Harry Potter and the Veil of Adulthood

Hello pals! So today is not a review of the Cursed Child, rather an essay! I might do a review in the future, maybe not. Enjoy.


A lot of people didn’t like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. A lot of people did, of course, like that glowing New York Times review. I personally did enjoy it, but here in this space I want to explore why I think many people did not.

The problem with Harry Potter is that people love it and grew up with it. Not typically something think would be problematic, but this is internet generation. The core series means a lot to a lot of different people and changing any of the expectations or preconceived notions is asking for trouble. This idea is strongest, and most prevalent, on the internet and in fandom.

In the gap between canon material (Pottermore notwithstanding) a strong community of “fanon” has grown to fill the vacuum. Here, people begin to head off on their own into the land of speculation— and that’s not a bad thing! Fandom is an incredible place that does an amazing job of fostering creativity and community building. But it can also color one’s view on the real facts of the canon. It’s possible to go so far that one forgets where they cam from at all.

With Harry Potter, things are amplified because of the strong emotional attachment to the source material. The characters that exist in fanon are different than the author’s creation, and everything that happens in fandom is inherently separate from canon even if it closely follows the original. An alternative to the expectations created through deep exploration is asking for conflict.

I would like to make this very clear: I’m not here to rag on fandom, or the internet, or whatever. I’m a big proponent of these things but it’s important to note that they do have their downsides.

Now, we live in the age of remakes, so this isn’t exactly new territory. The best recent example I can think of is Star Wars: the Force Awakens. This is a late addition to a property that is very near and dear to everyone’s hearts. They went the easy route: the basic plot was recycled from Star Wars: a New Hope with only some new elements.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a bit more ambitious. It sets off with the same characters but in a stage we’ve never seen them in before, and a plot that circles around elements we know but never becomes repetitive. Although it does this, I actually found it to be one of the most thematically consistent Harry Potter books. Like most of the series, family— born or chosen— plays a pivotal role in the plot. Certainly in terms of maturity it’s more at home with the first and second books, but instead of the darkness of evil the play gets its substance from somewhere else entirely.

One of my favorite parts of the play was that it treater our heroes as humans. Too often we fall into the trap of thinking our parents are superhuman, know everything, and are perfect. Again, this feeling is amplified because of fandom. We want Harry to be a great father, perhaps because of his own tortured upbringing. Yet this is utterly at odds with almost the entire series. Harry has always acted on his emotions, often to poor results, and has always had trouble communicating. This is the same person who brewed and advanced potion to spy on Draco Malfoy on a hunch. The same person who broke into the government with his friends based off a vision!

Finally, I must remind everyone that the Cursed Child is a play before it’s anything. Elements are inherently bare, just like any Shakespeare play. It’s meant to be performed; the world building is supposed to take place on the stage with actors to make real the words and “stage magic” to paint the world.

It’s not easy to see our fairytales grow up. We’re the ones who are supposed to do that, not the other way around. But it’s critical to see Harry and company as adults with real flaws and shortcomings. Maybe take this chance to see your own parents in this light— I know that as I’ve gotten older it’s been easier for me to do so. Remember, magic can’t help us communicate better.

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In Transition

I love flying. There’s not much about it I don’t like, despite the large conflicts towards that point. But airports are a place of transition; people moving from one place to another almost passively. In airports, our autonomy is taken away from us. We move through security surrounded by TSA signs that explain our personal belongings are subject to search at any time. We remove our shoes and step through scanners. Everything is expensive because we’re trapped essentially, often in the middle of some swamp on the city outskirts. Someone else tells us which line to stand in, when to board and when to exit. We don’t move ourselves place to place— the pilot does that.

A profound transitioning that each and every person performs passively.

But I find something comfortable in the vaguely gross airplane capsule. The safety of being in an enclosed space. More than anything, however, I just love flying. I’ve always harbored dreams where I have wings. Human love to love things we shouldn’t. Men weren’t born to fly but we made it happen anyway.

We transitioned from crawling things to walking beings to flying people with time.

Now is a time where my life is in transition. I move from one school to another to follow my passions and dreams; the rug of financial stability has been pulled out from under my family in the matter of weeks; I am met at the intersection of who I am and who I want to be. These are my personal transitions, but my country faces larger ones.

I love my country, my home. I do, despite it’s failings, contradictions, and demons. Home is always something I associate with positivity. But we have a decisive political campaign that has made me want to tear my hair out for months now and are faced with unimaginable tragedy again and again and again. Orlando is something that struct so close to home, when my own sister, my wonderful sister who I could not live without, could have easily been a victim. Yet my first reaction was… nothing. An acceptance that has gradually changed to something more. Anger is something that comes slowly to me, but today I am angry. These abstract thoughts come easily.

