but this time wanted shapes and silhouettes that were more relaxed. Rather than fitted pieces, a belted shirtdress topped with a big, cozy cardigan and paired with practical loafers. Gold jewelry and accessories (including one subtle reference to the Deathly Hallows). And a wool fedora, just to add a bit of interest.

Gryffindor Inspired Dressy Look

Dress: Katie May / Shoes: Christian Louboutin / Ring: Alex & Ani / Earrings: Halogen / Bag: Cult Gaia

As for the dressy Gryffindor look, I wanted to keep with the classy aesthetic, but add a bit of a Jessica Rabbit-esque feel. This look incorporates some really basic, cocktail/formal-dress elements. Simple LRD (little red dress) with some more daring details; gold jewelry and accessories; and minimalist heeled sandals. This look doesn’t take too many fashion risks, but it’s a classy, fail-safe look. 

Hogwarts Inspired Style – Slytherin

A while ago, I got really into creating different, more wearable looks inspired by the Divergent factions. I have no idea why, although at some point it served as a pastime while I was on a business trip to Shanghai. I’ve since found a replacement for Polyvore (RIP) so I could continue creating outfits and indulging all my fashion ideas. So, this time, I’m creating looks inspired by the four Hogwarts Houses. I did three looks per House: a dressy-casual one, an actual casual one, and an actual dressy one. So we’ll start with my favorite House: Slytherin. 

Slytherin Inspired Look

Jeans: Rag and Bone / Top: Jardin Des Orangers / Earrings: Kendra Scott / Jacket: Mango / Ring: Zales / Clutch: Versace; Shoes: Christian Louboutin

I’ll say it right now–the Slytherin looks are my favorite of the bunch. Not only because I’m biased because I am (partially) one, nor because it’s my favorite House; but because these are looks that most closely reflect my own personal style. Pretty much 80% of my closet is black; this isn’t groundbreaking news. And the other 20% is comprised of cooler, deeper jewel tones, including this deep green that I’ve recently fallen in love with and will start incorporating into my wardrobe. 

I thought of how I wanted the essence of Slytherin House depicted through fashion. Slytherins are complex, mysterious, formidable. They’re not necessarily evil; on the contrary, some of worst (or just plain obnoxious) characters were Gryffindors (Peter Pettigrew, Ginny Weasley) and Ravenclaw (Lockhart, Quirrell). I like to think of true Slytherins (not evil Slytherins) as the best aspects of the other three Houses; a more rational, strategic Gryffindor; more emotional, passionate Ravenclaw; a more ambitious Hufflepuff. (So basically, a Thunderbird, which coincidentally is also my Ilvermorny House. #represent) 

I felt like Slytherin was best represented with looks that were really sleek, modern, and edgy. “Understated elegance” was sort of the guiding principle when creating these looks. Lots of black, with pops of the official House colors, green and silver. Clean lines, and a mysterious, sort of catwoman-esque feel. Think designers like Theory, Tom Ford, Saint Laurent. And I wanted the House mascot to be incorporated in some way, whether through jewelry (snake ring) or through a snakeskin bag, or snakeskin shoe. I thought these were all really subtle, unmistakeable nods to Slytherin. 

Slytherin Inspired Casual Look

Jeans: Rag and Bone / Sweater: Carven / Jacket: AllSaints / Shoes: Veja / Bag: YSL / Ring: Tiffany / Bracelet: Alex & Ani / Sunglasses: RayBan / Earrings: Ruby and Oscar

For a more casual, laidback look, I stuck to the same signature elements of clean lines and mostly monochromatic palette but switched out key pieces. Same black skinny jeans, but instead of a fitted turtleneck, a dark green cropped sweater topped with a black moto jacket. Instead of heeled booties, sleek (ethically-made and eco-friendly!) sneakers. A much more understated snake ring and snakeskin bag. Emerald earrings as a nod to the Slytherin gemstone. And a bracelet with a snake charm (from Alex and Ani’s official Harry Potter collection). 

Slytherin Inspired Dressy Look

Dress: Saint Laurent / Shoes: Jimmy Choo / Ring: Zales / Earrings: Macy’s / Clutch: Rebecca Minkoff

I wanted the Slytherin dressy look to be sexy in a really understated, mysterious way. The first piece I chose in this look was actually the shoe–I love this Jimmy Choo snakeskin pump and thought it was perfect for a dressy Slytherin look. I thought it paired really well with a piece like this Saint Laurent dress–a simple, LBD with details that make it a bit different and more interesting. It’s not a typical arm-baring or strapless LBD–it’s a long-sleeved LBD, but with a plunging neckline and tighter silhouette on the skirt. It’s sexy, but not ostentatiously so, and it bares skin in more unexpected ways. And because the dress was still simple, the accessories could really pop–like the statement emerald earrings, bright green clutch, and statement snake ring. 

Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

After a week of waiting and scrupulously avoiding social media lest I come across spoilers, I finally had the chance to watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Overall, I enjoyed it and I think it is absolutely worth watching (maybe twice or thrice!). Read on for more of what I liked, disliked, and questions that need answering.

SPOILERS AHEAD. Proceed at your own risk. (Also, this is a long post. Grab a drink, have a snack, and settle in to read this.)

What I liked…

Kylo Ren and Rey. Honestly, I thought Kylo Ren/Ben Solo and Rey carried the entire film. I found myself anticipating their scenes during scenes with the other characters because Kylo and Rey were that compelling to watch onscreen. The lightsaber fight scene after Kylo kills Snoke is my favorite scene in the entire film (and quite possibly my favorite lightsaber fight scene in the entire series). The chemistry between Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley is perfect—they are able to strike a great balance between having a natural ease with each other, but also having a good deal of tension. I love the idea of the protagonist and antagonist striking up a friendship/relationship. It adds a lot more depth to both of them, and watching Kylo and Rey connect over their shared feelings of isolation made me root for both of their characters, even though they were on opposite sides. I found myself sympathizing with Kylo Ren—which is not an easy feat considering he killed Han Solo in The Force Awakens. Kylo Ren and Rey both had amazing character development in this film, and I hope that in Episode IX, JJ Abrams carries on what Rian Johnson started. I know the whole Reylo ship began back in Force Awakens—and though I honestly didn’t really notice their chemistry in that film, after watching The Last Jedi, I am officially so here for Reylo.

