Matthew Wrather hosts with Peter Fenzel and Mark Lee, promising to overthink Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and getting around to it eventually. Digressions into the nature of magic, determinism in plot (again), and Civilization (the game).[audio:http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.libsyn.com/mwrather/otip125.mp3]
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Bottom is a weaver, and he’s the forest with friends to rehearse a play for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding.
And in case you were wondering, Bottom’s speech at the end is supposed to be a joke because Bottom’s dream has no bottom. Yes, it’s a rude joke. Ha ha.
However, when translated to Spanish, (and for purposes of this comment back to English) Bottom is called The Weaver, and in his final speech it goes “It shall be a called The Weaver’s dream because it is a weave of dreams.”
which kinda goes with Pete’s conclusion on his bit about diachronic words.
Did anyone else have a major deja-vu moment at the beginning of this podcast? I know Pete has brought up Duchovny and Love Potion #9 before.
My HP experience: I got the first 4 books as a box set for Christmas, read them all and then continued to read each book as it came out although I really dislike book 5 and I think books 6-7 are not much better. Similarly, I know I’m kind of along on this but I like movies 1 and 3 and I dislike the new ones, especially 5 and 6. I hate the dark lighting, blue and gray filters, decision to cut key plot points and dwell on meaningless scenes, and lack of dramatic buildup. I’ll continue to see the movies but I’m not planning on going to the theaters and haven’t since book 2 or 3. I don’t think it’s ever appealed to me that much but it just became something I did. Once I read a book I never picked it up again, never gave it too much thought.
Yeah, I almost certainly have — although it was probably a while ago. It’s just that good. So, thanks very much for being a long-time listener :-) !!!
To further elaborate on the methods of the MPAA, it’s more like this:
Horrific, brutal depictions of violence: A-OK! Sexually explicit material: Not so much. Vaguely sexually explicit material of a homosexual nature: Forget about it! That’s not to say that the MPAA can’t make delineations of sexual material, but compared to other things it really doesn’t make much sense a lot of the time. Then there’s the greatest horror of all; smoking!
Well, nobody ever said the world isn’t a stupid place.
Also, tricks are something whores do for money… or cocaine.
I can’t really add anything else, as my extent of knowledge on Harry Potter is reading about the ending of the final book on Wikipedia out of minor curiosity.
Yeah, that’s how I read about the ending too. I was really surprised at the nefarious role played by the nation of Israel at the end of Deathly Hallows. You wouldn’t think J.K. Rowling would put that in there, but I guess you can’t argue with facts.
1) Our saving throw is usually intercepted, but this year the interception was pre-empted by an interference call, only for a subsequent interference call to pre-empt our second and final saving throw.
2) Re: Midi-chlorians, as I’ve mentioned in prior comment threads here, my beef with them is not that they diminish the meaning of the Force by explicating it. Instead, my beef is that midi-chlorians are a thinly veiled intellectual theft from Madeleine L’Engle, whose novel A Wind in the Door prominently features (fictitious) symbiotic creatures known as farandolae which inhabit people’s mitochondria (which evolved, according to the prevailing theory among actual biologists, as symbiotic prokaryotes providing energy to a host eukaryote) and serve a similar function to midi-chlorians as providers of a sort of life-force. So explicating the Force that way aggravates me not as a general reader, but partly as a biologist, and mostly as a fan of Madeleine L’Engle.
3) More broadly, I imagine you’re all familiar with Arthur C. Clarke’s quotation, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” You’re right that the literary benefit of these magical, unexplained technologies is to allow greater flexibility in character development, as 1) the author doesn’t really need to waste pages of text describing, say, the mechanics of Warp drive; and 2) there’s no need to develop an internal logic around the technology and apply it to the rest of the story. Most science fiction authors and readers don’t primarily care about the technology; they care more about what the technology allows us to say about human nature. (Or cyborg nature. Let’s not be anthroponormative here.)
Now, maybe it’s because I’m a scientist, but I disagree with the notion that it is always bad for an author to provide additional details about an incompletely-understood technology or phenomenon. Feynman had an argument with an artist friend who told him that scientists can’t appreciate the beauty in a flower because they just take it apart; Feynman responded that a careful scientist will find beauty in the inner organization and biology of the flower, while still being able to appreciate the beauty of the whole thing. (This distinction between deconstruction and destruction is an occasional source of disagreement with my musician girlfriend, who thinks my analytical tendencies somehow keep me from fully appreciating a musical performance in the present.)