I would like to fly away, I think. Go somewhere else, maybe to someplace where things are simpler and better, although where that is I cannot say. Or maybe I will fly off into the blue sky like a modern Icarus. Or maybe I will do nothing.

My One-Woman Battle to Fact Check the Internet

It may seem hypocritical, considering just yesterday I told my mom I wasn’t going to do anything about a problem I have because “I don’t want to cause trouble,” but I’m generally not super concerned with pissing people off. Even people I like. What I mean by that is that I will certainly correct someone if they’re wrong, or try to force them to think more critically about something. I will publicly call you out if you’re doing it on the internet, too. I’m sure this makes me come off as an insufferable know-it-all.

Recently, it feels like my social media feed is an endless stream of  my personal mission to correct the internet. Fruitlessly, for sure, but I can’t seem to help myself. I just can’t stand by anymore and let blatant ignorance go.

I may be just 18, but I’ve spent at least 6 years as an active member of the internet community. I’ve reached old-lady status. And man am I a grumpy old lady. The me of years past would likely stay quiet, and sometimes I do, but nothing gets me more riled up than spreading false or biased information to people who (should but) don’t know better. I realize this is a strange and impossible cause to have, especially because I’m not exactly the activist type.

(The other day I sent a text saying “I can’t wait for the primary to be over so I can be FREE!”)

But the truth it, I think being measured on the internet is so important. Too important to let it go. How we retain and process information affects our worldview, and this sometimes lead to sides that are “right and “wrong.” The only “correct” way to view the world is complexly. More often than not, things are much more complicated than we are led to believe. The way to combat this is through developmental critical thinking. That’s something the internet needs more of.


Hey! Want to read other things I write? Like big long essays and critical analyses? Check out my Medium page, then. Thanks!

Belonging

It’s part of human nature to want to belong. Even the people who stand out and don’t give a fuck about who and what or anything want to find a person who understand them. A common tribe. Some people don’t really notice this but are drawn to do certain things or go certain places by some otherworldly force. Other people call them safe-places or happy places.

One of the hardest things for me about living in Philadelphia is that I distinctly feels as though I don’t belong here. There are very few comfortable places for me to be. My room, clearly, but also perhaps the tech center, where I do all of my writing. But does that count is I spend the entire time plugged in, ignoring the rest of the world even exists?

Then the other day I went into the art building, where I have one class, for the first time. I felt a strange longing being in there, that my life was suddenly missing an essential part I didn’t even notice before. It’s strange, unsettling. Especially in a time in life where I am trying to make big, life changing decisions. Maybe it’s something I should pay attention to, but maybe it’s also just an unnecessary complication.

Does a sense of belonging develop over time, or is it a feeling you just get, that you just know?

It’s Not Too Late to Apologize/You Don’t Need to Apologize

This is a tiny essay about apologizing and duality. It comes, appropriately, in two parts.

PART 1

Today, I want you to apologize to someone you treated like shit, or did wrong from your past and didn’t deserve it. No matter how long ago it was, it’s not too late to say you’re sorry. It’s not too late to apologize. Maybe that person, whoever they are, won’t accept your apology. Maybe you really hurt them, cut really deep, and changed them in an irrevocable way they cannot forgive. Accept that. That’s ok, too. An apology is ultimately a tool a person can use to repair themselves with.

PART 2

Never apologize for something that wasn’t your fault. Even if someone you care about blames you or is making themselves the victim falsely, don’t apologize. Own up to the things you fucked up, but never shoulder the blame for something you did not do. It is abusive behavior for someone to blame you for the things that you are feeling. It’s got a term and everything– gaslighting.

You Can’t Have it Both Ways

The way I see it, free speech is a lot like the Electoral College. It’s a big, fundamental part of our country that smart people like the Founders figured we were better off having. But also sometimes it gets in the way of thing we want. Some people say nasty things. Donald Trump says terrible things, Milo Yiannopoulos says some terrible things, the Westboro Baptist Church says some terrible things. No one feels bad, really, about telling them to shut up. But here’s the catch– we have to let them say whatever they want. If we don’t, it undermines one of the most important institutions in the world.

You can’t have it both ways.

If you support Bernie Sanders in the presidential election (good chance, if you spend a lot of time on the internet), you probably have gotten upset over the delegation news from New Hampshire. Sanders and Clinton will likely tie, because most of the superdelegates are supporting Clinton. However, this isn’t totally set in stone, because superdelegates (which are complicated and I would not do a good job of explaining them) can do pretty much whatever they want in the end.