Conflicts between light vs. dark. The relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey ties into this theme, but this theme is highlighted in other ways as well. I really love how light and dark aren’t so cut and dried, the way they have been for the previous seven films (though Rogue One plays with this theme a bit). With Kylo and Rey, we see them both tap into their light and dark sides. Rey willingly taps into her dark side when training with Luke, rather than shutting it out the way previous Jedi had been taught. Kylo Ren isn’t all bad either—we see how torn up he is after killing Han, and we see the constant conflict and the push/pull between his dark and light side. Even Luke’s character development in this film shows this conflict—he’s not the pure, perfect Jedi hero who helped lead the Rebellion to victory. In the film, when Luke sees Ben Solo/pre-Kylo get more powerful and more tapped into the dark side, he momentarily considers killing him before realizing the error in his thinking—a mistake that led to Ben Solo turning over to the dark side to serve Snoke. Even the legendary Luke Skywalker is human and prone to human temptations and errors in judgment. Furthermore, we even see that the ultra-wealthy in Canto Bight have earned their wealth not only by selling weapons to the First Order but to the Resistance as well. I love how this film subverts the theme of light vs. dark and shows that it’s not completely black and white. Playing with the concept of light vs. dark in this way adds a lot more dimension to the characters and challenges us to view the light and dark sides differently.

YODA. Need I say more?

The idea of non-exclusivity. I know that the revelation of Rey’s parents is quite a controversial topic. There were those who were so sure (or who really wanted) Rey to be Luke’s daughter or be related to Luke somehow. (Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of this theory. It’s too obvious/simple, and I really didn’t get fatherly vibes from Luke and Rey’s interactions. It’s like if Sirius Black actually did turn out to be Voldemort’s servant in Prisoner of Azkaban, instead of Peter Pettigrew. It’s too straightforward; it’s not complicated enough.) There were those who thought that Rey might be a Palpatine based on her lightsaber technique and why Kylo Ren was so fascinated with/threatened by her. There were those who, like me, were so convinced (and really wanted) Rey to be descended from Obi-Wan. (There are many convincing arguments to be made for this theory, and part of me is still holding out for this to be true…) BUT, we find out in The Last Jedi that Rey’s parents were nobodies. They were, as Kylo Ren says to her, nobodies who sold Rey off for drinking money. Even Rian Johnson confirms that Kylo isn’t lying when he says this to her—he does actually see this, and he is being honest with Rey in that moment.

While this wasn’t the revelation I (along with many other fans) was hoping for, I think it works really well, and I personally would not change it. First off, since I unabashedly ship Reylo, I like that Rey has no relation to the Skywalkers. Secondly, and most importantly, I like how the film played into the idea that Rey didn’t need to have any special lineage in order for her to be significant in this story. She wasn’t special because she was a Skywalker, or a Kenobi, or what have you—she was special because of who she was on her own. She didn’t need to be a descendant of important people in order to find her place. It plays right into the idea that the Force doesn’t belong to just the Jedi and/or Sith—which is exactly what Luke explains to Rey when he trains her.

The Force is something that binds us all together, and it’s something that belongs to all of us. I love the end scene where the stable boy Force-summons his broom into his hand. He, like Rey, isn’t anyone well-known. He’s not a Jedi—but he, like Rey, is able to tap into the Force. I love this last scene because it shows that what happened in The Last Jedi, and the Star Wars saga as a whole, goes beyond the characters we’ve come to know. There’s always more to the story. There’ll always be more people, more heroes—who may or may not come from unlikely places. A character doesn’t need to be a Skywalker, or a Kenobi, or even a Palpatine, in order to have a place in this story.

What I disliked…

Luke’s character arc (or at least, bits of it). So, I have a lot of mixed feelings about Luke’s character arc, and I’ve discussed this at length with fellow Star Wars fans. On one hand, Luke’s character arc isn’t completely uncharacteristic. While Luke did insist that there was still good in Darth Vader, and while he did believe Vader could be redeemed, Luke was also impulsive and susceptible to the dark side. There’s a scene in Return of the Jedi where Luke does let his anger and aggression consume him, and he fights with Vader and slices off Vader’s hand—exactly the same injury that Vader gave to Luke in the previous film. That’s what wakes him up; that’s what reminds him of who he really is and brings him back to the light side. I can buy that Luke did have a moment of weakness and a momentary error in judgment when it came to Ben Solo. I can even buy Luke’s disillusionment with the Jedi Order, and his reluctance to train Rey because of it. But what I really didn’t like was Luke’s role in The Last Jedi. The Force Awakens made it seem like Luke was the key to helping the Resistance, but Luke’s role in the Resistance was mainly buying the Resistance fighters more time by distracting Kylo Ren with his Force apparition. While I love that scene, and while Luke’s Force apparition and his battle with Kylo has significance in both the film and the overall story, I really wish Luke had done more. Even if Luke was reluctant to train Rey, I wish he still had, but with his own unique philosophy that he developed after realizing the error of the Jedi ways. Luke’s role in this film was quite passive. He doesn’t really do much to train Rey—in fact, Rey is the one who steals the ancient Jedi texts and leaves after waiting around for Luke to train her. While Luke’s final act was meant to signify hope for the Resistance, I wish we had seen more of why he had a change of heart, aside from Yoda’s pep talk. I wish we had seen more of a story with Luke. I feel like his arc was cut off at several points with scenes of Rose/Finn/Poe, and that made his story feel disjointed and incomplete. So, while Luke made a great sacrifice at the end that ultimately saved the Resistance, I would have really liked his story to feel more complete.

Spirituality vs. Religion. The way the film approached Jedi training and the Force reminded me of the differences between spirituality and religion. Religion is quite tradition-oriented, and there are rules and order and requirements—much like the Jedi Order in the first six films. Spirituality is quite the opposite. It’s less rigid, it’s less structured, and it focuses more on self-growth and transformation. It doesn’t require rules or training; it’s about transcending and being true to your inner self—very similar to how the Force was presented in The Last Jedi. I hate how the film played up the idea that the Force isn’t something that requires a great deal of formal training, and that the training and tradition are actually hindrances. We see the stable boy using the Force, and we’re often reminded about how Rey has a great deal of raw talent but is untrained. I hate when films play up the “raw talent” angle, as though it’s somehow better than hard work and formal training which are really just impediments and are “too traditional.” I hate the idea that you can have some kind of special skill and be able to master it with no training—that’s not true anywhere, including Star Wars. While the Force does belong to everyone, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to hone it in order to use it well. While I love the idea of the new films challenging the rigidity and tradition of the Jedi order, I don’t think it has to mean that the exact opposite is a better way. It’s all about balance, just like the films reiterate—so there should also be a balance between the Jedi traditions and the new ways of using the Force.

