Episode 159: Talking out of My Expelliarmus

The Overthinkers tackle the final Harry Potter film.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, Josh McNeil, and special guest Randal Schwartz to overthink Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Don’t worry—this time we have seen the movie and actually discuss it.


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23 Comments on “Episode 159: Talking out of My Expelliarmus”

  1. Monzenn #

    You’ve seen it? But you do the best commentary on films you haven’t seen! Aww… Time to give it a listen then…

    Off-topic: Methinks Fenzel should now update his “Why I Left Facebook” post and do a “Why I Will Join/Won’t Join/Have Joined/ Google+ and Liked/Loved/Exalted/Abhorred It” (or maybe a “Why I Don’t Give a Damn About Google+,” if that’s what floats his boat).

    Maybe talk about the mechanics and psychology of immigration/emigration, social group dynamics, or even cults?

    BTW, did I do the + and the , in Google+” right?


    • fenzel #

      Haha, you know I’m in Google+, you’re in one of my circles.

      The main reason I joined Google+ is that the thing I missed most about Facebook is sharing pictures with my family.

      By adding my family as a separate circle on Google+, I can share photo albums with them on a social media platform.

      It helps that I also get to keep my improv friends and coworkers separate, and Google+ doesn’t look like it will automatically do anything to make my posts to my friends or family visible to my coworkers, which Facebook was opting me into.

      Of course, if Google+ starts messing around as badly as Facebook did, I’ll leave them too, but I’m giving them a chance for now.

      Are there still those pickup basketball games going on this summer? It’s been too long.


      • Timothy J Swann #

        You might want to have a look at the photo rules, it basically gives Google unlimited commercial use of them (it seems), which maybe isn’t so bad if it’s your holiday photos, but it certainly wasn’t publicised.


        • fenzel #

          This looked concernings, I looked it up. Not that this excuses it, but this kind of legal language is common on image sharing sites, from Facebook to Twitpic to Picasa. If somebody sees a picture I post and reshares it, and Google posts it again to that person’s circles, I can’t sue them for violating my intellectual property rights, because as part of the terms of service I signed over to them a legal right to use the image in accordance with the delivery of the service. Even imgur gives itself permission to repost your images to its main gallery for promotion if your images get popular. If I didn’t sign them over rights to re-use my photos to these sites, they couldn’t repost them, and I’d have to sign over the rights one by one.

          Professional photographers seem to think that the only reason this should bother you is if you promised a client you would sell them exclusive rights to an image, and you can’t do that if you have given Google limited rights to it by posting it to Google+. But Google doesn’t own the copyright to images you post to Google+, just the rights to use them in accordance with the service. I wouldn’t put it past them to put a user photo into a commercial or something like that, but this seems more like a defensive move to let them do everyday business than an offensive one. But I’m not a professional photographer.


          • Timothy J Swann #

            It was certainly causing concern to a comic book artist I know.

      • Gab #

        Having been on FB for so bloody long (since its first few months), I’m probably way too used to its format. The Google+ method has been making my brain hurt. But I see the benefits, such as, like you said, making different groups separate (and not equal). I just wonder if the model will be strong enough to overcome FB’s- I know I’m not computer savvy or anything, but I think that’s one of the reasons FB has been so successful: dumbs like me can do it (almost literally) in their sleep. But I’m getting off-topic, as per usual…

        ANYhoo, do you see yourself being even more selective in the people you put in your circles? I mean, if your main purpose in joining was sharing pictures with family, will your list of people getting anything from you at all consist mostly of family members? I’m asking because I wonder how differently people will approach this from how they have/did FB. I mean, since I’m about to teach an undergrad class, I’ve totally changed my privacy settings so my students can’t find me, and I think I’ll prolly still be more mindful of my posts until I’m done- something I wouldn’t have to do on Google+, I could make a specific feed for students or whatever. Bah, going off-topic again. POINT: You don’t have to be careful about WHAT you post on Google+ so much as who gets to see it. I suppose there is potential for repeats of Weinergate, there…

        I haven’t listened to this podcast yet, but I know I’d be interested in hearing Google+ discussed on one. Or did you already do that and I just forgot? It’s late, and I’m too tired to listen at the moment, sorry.


      • Monzenn #

        Now YOU’RE in one of my circles.

        Google won’t probably mess around as much as Facebook did. It already holds much of the world’s information, making it suspicious already. Imagine the massive drop in popularity it would receive if a privacy issue hits one of its services… *cough* Google Buzz *cough*


  2. Ryan #

    I’m curious as to why no one (besides Slytherins) decided to sacrifice Harry to save the everyone in the school. The intense fear that the students supposedly felt when Voldemort relayed his threats should have been strong enough to influence some other students to try to save themselves, and it seems that a responsible teacher would have been willing to sacrifice Harry in order to prevent the deaths of George, Colin Creevy, etc.