People got toasty over this.

Even though the Republican party has less superdelegates than the Democrats, they still have them. And this is the system that makes it pretty impossible for Donald Trump or maybe even Ted Cruz to come President. Also, it’s totally false to say the political system is corrupt because of this (it’s corrupt in other places though; if you’re going to criticize, do it right). Politics in America have literally always worked this way, since the very beginning, and actually used to be much worse in terms of party control. As they should? But the nuances of a two party system are exhausting and don’t make sense anyways.

What I mean here– is that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t support a system one minute then turn around and hate it because it suddenly interferes with your personal wants and wishes.

Satire

Sat-ire (noun): the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.

I think the “political correctness” movement is all good and swell, but if there’s one thing I think it’s taken away from us is the ability to understand satire. Specifically written satire. After all, it is the internet, where people can say whatever they want, with only the fear of retribution coming from an internet mob (but I personally find those pretty scary– giving away personal information of your enemies? Really?).

Young people especially understand shows like the Colbert Report– where Stephen Colbert takes the form of an exaggerated conservative persona to poke fun at Republicans. Those images were constant for me growing up.

However, more recently I’ve noticed the worrying trend of one of two things: people not understanding jokes (or satire), or people using comedy as a poor excuse to be insulting. I do think mainstream comedians get a little too much flack from college students, but on the other hand, sometimes comedians do take things too far. It’s not a crime to be angry and to expect decent standards of humanity. However, I am definitely in the camp of “comedy can help us get over tragedy.” So there’s the obvious comedic efforts, but what about when people are serious but say they’re joking when there’s an uproar?

Remember that “Dear Fat People” video? From that Youtube comedian whose name I can’t remember and don’t care to look up? That video was just plain insulting, and it’s an insult to real comedians to try to pass that piece of trash off as jokes. Hiding behind a retroactive statement like “it was satire” illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the, you know, genuine literary form.

Take that stupid article “50 Ways to be the Perfect College Girlfriend.” It made the rounds of my Facebook friends a few days ago, and made some people really toasty. I’m almost positive it wasn’t intended as satire (intention matters here) and it was published on a frat website. But somewhere in the comments (don’t ask why I was reading internet comments) some poor soul said it was “clearly” satire.

And that—

That makes me so mad. No, it’s not, because by nature, satire is obvious. Voltaire’s Candide is satire, Jonathan Swift’s essay on eating poor people is satire. Fifty disgusting expectations for women is not satire (except for the one that tells women to “have an attraction mother” because??? sure, ok). Satire is supposed to be an exaggeration. If people don’t know it’s satire, then it’s either bad or just insulting, which is kind of the same thing.

Sorry, New Hampshire is NOT the Alabama of the North

portsmouth-harbor-view

(Obligatory disclaimer: I have never been to Alabama. Maybe it’s nice there, I don’t really know. But it makes a good stereotype.)


 

The New Hampshire primary was yesterday. Leading up to the event, there were a lot of articles on the state from various content sites. They talked about the “spirit” of the state or whatever, and reporters from a few of my favorite sources took pictures of small New Hampshire towns. Places way up there where around five people live year-round (not an exaggeration, places like this really exist, especially in Maine).

I was kind of taken aback by these articles. Most of them painted New Hampshire as some sort of “Alabama of the North.” The last refuge of Conservatism in the Northeast (but upstate New York certainly fits the label better). The Alabama of the North comment came from one of my professors last semester, who lived in Worcester for a few years, as if he knows. But I grew up less than 2,000 feet from New Hampshire. I know what it’s about.

New Hampshire is a conservative state… kind of. It’s New England conservatism. It leans more Libertarian than anything, a group of people who would rather be left alone than scream about anything. There are more Bible-pushing, anti-abortion maniacs within spitting distance anywhere in the South than in the whole state. Like just about every other place in New England, the majority of the population lives in the lower third of the state (for New Hampshire, this is Manchester and below), and that group is mostly liberal.

I will say that New Hampshire is the place where you can do anything. Fireworks? Yep. Adults still don’t need to wear a seatbelt, though there’s a handsfree law. Live free or die.

Up North things do get pretty scarce. In some places there is really shocking poverty. My dad spent high school in a town just North of Concord (the state capitol, which is not very north at all, but there’s not too many people in the White Mountains), Boscawen, where most of his graduating class didn’t go to college. Most of the kids didn’t graduate at all. Most of the state is either a state park or rural, blue collar towns, where all the conservatism comes from. But still, there’s just not enough people to outweigh the liberal south.