Finn and Rose scenes. I really liked Finn in The Force Awakens (even though every other line for him was “Rey!” or “Where’s Rey?”). In The Force Awakens, Finn had a significant role—if you cut Finn out of the film, the story wouldn’t be the same. In this film, Finn’s scenes with Rose felt almost like filler. Finn and Rose went on some rogue mission that ultimately didn’t need to happen and actually got in the way of Holdo’s plans for the Resistance. I wish Finn had a bigger role than that. I get that Rian Johnson was trying show that it pays to know how to listen to others (cough*POE*cough) and that your heroes aren’t always who they seem to be, and I appreciate that. But, for a character like Finn, who was quite significant in the previous film, I wanted his scenes to have more weight. I wanted to see more personal growth. In the previous film, he mainly joined the Resistance to escape from the First Order. I can see how this film tried to show that Finn is no longer running away and is learning to stand for something and fight—but I think the execution was lacking. That said, I think Finn’s scenes with Rose would have done really well in a standalone Rogue One type of movie, rather than squished into a saga film. I would have enjoyed them much more that way; in this film, I found myself waiting for those scenes to end so we could cut right back to the center storyline with Luke, Rey, and Kylo. It almost felt like the film tried to bite off more than it could chew—like it tried to show too many things, subvert too many things. It felt like there was too much going on and the story wasn’t tight enough. I get that second films in a trilogy are a really tall task to take on, and it’s hard to create a film that doesn’t quite begin and doesn’t quite end. Overall, Rian Johnson did a great job—but I think trimming down the Finn/Rose scenes, or making those scenes more relevant to the central plot, would have gone a long way in improving the pace of the film.

Questions I still have…

Why did Luke’s Force apparition cause him to die? Why did he have to die to begin with? I’ve discussed this question with fellow Star Wars fans as well, and it seems that the consensus is that his Force apparition required a great amount of exertion and is something that hasn’t been attempted by any Jedi, ever. I don’t love the idea of Luke’s death, but I think the film might have been trying to echo Yoda’s death in Return of the Jedi, where he tells Luke that his training is complete. What are your thoughts on this?

Where did Snoke come from? (I still want this question answered even if he’s dead.) I HATE that Rian Johnson just decided to pull a “fuck it” and kill Snoke, even though fans (including me) read theory after theory trying to figure out where Snoke might have come from. I hate that this film sort of killed or quashed a lot of loose ends the previous film teased—including Snoke. Rian, you do not get off the hook for this. I still want an explanation for who Snoke was and where the hell he came from.

Why is no one even mentioning Obi-Wan? I love Obi-Wan’s character in both the original trilogy and the prequels. He was a significant character, so the films are either saving the best for last or they’re pretending like he doesn’t exist. If it’s the latter, I will be fifty shades of pissed. I really hope Episode IX includes Obi-Wan a bit more in the film. I want to see the characters I love at least mentioned or having an appearance in the new films. It doesn’t work when new characters are just shoved down our throats without any reference to the older characters. STOP TRYING TO MAKE “NEW CHARACTERS” HAPPEN; IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Just kidding; I do like the new characters a lot. But seriously, I want to see some kind of mention of Obi-Wan in the next film. He deserves that.

Final Thoughts

I know this film was pretty divisive, but you can’t deny that it was a memorable film. I mean, weeks after seeing it, I’m still talking about it and thinking about it. There were things I loved, and things I didn’t love—but it’s a film that makes me think. It made me ask questions and challenge ideas I had about the Star Wars universe. It’s not a perfect film (no film is—and Empire Strikes Back had a similarly mixed reception when it released), but it’s a film that gets people talking and thinking. The film was impactful, and for me, it is right up there with my favorites.

#StateYourUnpopularOpinion: I still don’t really like Ginny Weasley. But not for the reasons you might think. Hear me out.

Ok, so I know I’ve previously written about how I don’t particularly care for Ginny Weasley (yes, even Book Ginny), but recent articles I’ve come across singing Ginny’s praises have brought about a lot of GIF-able facial expressions on my part, so I thus feel the need to regale you with more reasons why Book Ginny is not my favorite character in the books (and I just don’t see the connection with Harry either).

I stand by what I’ve previously said about Ginny and the reasons why I don’t care for her character. She’s underdeveloped, and she’s a more edgily-packaged Mary-Sue. She’s Lily Potter with a little more grit. JKR tries really, really, really hard to get us to fall in love with Ginny and see her as a worthy and compelling love interest for Harry. But, we honestly don’t get to see her character growth throughout the books, so when BAM! JKR introduces us to this new and improved Ginny who kicks ass and doesn’t take shit from anyone, we can’t help but do a double take and check if we missed anything in the past four to five books.

I don’t have a problem with Ginny as a supporting character. Why not make the youngest Weasley sibling grow into someone who gains confidence, who has a place in Dumbledore’s Army, who in some way, does come into her own? I don’t have a problem with JKR developing Ginny the way she did. What I don’t really get is JKR developing Ginny into this awesome, badass character specifically to convince readers that she is a perfect match for Harry. 

I’m not sure if JKR had always meant for Ginny to be Harry’s love interest (though some sources claim she had), so either their relationship (and the hints leading up to their relationship) should have been better presented to us, or Harry should have just ended up with another character.

If JKR had decided that Ginny would be Harry’s love interest, she must have thought of what attributes would suit Harry and give him that sense of normalcy and stability that he really needed. In a lot of ways, Ginny does give him this–and all of those ways have to do with the fact that she’s a member of the Weasley family, which is where Harry truly feels a sense of home and belonging and safety. But marrying Ginny isn’t necessary for Harry to get that sense of home and belonging with the Weasley family–he already has it, because he basically is part of their family, and the Weasleys consider him as such.