With regard to science fiction, I believe it should be possible to add the occasional detail of technical explication without ruining the entire book/movie/play/etc. It might take careful writing and editing to make sure you’re not spending a wholly disproportionate amount of the audience’s time; but it is possible. I mean, midi-chlorians are actually one such example. I don’t think their suckitude is because they take away some mystery from the Force – after all, there remain the questions about what makes the midi-chlorians tick, and how they interact to produce the Force; it’s still mysterious and magical. And that’s fine. Just like in actual science, an answer to one question will lead to even more questions. As I said above, the problem with midi-chlorians isn’t that they’re irrelevant minutiae, it’s that they’re wholly unoriginal. I mean, if Lucas cared about keeping biologists and sci-fi fans happy, he could just have called them “mitochondria” and offered L’Engle a lot of money.
But then maybe my balance of interest between human dynamics and technical details is kind of skewed compared to most folks’.
As a post-script: Clarke tended not to bother explaining the technologies in his own science fiction, perhaps for the literary reasons that you guys identify, or perhaps because he realized his own limits as a rather-capable engineer: “if I can understand how it works well enough to describe it, then some human must have invented it already in real life.” This, I think, would be an equally valid reason to choose to omit technical details.
I hate to offer pointless well actuallies, (or do I?) but dot C O dot U K? That was really weird… it’s dot co, as in com as in company, but we inexplicably abbreviate at that level (so we can be unique).
As for the politics of Harry Potter, I don’t think it’s as conservative as you suggest – the real aristocracy are the Purebloods and those who believe in bloodlines – magic, more like talent, can appear randomishly, so this is more of a modern conservative tale of enterprise being put to good use. In terms of what Rowling herself has said, she hates the bureaucracy of modern Britain – the problem with the ministry is its focus on procedure instead of doing what’s right. And the roles the team take in the ministry at the end, especially in reforming it, suggests she’s pro-democratic but anti-interventionist and nanny state.
Oh, man, a Harry Potter podcast, and I wasn’t invited? ;)
Well, ACTUALLY… Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branaugh got divorced a long time ago. He cheated on her with Helena Bonham Carter (who also happens to be in the Harry Potter movies). Emma ended up marrying the guy that played Willoughby in her screen version of Sense and Sensibility. Yay celebrity gossip.
It was “bogie” in the American books, and the jelly bean was the same. I tasted it once. Ew.
I’d say Timothy’s interpretation of the politics of the Harry Potter series is pretty spot-on. But I’d add that her discomfort with government institutions also comes when the wrong regimes find power. The anti-Voldemort precautions taken by the Ministry of Magic, both before and after his people get key positions, are reminiscent of WWI and WWII propaganda and campaigns, and the post-takeover part is especially reminiscent of Macarthyism in its anti-muggle campaigns. Now, as I said on the Open Thread, I don’t know how much of that was intended by Rowling versus how much I’m reading into it, so to speak, via my American lens. But she definitely makes a point to poo poo things like racism and bigotry with epithets (“mudblood”) and the whole purity-of-bloodlines.
Muggle, by the way, is in the OED.
I see more Nazi-ism than McCarthyism, with Fudge fitting in for Chamberlain, but this is of course complicated by the implication that Grindelwald was the wizard behind the Nazis…
One could also say it’s vaguely Orwellian, too. Maybe even a little more than vague…
As with the magical details, Rowling seems to draw from a lot of sources. I just saw the film today, and yes, it was kind of brilliant. Much better than 5 and 6 and I’m still debating whether or not I like it better than 1 and 3, which are my favorites. Anyway, I got an almost equal parts mixing of 1984, McCarthyism, and Nazism. I don’t think it’s meant to be a comment on any one period of time but a skewering of such beliefs and practices in general. Oh, and did anyone else who saw the film love the animated story of the Deathly Hallows? This is the first of the films in a while that’s made me really care about the characters again. Especially the end. I teared up a little.
Heh, I responded to Timothy before seeing yours- on the same page about 1984. Sweet.
I thought the cartoon thing was fantastic, too, and it worked pretty well. I had been curious as to how they’d pull that part off. I rather liked how it still fit with the ton of the rest of the movie- rather dark.
Invoking Godwin’s law here.
As I haven’t read the book since I was like twelvesomething and haven’t seen the films, I reserve myself for probably going on thin ice. At the time when I read the books, I actually stopped reading for a second and though “oh, JK Rowling reaaaaally must hate nobility”. I think it was not just the actual presence of a real wizard nobility as the fusion of 19th century upperclass and a hint of fascism. I mean, Pure bloodlines are/where important issues for both, and if not nazism but fascism and reactionary elements where not uncommon among the blue bloods.