    Rather than just accept that the way the students behaved was unrealistic, I’d like to justify it on some level, but I’m having a hard time doing so. Does anyone have any ideas?


    • Leigh #

      Maybe the Cult of Harry Potter? Everyone in the school knows who he is and what he has done. Many of his adventures have been in the service of the school. Even those who didn’t really care for Harry surely noticed his absence – the scenes of marching implied that Hogwart’s under Snape was even worse than Hogwart’s under Umbridge. Harry’s dramatic entrance, his open defiance of authority, and his leader-grade confidence galvanized the students into support.

      What actually shocked me was that all Slytherins seemed automatically against Harry, and that McGonagall took unilateral action against Slytherin as a whole. Were none of them loyal to school? If being a member of Slytherin automatically makes you a dark/evil wizard, wouldn’t they have been booted out of the school a long time ago?


  3. Timothy J Swann #

    Thanks for talking about my stuff. I stupidly forgot that David Yates directed both State of Play (the series) and Harry Potter 5-7B.

    I’m not sure I agree with the good=socialable bit – Harry is a properly neglected and abused child, Ron is a child lost amongst his siblings. Other heroes include Luna, who is completely ignored for her weirdness, Neville, who is the butt of jokes. The whole school turns against Harry and any who believe in him, thanks to the state propaganda blasted at their parents and they themselves. If it wasn’t so pro-state, I’d compare it to our Daily Mail. Look it up. Be glad you don’t have significant tabloids. Dumbledore is an outsider, but a respected one.

    Josh’s point about the rest not being especially well-formed or important is a good one, I guess it’d be interesting to consider the in-universe reasons for what occurs, my first one being that keeping up The Masquerade to Muggles is priority one, and stopping dark wizards priority two. After this, having fair and balanced news media, and trying to separate state and media and every other service.

    I think Matt was going to point out that as a private institution (a fee-paying one, no less, and goodness knows how much those get my self-righteous lefty hackles up) Hogwarts is perhaps the least Ministry dominated institution, at least until Umbridge (a parody of our school inspectors Ofsted, who in my opinion don’t have enough oversight, but I’m not a teacher…) turns up, but that’s only because Dumbledore has been severely weakened.

    I was very disappointed to be in the Green-coloured house at my grammar school, as it implied we were all evil. It didn’t help that our house name was Roach.


    • cat #

      You forgot Hermione who is muggle-born, bookish, and the typical “girl one”. Is anyone completely sociable/well-adjusted? Among main characters and characters who don’t die fairly quickly after their introduction, that is.


      • Timothy J Swann #

        It’s because I’m a massive misogynist. Or because actually she seemed the most well-rounded. Can anyone tell what sort of person I am?


        • cat #

          In the Open Thread I posited that on the assumption that Harry Potter is a male-dominated world full of phallic imagery “It would require a case by case examination of the female characters, but perhaps Rowling has written a world with “normal” female characters that doesn’t require so much embellishment of the female while her male characters are the ones who are shaped into stereotypes and operate in a world that seems rife with phallic imagery as an overcompensation for her unfamilarity with it.”

          And I’m you’re a massive misogynist, I’m a troll. One of the ones who has only disdain for grammar and spelling. (Ha! Spelling! Sorry…silly pun.)


          • cat #

            *And if

            See…just when I try to make a point. :)

    • fenzel #

      I’d compare the “outcast” Hogwarts kids in Harry Potter to the Nerds in Revenge of the Nerds as discussed in the movie American Splendor (might be in the comic; haven’t read it).

      There’s this great scene where all these pretty poor, awkward adults go see Revenge of the Nerds, and a bunch of the adults are psyched because they identify with the nerds. But then Harvey Pekar points out that the outcast status of the nerds in Revenge of the Nerds is only temporary. They’re all smart people who will graduate from college with degrees in things like computer science – their awkwardness is only temporary, because they’re young. In just a few years they’ll be settled down with good jobs, money, pretty wives and nice houses; they’ll be the dominant people the jocks were when they were in college — whereas Harvey and his friends are actually permanent outcasts.

      By the end of Harry Potter, Hermione is no longer awkwardly bookish, she’s a powerful wizard who is universally respected. Harvey isn’t a lonely orphan, he’s a hero who is hugely popular, married to his sweetheart, and surrounded by friends and family. Neville becomes a heroic sword-wielding badass who gets with Luna, who has finally gotten people to listen to her and is loved and accepted. The school that has turned against Harry has turned for him, _hard_, to the extent where the people who try to sell him out are thrown in the dungeon by their teachers.