Weasley family aside, it feels like JKR just took a bunch of attributes and formed Ginny’s character that way. To me, Ginny doesn’t read as a carefully thought-out character. She’s a collection of cool-girl attributes. She’s snarky, she’s “funny” (usually at the expense of others, though this often gets glossed over), she’s athletic, she’s attractive, she’s tough and doesn’t cry. These characteristics are what most teenage boys look for in their ideal girlfriend. Most teenage boys don’t want to (and aren’t equipped with the emotional development to) deal with real, difficult emotions that go beyond happiness or attraction. Most teenage boys don’t want to (and don’t know how to) deal with girls who are sensitive, complex, and not always cheerful and easygoing. It’s natural that an ideal love interest for a teenage boy is someone who doesn’t cry much, who isn’t difficult to deal with.

But Harry isn’t most teenage boys. At age 16, Harry has dealt with much more loss, pain, and doubt than many people twice his age. Considering all that Harry has been through, those experiences should have made him more emotionally mature than the average teenage boy. And, I think he is presented this way in the books. While he has his moments (as we all do, and as all the other characters do), at his core, Harry is someone willing to sacrifice himself for those he loves, and for the greater good. Harry is someone who shows compassion for others (freeing Dobby, burying Dobby by hand), and who is completely capable and willing to show mercy and forgiveness (stopping Sirius and Remus from killing Peter Pettigrew). He’s not an average teenage boy. He, of all the other young characters in the books, should be the one able to deal with difficult emotions.

So it feels weirdly out of character for Harry to be attracted to Ginny because of Ginny’s cool-girl attributes. His attraction to Ginny, to me, reads more like a fling or teenage relationship, but not a lasting relationship that ultimately leads to marriage. Who knows, maybe Ginny matures over the next few years?

If Ginny really were a real, compelling love interest for Harry, we should have been shown this. Instead, we’re only told. We’re told how Harry feels like his relationship with her is something out of someone else’s life. We’re told how Harry feels that chest monster of jealousy when he sees Ginny with Dean. What we don’t see, and what we’re not shown, are those tender moments between Harry and Ginny, where we can really feel, as readers, the emotional connection between them and the love they have for each other. What would have sold me on the Harry/Ginny relationship is if we actually got to see moments of true connection between Harry and Ginny–not superficial attraction or some scene where Ginny once again shows how badass she is. The breakup between Harry and Ginny at the end of Book 6 tries to give us one of those moments, but it doesn’t quite work because 1) Harry again reiterates how Ginny is so wonderful because she doesn’t cry; 2) it doesn’t have much of a backbone. This is the only scene we have of Ginny and Harry–prior to that, we’re only told how great she is and told how great their relationship is; 3) Ginny’s statement that Harry would never truly be happy unless he was hunting Voldemort shows how little she really knows Harry. No, hunting Voldemort does not make Harry “happy.” Harry hunts Voldemort because he must; because he puts the needs and safety of the Wizarding World before anything else that would make him happy. In this short conversation between Harry and Ginny, we see how Ginny views Harry–she admires him, she sees him as “The Boy Who Lived,” instead of just seeing Harry for who he is without being defined by Voldemort. While I’m sure Ginny does genuinely care for Harry, this conversation between them implies that perhaps Ginny cannot distinguish Harry outside of him fighting Voldemort, and that her love for Harry is strongly influenced by her admiration of his accomplishments and victories against Voldemort.

If I had to choose a character that would have been a more convincing love interest for Harry, I would actually choose Luna. I honestly think Luna and Harry are a great fit for each other. First off, we’re given plenty of moments between Luna and Harry where we’re shown their connection to each other and their understanding of each other. Where Luna consoles Harry in Book 5, though Harry couldn’t find any consolation, nor felt like speaking with, Ron or Hermione. Where they talk about how they can both see thestrals. At the end of Book 5, where Luna talks to Harry about her mother’s death–she says that “it’s not like she’ll never see Mum again,” and that comforts Harry, who is dealing with fresh grief at the loss of Sirius. During Bill and Fleur’s wedding where Luna recognizes Harry under Polyjuice Potion. At the end of the Battle of Hogwarts, where Luna senses exactly what Harry needs–peace and quiet–and provides a way for him to get that. While Luna isn’t mentioned in the books as many times as Ginny, as a character, she is far better developed, and we are shown why she’s such a true badass, rather than just told. We are shown how well Luna knows Harry and how they connect with each other, rather than just told.

Moreover, I think Luna would have been able to give Harry that sense of normalcy and stability he needed–perhaps more than Ginny could, or at least in a different way. I think both Luna and Harry needed a sense of normalcy and stability, and they would have been able to provide it for each other due to how much they had in common and their personalities. Both Luna and Harry experienced loss at a young age, and they’ve had to deal with it and cope with it at a young age. Both Luna and Harry have felt like outsiders. With Harry, who has often felt misunderstood, Luna would have been able to provide him with that empathy and understanding, and thus help him feel less isolated and alone. Luna and Harry know each other for who they truly are–when Harry finds out that Luna was taken to Azkaban, he says “She’s tough, Luna, much tougher than you’d think.” While superficially, Harry and Luna seem very different, their core personalities are quite compatible, and they each recognize each other for who they truly are. While Luna isn’t as athletic as Ginny is and isn’t as into all those typical guy interests that Ginny is said to have–that doesn’t necessarily mean a relationship deal-breaker. Couples don’t necessarily have to like all the same things in order for them to be a successful couple. All they need is an acceptance of each other and an understanding of who they really are–and a willingness to make things work. While we’re not shown much of Harry in the context of a relationship, as well as Luna–based on what we know of the characters, of how those characters have been developed–it’s not unreasonable to assume that they’d be able to accept, understand, and support each other and each other’s interests.

While some have argued that Luna is “too weird” for Harry, and Harry needed someone normal to have a normal life, I call bullshit. The Harry that I’ve come to know in the books is someone who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about someone’s weirdness. And what really makes Luna weird, anyway? So she wears radish earrings and believes in far-fetched things (which haven’t actually been disproved!)–so what? She has her beliefs, and she sticks to them, even in the face of overwhelming odds proving her beliefs don’t exist. Sound familiar? Yeah–we really don’t have a real reason to think Luna’s an actual weirdo not worthy of Harry. Luna is strong, compassionate, understanding (and Harry recognizes this)–and we know this about Luna because we’re shown this. Not because scenes of her telling someone off or hexing someone are emphasized over and over again.