Overthinking all this, I will add that the death Eaters are really just a mashup of the Brownshirts/SS and modern day neo-nazis, going from being a public organization under the reign of Voldemort and later going into hiding to avoid punishment for their crimes. I mean, they even got their own Nurnberg trial where half of the people involved claimed they just followed orders. just like in the real Nurnberg trials.
Maybe I should write an article about this…
Sorry for the late post, didn’t get a chance to listen until yesterday but I had to answer my top 3 favorite ‘magic’ moments in popular culture:
1) Previously mentioned Force in Star Wars
2) Opening the Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark
3) Matrix of Leadership in Transformers: The Movie
I’m a bit late in listening to the podcast, but it was Harry Potter, so I had to. It’s the law. Well, my law.
I need to “Well, ACTUALLY” you guys and explain the magic that protected Harry at his Aunt & Uncle’s house for 17 years (well, 16 actually, his parents died when he was 1).
It wasn’t his parents love that protected him. It was his mother’s love only. **SPOILER** Voldemort was not planning on killing Lily Potter, he was going to let her survive. Voldemort only planned to kill James and Harry that night. He killed James right off the bat. He probably enjoyed it. Then Lily jumped in front of Harry to protect him and pled with VOldemort to kill her instead of Harry. Voldemort actually argued with her and told her that she would live if she just got out of the way. But she didn’t, so he killed her then tried to kill Harry. Because of her sacrifice, Harry was protected while in his Aunt’s custody (His Aunt Petunia is Lily’s sister).
Which brings me to another point… I wish you all had read the books!!!! It is rather impossible to overthink something you’ve never experienced… if you try, that’s called BSing ;-)
Of course the discussion was quite interesting… but you all probably would’ve stayed on topic more if you’d read all the books and seen the movies! Tsk tsk.
I have read the entire series. The British editions. I think I mentioned that on the show. I wouldn’t call myself an expert or anything.
But I would like to point out that talking about things well outside our area of expertise or experience has long been a staple of the Overthinking It podcast. You call it BS, I call it a gentleman’s B+.
You did mention that you’ve read the whole series and see the movies, sorry for neglecting to mention that.
And I do like the gentleman’s B+ :)
I don’t mean to be mean to Heather, but this made me think of the powerful Well Actually spell being fired by her but then being reflected back by Wrather’s magical protection and hitting her instead. Did we just do Potter/OTI crossover fic?
HAH! Kinda love it. I’m a lawyer and, much like Hermione, sometimes I am blinded by logic and particulars. ;)
I think I just died and went to Heaven.
And a slight clarification: That protection was null once he came of age. And, further, it wouldn’t have lasted had she rejected him the night his parents died, nor if she ever subsequently rejected him from her household (and thus family- as you said, the familial tie is the key). Hence the Howler in book what… Five? And that protection also kept her own family (meaning husband and child) safe from Voldy, too, right? It has been a while since I read them, I apologize if I’m remembering incorrectly…
You’re most definitely correct…
It’s funny, all the other magic in the Potter books makes “sense” to me, but this spell seems hardest to grasp… probably because no one knowingly cast it… do we have a case of divine intervention in the Potter world here?
Seems like it. Especially since it feels, to me at least, inspired by a similar “giving your life for someone you love is even more magical than magic” episode in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which in turn is obviously and specifically inspired by Jesus.
AND, the magic involved is described as “old magic” in both books- the baddies in both instances say it’s old magic they “should have been aware of” or somesuch.
And with regards to stuff making sense… The paintings. If they take on the personalities of the those depicted in them, dead or alive, you’d think there would be a lot of people obsessing over paintings of dead loved ones in the wizarding world. It was a cool plot device, but after sitting and mulling it over a few years later, the potential psychological trauma something like that could involve is mind-boggling to me. A parallel within the series itself is the Mirror of Erised- it’s made very clear how dangerous that mirror is, and the reflections in it don’t even talk like a painting could.
Lily is indeed painted as a near perfect person in the books, nearly everyone else shows some sort of flaw.
I, too, have been a bit befuddled as to why a person’s essence exists in the paintings and why they were able to advise on situations that occur after their death. Like Dumbledore advised Snape after his death yet went on. And why did these only occur with paintings, why not photographs? It is a wonderful plot devise, and perhaps a wizard is able to infuse some of his/her soul into a painting, but you know, that is called a horcrux… however, the wizard did not kill, nor is there any evidence that they can infuse themselves into anything, like a new body similar to old voldy.