It gets compared to Vermont a lot, New Hampshire’s hippie little sister (which used to be the most conservative state in the country, until Evangelists took over the party). I personally don’t like Vermont– they don’t have Market Basket there, which I just don’t trust. Both states have a lot of old white people who just want to sit around the campfire and sign songs (my mother, New Hampshire native and member of the most liberal family on Earth).

What I’m trying to say here is that conservative is not the word I would use for New Hampshire. Case and point, all though Donald Trump may have won the primary, John Kasich came in second, beating Ted Cruz by 4 points. CNN ran an article this morning with the title “Who Is John Kasich?” I knew who he was, because my conservative friends on Facebook have been on about this guy for months. New Hampshire is a state about conservative reason. Republicans from New England don’t behave like the Ted Cruz’s of the world. Susan Collins (R), senior Senator from Maine would never (our junior Senator is another old white guy, Angus King (I). I love them both).

I’ve been trying to get people to think differently about Maine and New Hampshire for months now. Content sites, don’t ruin it for me now.

The Enigma of Megyn Kelly

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In light of the most recent Republican debate, which without Trump turned out to be the most productive and substantial of all, I read an article about Megyn Kelly. I never watch the debates, even the Democratic ones, for the reason that I refuse to participate in the blatant media circus. Especially when it concerns Donald Trump. I don’t need to write about him, right? Good. I’m not going to.

Megyn Kelly is an interesting figure to me. Even as a Fox News host, she maintains a level of integrity which is just unprecedented in that world (she stills has her moments though, like the whole “black santa” debacle). But quite frankly, I think the world would be better with a few more people like her around.

She’s composed. Everyone’s seen the clips of Bill O’Reilly screaming at the guests on his show. This was especially apparent at the debate last night, where Kelly looked sharp and had sharp question. Also she looked, well, like a boss. She challenged the candidates and stayed calm in the face of Ted Cruz’s pretty amazing debate skills (he may not be likable, but that man can sure debate his ass off). Megyn Kelly kicked ass and I was happy to see her do it. Which is crazy! She’s a tool of the propaganda machine Fox News!

Youtube commenters were not. Doing research for this post I watched clips of the debate, particularly the parts where she demolished Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio on their immigration policies (which, as Salon says, mirrored Daily Show tactics). Pretty much all the comments were trumpeting Trump or calling Kelly a bitch. What is it like, you ask, to have to read through this drivel? Like pulling teeth, I would say.

But Megyn Kelly is not “very biased” as Trump says. She’s the best Fox News has. Well, journalistically speaking.

Speak When Not Spoken To

The Importance of Participation
(And as much as I hate to admit it, group projects)

In a job environment, if you don’t speak up about your ideas, you don’t have them. In (most) job environments, every project is a group project. “Real life” is inherently participatory. It would be the utmost shame of the education system to not prepare students for this inevitaHermioneHandUpbility.

I think about this because I saw a post on Tumblr (insert sigh) about how teachers/professors should not grade participation. About how this user was so frustrated that their grade was dropped because they did not speak in class even though they did good work. About how educators should always facilitate persons with anxiety.

I am sympathetic with this cause– I had/have anxiety myself and used to dread public speaking. And of course, neurodivergents should be facilitated… to a point. What do I mean by that? Well, at least at the institution I attend, there is a disability policy, the kind of thing every professor has to put on their syllabus. There is a disability office and students can go there and have them contact professors on behalf of them and their needs (what qualifies for this is unclear– I think it’s intentionally left vague). Ok, that makes sense.

But a blanket statement like “you should not grade participation ever” is absurd. The world simply does not work that way. There should be room for all sorts of needs in the classroom, but quite simply certain needs cannot be met for someone who keeps them close to their chest. Maybe I will catch some flack for this, but if a person’s anxiety is not severe enough for professionals to say adjustments must be made, then they deserve the poor participation grade. Unless their is a serious disorder involved, and I hesitate to use this phrase but it is the only fitting one, suck it up like the rest of them. Or else the kids who just want to sail through a class period, be a waste of a seat, will be able to succeed alongside the people who work hard.  

Now, group projects. I hate them. Everyone hates them. And it hurts me to say that they are importance. Especially in a world where the farthest reaches are connected by the internet, everything is collaborative. Even crowdfunding can be considered a type of “group project.” Yes, it is always painful for your grade to be defined by the moron sitting next to you in an introductory class. But again, this is needed practice for adulthood.

The alternative is to hide away from everything, but what is the point of that?