I don’t think Harry and Ginny are completely wrong for each other. But I think that the reasons why Harry was attracted to Ginny–she likes sports too, she plays Quidditch well, she doesn’t cry much, she’s one of the guys except hot–aren’t really the traits that form the basis of a strong, lasting, mature relationship. Harry and Ginny’s relationship–at least from what we’re shown in the books–is based on attraction. It may work while they’re young and in school–but based on what we’ve been shown (and told) about Ginny’s character, I’m just not convinced that she’s really the best match for Harry. She doesn’t have the same level of character growth and development that other minor characters (in a lot of cases, characters who get fewer mentions in the books) do, and other than her collection of cool-girl traits (which are only surface level), we don’t really see who she is and how exactly she complements Harry. So yeah….I still don’t like her. But, maybe if her character had actually been more developed (and Luna’s character is proof that you don’t need more book mentions to be a thoughtfully-developed character), I would actually like her. And I would see how she’s a great love interest for Harry. And I would instead be writing about why I think she’s awesome and a great feminist icon in the books (she’s not–that title also belongs Luna. And Hermione, Tonks, McGonagall…) But unfortunately, we don’t get that in the books. Ginny Weasley is just that one part of the Harry Potter books that isn’t really all that great.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: A Review (or, Why Scorpius Malfoy saved the play and Holy Crap Voldemort’s a Daddy)

Hello friends! It’s been a while. I have to say, I’ve written about a few random topics here and there, and I’ve always felt like I needed to establish some kind of theme for my blog and write consistently about those topics. But then I figured, that’s an awful lot of planning and I’d rather just write more often, about whatever came to mind, and maybe a theme will arise organically. And so, I decided I’d pick this back up and give my take on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

**This review contains spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

First impressions

It had been a while since I read the series from beginning to end, let alone the final book (or penultimate book now, I suppose), but I thought picking up right at the epilogue was a great way to open the play. The play is well-written, with catchy dialogue and a shapely plot. The story drew me in and kept me on my toes. But, the voices of the characters don’t quite reflect the characters we’d come to know and love in the original seven books, so it felt a little jarring reading their lines and trying to fit the characters into their new voices. I think the play could have better captured the personalities of the trio, especially with Ron. Ron’s character was reduced to “goofy dad whose sole purpose is to provide comic relief.” His characterization reads more like Movie Ron than Book Ron. While Ron is goofy and silly, he’s also loyal, kind, and selfless–it’s tough being the best friend of The Boy Who Lived, and yet Ron stands by Harry throughout their years at Hogwarts. I missed these aspects of Ron’s character in the play.

Pros

Scorpius Malfoy: He was easily the greatest character in the book. If there’s one reason I’ll accept Cursed Child as canon, it is because of Scorpius. Scorpius is a character who has had it tough his entire life–he has grown up under the shadow of his family legacy, he’s lost his mother, and he and his father are alienated from the wizarding community. Yet, Scorpius isn’t jaded or cynical or dark. Instead, he is kind, optimistic, forgiving, smart as a whip, and proudly geeky. He doesn’t resent his father for shielding him from the outside world; he understands why his father does it. He doesn’t feel vengeful towards his classmates who shun him and tease him; he grows a thick skin and brushes off their insults. And, he selflessly helps Albus with Albus’s own problems, even though Scorpius has struggles of his own. Scorpius shows that his past and his family don’t define him, and yet he also loves his family and doesn’t try to distance himself from them. In some respects, he represents the best parts of Harry’s and Malfoy’s characters.

The fallout from the Second Wizarding War: I really appreciated how life post-war was portrayed for the characters. Things didn’t just go back to normal, and the world didn’t suddenly just get fixed. The characters have emotional scars from the war, and it affects their families. While Albus can come across as surly and bitter, it’s not unreasonable for him to be this way. He has had a legacy thrust upon him that he never asked for and that he doesn’t quite know how to carry. He simultaneously feels pride and resentment towards his father, and, like his father, he doesn’t quite know how to work through these emotions. Albus’s characterization represents a very human reaction to his circumstances. Cursed Child carries on the trend of the original seven books, where although the characters are witches and wizards, at their core they are still human and face struggles that magic can’t fix.

Cons

Time-travel: I’m certainly not the first person to point this out. I just have to ask, Why???? Why didn’t JKR abide by the original time-travel portrayal from Book 3? In the original series, time-travel is a closed loop, meaning past events are fixed and cannot be changed. It’s why Harry and Hermione see themselves in the events that already happened (like punching Malfoy, or conjuring the Patronus). When they go back in time, it’s like they’re going back to a rerun of events that have already transpired, and they are separate from it. Yet, in Cursed Child, time-travel is portrayed as a ripple effect, (the alternate reality time-travel plot). One small change affects past and future events, thus creating alternate realities, like one in which Cedric becomes a Death Eater and Voldemort wins the war. It feels way too much like a ripoff of Back to the Future Part II, and the Harry Potter series deserves better. Color me disappointed.

Developing a strange, implausible plot to explore the central conflicts of the book, and Voldemort’s “daughter,” Delphi: The central conflict in Cursed Child isn’t an external danger, like Voldemort in the original seven (although the conflict with Voldemort does represent a variety of human struggles). Instead, the conflict is more internal and emotional. It’s between Harry and his son. It’s about their inability to understand each other. It’s about Albus’s struggle as he tries to make a name for himself under the shadow of his father. It’s between Draco and his son, and their struggle to escape the rumors surrounding them. These are the new challenges that the characters face after the war. I didn’t think it was necessary to explore these conflicts within some kind of time-travelling adventure, nor did I think it was necessary to introduce a new Voldemort-like enemy. What the characters deal with outside of Delphi is more than enough to craft a great story, and frankly, the whole explanation about Voldemort’s daughter doesn’t make sense and leaves a lot of questions. The Voldemort era is over, and that chapter is best left untouched. Why not explore other conflicts within the wizarding world that are not Voldemort? Why not make this story more centered on the lives of the characters, and less so on this weird adventure with an implausible enemy? I would have found that a much more compelling and believable story.