      So, yeah, it seems to me that the Harry Potter story is a journey from the undesirable state of being a lonely outcast to the desirable state of being loved and accepted by people and becoming a normal, accomplished, professionally successful grown-up. And the people who lose out do so not because they are the oppressive normalcy, but because they are insincere in being the oppressive normalcy – because really they are out for themselves rather than the benefit of the group.


    • Brian #

      Funny, more so if,
      Ad bumpers chopped off,
      Douche bag he is.


      • Brian #

        Aight he’s not a douche bag, I got jealous, sorry. But those ads really do crap on the elegance of the haiku form.


  4. Projektionsfel #

    So Snape is like Batman? Did I miss something? Should I get intrested in this stuff now?

    This stuff being Harry Potter.

    Money and power
    A sign that the world is yours
    Don´t blow it on coke


  5. Leigh #

    Because someone else was paying, I went and saw Harry Potter again on Monday. I was intrigued by the idea of sadness which was brought up during the podcast, specifically the sadness surrounding the death of Bellatrix Lestrange. As I watched the film for the second time, I was keen on sensing and analyzing any sadness from the scene. But I couldn’t get there. Bellatrix has entered Hogwart’s intent on harming staff, students, and supporters indiscriminately. Her death is essential to the continued existence of favored members of the Weasley family.

    I wonder if whoever said this (sorry, I cant’ match voices with names yet) could expand on what he meant. Perhaps it’s related to the (implied) irredeemability of Bellatrix?


  6. Gab #

    On Bellatrix and sadness: I felt much more emotion when reading the book during that moment, and it was very triumphant- the description of Mama Weaseley tromping in as Bellatrix was getting the best of Ginny made it seem as though 1) the stakes were much higher, and 2) Mrs. Weaseley is more of a BAMF. But it fit the tone of the book more in that sense- the battle had a somewhat different feel in the movie that worked for the movie. In any case, I thought the onscreen version was great for the onscreen version.

    Harry does not die, no, the piece of Voldy’s soul within him dies. The scene at the “King’s Cross Station” is another example of how Harry is the Ultimate Good Guy, always choosing the hard and right thing to do. He could have just stayed, but he didn’t- he went back to the real world.

    I have an uncomfortable feeling in comparing the Harry Potter series to Game of Thrones because the latter has been given more room to work with. Each HP book, save the last one, was only given one film. Wasn’t this first SEASON, meaning multiple episodes, of Game of Thrones devoted to just one book? As for Twilight, that series is so shallowly written that each book could have been made into a one-hour special and it would have worked fine. I think comparing it to LotR is fair, though, at least in terms of what the producers/writers/etc. of the theatrical version(s) were able to work with.

    The Malfoys: One thing I came away with from the films was the sense that everything the Lucius and Narcissa do is for the good of the family, whereas Draco’s motivations seem to waver from for his own good, to the good of the family, to completely indecipherable. Intentionally so, to boot, but it harkens to the “problem of dirty hands” as Michael Welzer puts it, the notion that no matter what a person (in his writings, a person of political prestige or power) does, they will be doing something “wrong,” even when doing the “right” thing. This isn’t to say I think Lucius Malfoy is a martyred politician, nor that he is supposed to come across as some sort of tragic hero or Good Guy. But his motivations, as well as those of his wife, were based in *some* kernel of good. Contrast the Malfoys to Bellatrix, a bona fide sociopath- she and Voldy are simply pure evil. Lucius may do some nasty things, but he does show reluctance once things start getting far enough into the pit, whereas Bellatrix lights up with sheer joy right up to the end. (I could go into how she seems to take an erotic pleasure out of it, but that’s a different rant.) I guess this all was easier to comprehend when seeing it in front of my face as opposed to reading it, for I felt more confused after finishing the books.


  7. Paul #

    The use of the term macguffin for the horcruces and deathly hallows seems like a mistake. When Hitchcock, who coined it or at least was it’s greatest early promoter, used macguffin to describe something in one of his films, I always took it to be something that drives the story but the actual properties of the thing are irrelevant. The microfilm in North by Northwest contain secrets that James Mason is trying to smuggle out of the country, but the exact nature of the secrets doesn’t matter. It could be atomic secrets or a list of undercover agents or the defense plans of England. It could even be an object like some prototype weapon the enemy wants or a cipher machine like in From Russia, With Love. It never actually gets used and could be replaced by any other device or bundle of secret papers. This was used to great effect by Woody Allen when he redubbed a Japanese spy movie to make What’s up, Tiger Lily? and turned the secrets into a recipe for egg salad.

    If, on the other hand, the information in the secret documents is used to expose the spy or alert the allies in time, it has had an impact on the narrative and stops being a macguffin. If the device needs to get installed in the Enterprise so Geordi can save the day, then what it is matters, even if nobody watching understands what it does. Therefore, if the horcruces need to be destroyed because that is how to defeat Voldemort, then the properties of them as vessels of his soul is integral to the plot.


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