let's get the seven lines. (bookshop) wrote,
let's get the seven lines.
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Someone just linked me to this post about Malfoys as racist. I feel like responding. Albeit briefly because it is 5 am and I just woke up after sleeping for 10 hours. :((

Racism and Xenophobia are so closely related, in the primary sense that the otherness is related to issues of heredity and lineage, that to argue about racism versus other forms of prejudice in HP seems a moot point to me. I've never felt the need to argue the semantics of "mudblood" being, say, a classist rather than a racial epithet. Class is something you can change -- the Malfoys being aristocracy is important to their concept of what it means to be Pureblood, but Purebloods themselves are differentiated from Halfbloods and Muggles primarily by genotype. In the prejudice evinced by the Malfoys, you are dealing with a very ingrained, learned form of bigotry--specifically one with a social pattern that most closely seems to resemble social patterns of racism, passed down through generations of cultures and directed at people of different physiology rather than different lifestyles or cultures.

That said, the reason people like ataniell93 and other Slytherin sympathizers debate the semantics of "prejudice" versus "racism" is simple: to be "prejudiced" allows for a greater variety of interpretations and a greater likelihood of reading potential change into the behavior of the prejudiced person. One need only be as prejudiced, say, as Elizabeth Bennett, for a classic example, to change one's thinking. To be "racist" however, is to court most people's assumptions of what it means to be brutally unthinking, classically ignorant, and closed off to the idea of change. If one is a hardcore racist, one must, our society is taught, undergo a complete American History X-style immersion into a different set of principles and core beliefs.

To talk about Evil in connection with the Malfoys, the way JKR does so frequently in the interviews the writer of the aforementioned post quotes, is to push hard for that second version of events. Even more than the fact the conflicts of the wizarding world in Harry Potter are comparable to racial tensions across the globe, pushing the concept of the Malfoys as racist really plays into the reading which JKR constantly emphasizes of the books as a whole - that evil is specifically alotted to Slytherins and good allotted to Gryffindors no matter what, without exception. Metaphorically, her themes speak to a grey and morally muddy interpretation of the world; literally, we are repeatedly asked to accept things as good, funny, or endearing just because the Gryffindors do them, and nasty, cheap, and bad just because the Slytherins do them. JKR often doesn't seem to know what her books are saying as opposed to what they're supposed to be saying about injustice and bullying and the nature of evil.

I do think this dichotomy finally got a thorough, if incomplete, deconstruction in Book 6. I once wrote that "pinkocracy once said that you have to love a school that has a house for innately evil children. ...if Rowling wants to believe that an entire houseful of kids has nothing redeeming about them whatsoever, fine. Let her." It was so frustrating to me to wait it out for 5 books and see no change in that black/white view of Hogwarts and wizard society in general. Then came Book 6.

I don't think Book 6 was perfect. But I do think that it illustrated what I've come to think of as JKR's dual role as both the adult author of her books and the interpreter of them to children across the world. She tailors her interviews to kids--the ones in which she mocks Pansy Parkinson and calls the Malfoys racist--and then writes things that deliberately undermine them thematically; both to make her adults aware of the complexity of what she is dealing with and to give her younger readers familiar ground on which to guide them to a more mature reading of the books and the world they live in. Kids know Draco is be a bully. Kids know to associate "Mudblood" with the "N" word. These are the basic morals they live with every day. It's when you get older that you realize the bullies have shattered family lives and the N-word can be uttered by someone who is a saint in all other respects. It's in the final books that she is allowing her moral ground to give way to the complexity of interpretation, and the simple fact that her readers, like Harry, Ron, Hermione and company, are growing up.

I used to think we had to question JKR's moralistic platitudes and her insistence that the Malfoys were Evil, because she wasn't questioning them herself. Now I think when we question them we're doing just what she hopes we'll do. More power to ataniell93, and all the Slytherin supporters, apologistic or otherwise, for engaging us in the debate, and not stopping where the books seem to say that we should.

That said, I should add the disclaimer that I have always felt that Draco Malfoy is a racist little snot, and that the more we gloss this over as fans, the less we do justice to the most brilliant thing about him and his role in the series: his potential for redemption. ♥

______________

It's 6 am and I should probably sleep more. Bah. I hate Little 5 Weekend so much. World's greatest party weekend, my ass. All day yesterday people stood around on their lawns drinking and throwing balls into those little cardboard holes. Yeah. Some fun.

I read so much good Prince of Tennis fic this weekend, so much of it posted on my journal in drabble form from anonymice, Cim, Laura, Lindra, Ken, Ria, Sophie, and I don't know who else, that, like. I just haven't gotten a chance to respond to the sheer numbers of them all. I've literally never had so much drabbling on my journal in a 2-day period since I started livejournal.

I'm going to rec it all as soon as I can round it all up, but there is a possibility I will forget to review some of it because, oh my god overwhelmed. Let me just say now (though I know it's not a substitute for the feedback you all deserve) how grateful I am. I love this fandom so much. You guys just amaze and overwhelm me every day. And if I accidentally don't review any of the fics written this weekend, please know that I read, and I loved, and I am so glad you guys are sharing this fandom with me. It's incredible. Thank you.
Tags: draco, hp canon
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