Overall Thoughts

I love the Harry Potter books, and I’ll read anything JKR publishes. Plus, I’m sure seeing the play is an entirely new, breathtaking experience. The script is meant for the stage, so that does take away from your experience reading it, but the story is interesting enough to keep you turning the page. The play has its pros and cons, and I think if JKR had written this as a book, it might have answered a lot more of my questions and would have felt like a smoother transition (and an actual eighth story). Personally, the story feels a little like fan fiction, and it’s hard to consider it canon. Still, I wouldn’t say I don’t recommend reading it. If you’re curious about the new book, it is still worth picking up and reading it for yourself. Read it, enjoy it, but perhaps consider it something separate from the original seven. For me, Harry’s story ends at these words: “All was well.”

 

 

Severus Snape: The Best Character in Harry Potter

One of the characters that intrigued me the most throughout Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and perhaps throughout the entire series, is Severus Snape. Snape’s character is complicated, tragic, and beautiful, because he exemplifies exactly the type of self-sacrifice, bravery, and love that J.K. Rowling suggests is essential for community, essential for human existence, and essential for avoiding vice and lust for temporal things like power or wealth. Snape’s actions and decision to help protect Harry are motivated by a selfless love for Lily Potter, and are done without any sort of desire for reward or recognition. Snape’s actions are completely, utterly selfless. They go unnoticed, unrecognized, yet what keeps him committed is his deep, selfless love for Lily. The irony of his character is that he embodies selflessness, yet this selflessness was brought about in a tragic way, through the death of the only person he truly loved (and who may have loved him in return).

What is most intriguing about Snape is the way he views and approaches love. Snape’s actions are motivated by his love for Lily Potter, and he does genuinely care about her, although his deep love for her does not become apparent until Lily’s death. What makes Snape’s story so tragic is the fact that his desire to be loved and accepted, his desire to feel superior in some way, is exactly what turned him away from love. His redemption came at the loss of the one person he truly loved and by protecting the very boy who was a reminder that Lily chose another over Snape.

Snape was neglected by his parents, and attending Hogwarts gave him a chance to find a real home, a place for himself where he fit in and where he was not shunned. In an effort to be accepted and feel superior, he fraternized with the Slytherins who were enthralled with the Dark Arts (and who later became Death Eaters). However, this destroyed his friendship with Lily, who was the only person who truly was his friend. Although Snape had a good heart, his deepest flaw was his pride, his need to feel above others (to compensate for his feelings of neglect as a child). His desire to feel a sense of belonging is exactly what turned him away from his only chance at feeling a genuine sense of belonging and friendship. His pride ultimately led him away from his chance at truly feeling loved by his best friend, Lily. However, Lily’s death also led to Snape’s redemption. It was because of Lily’s death that Snape felt remorse, that he let go of his pride, of his need to feel superior (something he thought he would find by being a Death Eater). Snape’s true feelings for Lily, his true, sacrificial, selfless love for her came out only after she died, when Snape agreed to help Dumbledore protect Harry. It was when Snape decided to fully commit to helping Dumbledore by protecting Harry that his goodness, his true love for Lily, his selfless character, came out. Lily’s death, and consequently, Snape’s repentance, is what fully sets Snape apart from Voldemort, because it shows that Snape is fully capable of love, unlike Voldemort.

Snape’s love for Lily motivates him to continually put himself in grave danger in order to protect Harry and act as spy for Voldemort. Moreover, his actions go unrecognized by all except Dumbledore. Snape had nothing to gain from protecting Harry, a spitting image of James, yet Snape’s love for Lily transcended any kind of selfish desire he may have had when he was younger. Snape’s love for Lily, regardless of the fact that she did not return his feelings, was enough to drive him to do what was right, despite the danger to himself, despite the pain it might cause him. His decision to change sides and work with Dumbledore reflects his self-sacrificial nature; he is putting himself both in mortal danger and emotional pain, yet his love for Lily is what gets him through this.

It is not until Lily’s death that we realize Snape’s unfaltering love for her as the reason for his loyalty, and it is not until the end of the series that we realize just how deep Snape’s love for Lily was. During Harry’s final battle with Voldemort, he tells Voldemort, “Snape’s Patronus was a doe, the same as my mother’s, because he loved her for nearly all his life, from the time when they were children” (740). Although Snape in the end is seen as a virtuous, brave, selfless man, these characteristics may not have been apparent, may not even have come to fruition, if Lily had not been killed by Voldemort, causing Snape to experience remorse, to fully shed his prideful feelings. Snape embodies, in a very tragic way, the type of sacrificial love essential for keeping vice at bay, essential for developing virtue and living fully. He exemplifies the Christian values of self-sacrifice, of living for a greater purpose than the self. He embodies the Augustinian ideas of having correctly ordered desires and the Boethian ideas of not falling prey to earthly desires. While Snape may have had disordered desires prior to Lily’s death, during his years at Hogwarts and as a Death Eater, Lily’s death brought out his true character. In her death, we see that Snape does understand the very thing that leads one to fulfillment, the very things that Dumbledore believes is stronger than any kind of magic: love. Love motivated Snape’s actions, which ultimately helped bring down Voldemort.

The Death Eaters: A Kind of Community?

Finally, we’ve worked our way to Book 4!

From here on out, the plot thickens, and Voldemort’s defeat is more crucial than ever. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire marks a significant shift in the Harry Potter series. Books 3 and 4 in the series are sometimes referred to as “gateway books,” in that they shift from the light-hearted, children’s book to a much darker tone. In Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, the books come to a complete resolution at the end. Harry gets to the Stone and stops Voldemort; he rescues Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets and prevents Voldemort from returning. In Prisoner of Azkaban, the ending is not quite resolved, as readers are left wondering what becomes of Sirius, if the truth will ever come out, and whether Peter Pettigrew returned to Voldemort to be his servant. Additionally, Goblet of Fire marks a shift in focus. In the first three books, there is a clear significance placed on school events, such as Quidditch, exams, and classes. In Goblet of Fire, the characters begin to focus more on the bigger conflicts–of finding out how to defeat Voldemort and save the Wizarding community.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire also signifies a transition in the development of Harry. Harry, although still referred to as a boy in the novel, is clearly portrayed as an adolescent being exposed to more serious, adult issues. In Goblet of Fire, Harry witnesses death firsthand when Lord Voldemort murders Cedric Diggory. He is plagued with the question of who put his name into the Goblet of Fire, and why that person would want him harmed or killed. He is exposed and made aware, for the first time, of the corruption within the Ministry of Magic. One instance is the treatment of house-elves, particularly when Barty Crouch dismisses Winky after being found with Harry’s wand, even though he believes she did not conjure the Dark Mark. Another is when Cornelius Fudge and Dumbledore part ways, because Fudge refuses to believe that Voldemort has returned. Finally, corruption within the Ministry is shown during the graveyard scene after the final task, where many of the Death Eaters are also people associated with the Ministry. Harry is also aware of the looming presence of Voldemort, who returns, in the flesh, at the end of the novel. As Harry matures, he is introduced to a range of themes and plot lines that are much darker and more mature, and his connection with Lord Voldemort becomes much more pronounced.

Community in Goblet of Fire

One prominent theme in Goblet of Fire is that of community. The concept of community is particularly significant in this book because of the various types of communities introduced: the communities within each Wizarding school, the various Wizarding communities around the world (seen during the Quidditch World Cup), and the community of Death Eaters. Goblet of Fire presents a contrast of two different communities: Harry Potter and his friends, and Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters. While on the surface, it may appear that the Death Eaters are a community, comparing them to the community of Harry and his friends shows that the Death Eaters are a false community. False community, in this case, refers to a community formed through selfish, vicious motives; while a true community is a community formed on virtuous, selfless motives. Ultimately, a true community has the capacity to endure and flourish, while a false community inevitably falls apart. The differences between these two communities highlight several dominant ideas in the series, namely the relationship between good and evil. The false community of Death Eaters shows that evil is simply a perversion of what is good, and therefore, evil cannot exist without good–and ultimately, good prevails.

One thing I found intriguing in Goblet of Fire is how the Death Eaters are presented as a distorted version of a true, good community; the Death Eaters and Voldemort are a perverted version of Christ and His disciples. When Voldemort is returned to a full body and the Death Eaters are summoned by means of the Dark Mark, the Death Eaters each “fell to [their] knees, crawled toward Voldemort, and kissed the hem of his black robes” (647)*. This instance echoes the passage in Matthew 14:36, where the sick begged Christ “that they may touch if only the hem of His garment,” they would be healed. The Death Eaters prostrate themselves before Voldemort and kiss the hem of his robes, as a sign of reverence, that they may be welcomed back into Voldemort’s inner circle and good graces.  Their actions toward Voldemort are a grotesque version of the actions of the sick towards Christ in Matthew 14:36; the Death Eaters want to be “healed,” and re-accepted by Voldemort, by touching his garment, yet being accepted by Voldemort is the very opposite of healing, the very opposite of what is good.

This portrayal of evil as simply a perversion of what is good is also present in Dante’s Inferno, when Dante and Virgil reach the very pit of Hell. There, Satan is described as a three-headed beast, submerged in ice, and in the mouth of each head is Brutus, Cassius, and Judas, the betrayers of their kin, those who betrayed a special relationship. Satan’s description in Inferno is a perversion of the Trinity, with Satan having three heads, being three yet also one. Both portrayals of evil in Goblet of Fire and in the Inferno depict evil in this way to show one of the most fundamental distinctions between good and evil: evil is not a thing itself; rather, it is a privation of good. Both Rowling and Dante imply, through their portrayals of evil, that evil cannot stand on its own; it cannot exist without good. By portraying Voldemort and his Death Eaters as a distortion of what is truly good, Rowling shows that evil can only take that form; it can only take the form of a perverted version of the good. Evil is simply the absence of good; darkness is simply the absence of light. This depiction of Voldemort’s community shows the parasitic nature of evil and the transcendent, permanent nature of good.

Voldemort and his Death Eaters also highlight key differences between his distorted version of a community and a true community, such as Harry Potter and his friends, Dumbledore’s Army in Book 5, and the Order of the Phoenix. There is no love, there is no forgiveness, in Voldemort’s community of Death Eaters. The Death Eaters do not genuinely care for each other, and they fear Voldemort; they do not selflessly love him. Voldemort, instead of welcoming back his followers, demands, “Why did this band of wizards never come to the aid of their master, to whom their swore eternal loyalty?” (647). What binds the Death Eaters together is not love, but fear – fear of Voldemort, a selfish fear of what he might do to them. What binds Voldemort to his Death Eaters is not love, but a selfish love of power – his followers represent people he has conquered, people whom he can bend to his will – the Death Eaters are merely a symbol of the power he has already gained. Voldemort does not care for his Death Eaters; he treats them cruelly, just as cruelly as he treats his enemies (this was something Dumbledore stated in Sorcerer’s Stone, how Voldemort treated Quirrell cruelly, and makes almost no distinction in how he treats his enemies and friends). He uses the Cruciatus curse on Avery after Avery begs for Voldemort’s forgiveness. The Death Eaters and Voldemort are held together by selfish motives, and they are cruel and unforgiving to those who have not shown true loyalty, even though the loyalty is still a distorted version, a false version of loyalty – a loyalty stemming from selfishness, from selfish fear.

On the other hand, Harry Potter and his friends are forgiving of each other, and what binds them together is a love that is selfless and genuine. One instance that separates Harry from Voldemort is Harry’s reaction to Ron when he and Ron have their first fight after Harry is chosen to be a Hogwarts champion. After the first task, Ron goes up to Harry to apologize, “and suddenly [Harry] found he didn’t need to hear it” (358). Harry forgives Ron without question, without even a need for an apology. He is not vindictive towards Ron; he is forgiving and understanding, something Voldemort is not capable of. Voldemort is careless of Wormtail’s pain after Wormtail sacrificed his right hand to bring Voldemort back and treats Wormtail cruelly. He tells Wormtail, “You returned to me, not out of loyalty, but out of fear of your old friends. You deserve this pain, Wormtail” (649). While Harry can easily forgive and can show compassion, Voldemort seeks vengeance and does not forgive.

Rowling’s portrayal of the two different communities in Goblet of Fire–the community of Death Eaters and the community of Harry’s friends at Hogwarts–serves multiple functions. It shows the difference between a true community and a false version of community–true community is based in selfless motives, in genuine love and loyalty, while false community is the very opposite and stems from selfish motives, from selfish fear or lust of power. This contrast between communities also expands on some of the fundamental differences between Harry and Voldemort that were introduced in Sorcerer’s Stone–such as Harry’s willingness and ability to forgive and show compassion, and Harry’s selflessness and true loyalty. These two communities highlight a key difference between good and evil–good is permanent, transcendent, while evil depends on good. Evil cannot exist without good, as it is merely a privation of good. This demonstrates the superiority of good over evil, and the idea that good always triumphs over evil.

*All direct quotes taken from the Scholastic edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling.

Peter Pettigrew: Cowardice and Cupiditas in Harry Potter

In the Harry Potter series, an excessive love of self, otherwise known as cupiditas, has consistently been shown to be the root of vice. In Sorcerer’s Stone, readers are shown that Voldemort’s excessive self-love, and his lack of selfless love, or caritas, is what fundamentally distinguishes him from Harry. Voldemort’s evil is motivated by pride, defined by Dante as “excessive love of self perverted to hatred for one’s neighbor.” His love of self is what led to his moral depravity, to his desire to be above others and to be all-powerful. However, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling presents yet another consequence of having an excessive love of self, through the character of Peter Pettigrew. Pettigrew embodies cowardice, also motivated by self-love. Pettigrew’s character shows that self-love leads not only to moral depravity, but also to moral weakness; moral weakness is almost indistinguishable from moral depravity, if not worse. Pettigrew’s moral weakness, his cowardice, led to his decision to betray Lily and James Potter, an act that is, in this book, portrayed as something even worse than murder. The most depraved vices are very much a parallel to Dante’s order of vices in his Inferno, with the treacherous in the ninth circle, and the betrayers of one’s kin in the very bottom pit.

The character of Peter Pettigrew serves the very definition of cowardice in the Potter books. Pettigrew fails to act courageous in the face of danger, preferring simply to save himself. He is cowardly in that, not only does he choose to do wrong, but he chooses not to do good; he chooses not to act rightly, even when offered the chance, because doing so might mean putting himself in danger. Peter’s actions are motivated towards nothing but self-preservation. When Sirius and Remus confront him as to why he betrayed Lily and James Potter, Pettigrew defends himself by saying, “You don’t understand! He would have killed me, Sirius!”* As a boy in school, Pettigrew tagged along James Potter and Sirius Black because in those days, they were among the most popular and influential in the entire school. James and Sirius were intelligent and well-liked, and Pettigrew chose to befriend them simply so that he could share the limelight as well, so that he could have a bit of their popularity. Although he was initially a part of the Order of the Phoenix, when Voldemort began gaining power, Pettigrew’s loyalty changed. “He – he was taking over everywhere! Wh – What was there to be gained by refusing him?” Pettigrew tells Sirius and Remus in the Shrieking Shack. Pettigrew wanted some of Voldemort’s power, and he felt that by remaining with the Order, his chances of preserving his own life were slim. He chose to side with Voldemort simply because he believed that Voldemort was more powerful, and that by joining him, he might have more to gain. Pettigrew’s allegiance depends on what he stands to gain from that allegiance.

Part of what makes Pettigrew a cowardly character is that he never seems to stand for anything on his own; his beliefs change with the person he is serving. Although Pettigrew and Neville Longbottom have consistently been compared, Pettigrew never leaves the servant role, while Neville ultimately becomes a leader and a hero. Pettigrew is presumably not capable of the sort of leadership role that Neville assumes, because he never develops anything other than self-love. Pettigrew does not seem to make the distinction between fighting for what is good or for what is evil; his choice simply depends on which side offers the most personal gain. Conversely, Neville continues to fight against Voldemort during his seventh year at Hogwarts, even when the chances of defeating him appear remote. In Goblet of Fire, Pettigrew chooses to return to the Dark Lord not out of loyalty, but rather, out of fear. He fears the Dark Lord, and he fears that the Order might kill him as well, because he sold the Potters to Voldemort. Pettigrew possesses a selfish fear, a different sort of fear that virtuous characters, such as Harry, has often felt. Harry’s fear is not for his own survival; it is for the triumph of evil over good. In Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry fears the Stone falling into the wrong hands and Voldemort coming back to power. In Chamber of Secrets, Harry fears the death of Ginny Weasley, and the closing of Hogwarts because the Chamber has been opened. Harry’s fear is never for himself, while for Pettigrew, fear for himself is his only fear.

Pettigrew’s fear for himself, his singular desire for self-preservation, regardless of the cost, is what makes his betrayal of Lily and James Potter even more despicable.  He sold Lily and James to Voldemort not because he wanted to Voldemort to gain power, not because he wanted the Potters dead, but because he wanted to be in the good graces of Voldemort; he wanted a strong alliance with Voldemort because Voldemort looked like the winning side. Pettigrew really has no real conviction except when it comes to his own survival. His selfishness is the cause of his moral weakness, his willingness not only to commit a betrayal, but to continue to let evil acts happen. Moral weakness, in the Potter books, is equal to, if not worse than, the same moral depravity that Voldemort possesses. Pettigrew’s moral weakness, his excessive love of self, prevents him from ever acting rightly. Pettigrew is beyond repentance and redemption, because to repent for one’s transgressions is to separate one from oneself, to admit one’s wrongdoing. Repentance is an act of selflessness, and Pettigrew is incapable of that. One who commits evil is still capable of repentance and redemption; Snape exemplifies this, when he chose to become a spy for Dumbledore and help him protect Harry, after Voldemort murdered Lily. Snape, unlike Voldemort and Pettigrew, possesses a selfless love for Lily Potter. However, because Pettigrew lacks any sort of moral conviction, because his love is only for himself, he can never attain the same redemption as Snape.

In many ways, Peter Pettigrew can indeed be viewed as a Judas character, and his betrayal of the Potters is viewed by Harry as even worse than Voldemort’s actual murder. In the Inferno, Dante places those who betrayed their kin at the very bottom, the very pit – these include Brutus, Cassius, and Judas. Like Judas Iscariot, Pettigrew chose to betray his friends, the Potters, in exchange for personal gain, for personal glory. Both Judas and Pettigrew put themselves before others, at the expense of others. Both betrayed a special relationship; Judas with Jesus Christ, and Pettigrew with the Potters, and that kind of betrayal is viewed by portrayed in this book as the ultimate sin.

*All direct quotes are taken from the Scholastic edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling.