Weekly Archive
May 26, 2002 - June 1, 2002

RE: Draco Malfoy Is Ever So Lame. Yet Sympathetic. And Dead, Too.

I promised to weigh in on Redeemable!Draco, didn't I?

Yeah. I did. So okay, then. Here it is.


James wrote:

After recieving the last (and my first) digest, I was quite surprised about the desire of the members for Draco to change. Why should he, do we need him to? I think a lot of this might be to do with the Draco Dormiens, Draco Sinester and the latst in the series of those fanfics (I may be wrong).

Welcome, James!

I don't think that Cassandra Claire's fics have very much to do with it at all, really. Rather, I sort of suspect that Claire (like so many other fanfic writers) made the authorial decision to change him in the first place for precisely the same reason that so many readers feel such a strong desire to see him change in canon: namely, that as he is currently written, Draco Malfoy is a profoundly unsatisfying character.

I further believe that the very things which make him so unsatisfying a character also serve as by far the most compelling argument for the belief that JKR herself may indeed have plans to force his character to undergo some form of change in future volumes.

There are two reasons that Draco doesn't really work very well for me as a character in his current state. One of them is more emotional and meta-textual, while the other is more purely literary.

Hana touched on the literary problem here, when she wrote:

The other thing to consider when talking about character change will be the final outcome of the book. . . . Could Redeemable!Draco help further the plot? Possibly, though not likely until near the end of the last book. I think Draco serves well as RivalPeer!Draco and it seems to be a likely place to keep him for quite some time regardless of what people would personally like to see.

I agree that this question is very well served by approaching it in terms of Draco's narrative function. Where Hana and I disagree, however, is on the issue of whether Draco really serves very well as RivalPeer!Draco at all. I don't think that he does, and I have a suspicion that dissatisfaction with this aspect of the text is probably one of the major factors leading to the popularity of Redeemed!Draco in both speculation and in fanfic.

As the story currently stands, Draco is indeed presented very much as Harry's rival, his peer antagonist. That is his ostensible narrative function within the text. And yet, he strikes me as far too weak a character to really fulfill this role in at all a satisfying manner. It therefore becomes difficult to avoid the nagging suspicion that perhaps Draco is not, in fact, really meant to serve as Harry's peer antagonist throughout the entire series at all, that perhaps JKR may indeed have some slightly different role planned for him by series' end.

I have been very surprised, in past Draco discussions on this list, to see that so many people seem to ascribe to him such a lot of power. In a discussion of the so-called "train stomp" (the scene on the train at the end of _GoF_), for example, someone (UncMark, I believe?) expressed the belief that the Gryffindors' use of force there seemed justified because within the context of that scene, Draco's words could be read as a "death threat." Similarly, I have seen people argue for Draco's gloat at the QWC as a veiled rape threat against Hermione, his wishing Hermione dead in _CoS_ as proof that he is surely capable of becoming a killer, and his attempt to sabotage Harry's Quidditch match by dressing up as a dementor in _PoA_ as "attempted murder."

These interpretations always amaze me, frankly, not so much because they ascribe such pure malice to Draco (although I myself don't read him that way, I am certainly capable of entertaining that reading without undue difficulty), but rather because they all seem to ascribe to the little putz such a high degree of competence, of power.

And that's really not a reading that I can bring myself to entertain, not even for a minute. I simply cannot bring myself to perceive Draco as the least bit competent or powerful. It's just plain impossible for me to read him that way because, as I see it, Draco is absolutely the opposite of powerful. He is weak. He's pathetic. A total loser.

Draco Malfoy Is Ever So Lame.

As Harry's rival, he starts out with a number of advantages that are clearly meant to reflect Harry's own situation. Harry is an orphan who has been raised in utter ignorance of his own culture; his personal strengths are courage, grit, resourcefulness, resiliency, and plain old-fashioned virtue. Draco is therefore, and quite properly, established right from the start as having the corresponding and contrasting advantages. He's a mass of social privilege, his family is wealthy and powerful, he is highly knowledgable about the wizarding world. He is also shown to be dishonest, cowardly, cunning, snobbish, and a bully.

Well, okay. So far so good.

But then the whole dynamic just falls completely to pieces for me.

For one thing, Harry ends up trumping nearly all of Draco's advantages right from the very start. By the end of PS/SS, there's just nothing left to Draco's advantages. He's lost each and every one of them.

Whatever status Draco can claim as a Malfoy is nothing in comparison to Harry's own fame within the wizarding world, and as we see in the very first book, Draco's family connections and influence just can't compete with the kind of patronage that Harry receives by simple virtue of being who he is. In spite of what he is obviously hoping at the beginning of PS/SS, Draco does not in fact manage to get the prohibition against First Years keeping their own brooms at Hogwarts waived for him. But Harry does -- and furthermore, he even has somebody buy him that broom even though as it turns out, he isn't really a poor orphan boy at all. He's a rich orphan boy. A very rich orphan boy. He doesn't even have the disadvantage of poverty to contend with.

At Hogwarts, Harry gets Dumbledore as his mentor, with McGonagall and Hagrid both stepping in to help play that role as well. Draco gets...well, he gets Snape. Snape, who is actually spending a huge amount of his time and energy protecting Harry.

Draco's entire childhood spent immersed in the culture of the wizarding world doesn't help him all that much either. He does seem to be a reasonably competent student, but if he ever surpassed Harry when it came to practicing magic at all (and I think it clear that by this point in the story-line, he no longer does), then he never had a strong enough advantage to make very much of a difference. And of course, Harry's ally Hermione has always had him beat on that count anyway.

Nor were all of those years that Draco spent practicing his flying skills sufficient to counter Harry's own innate and savant-like talent. Harry himself acknowledges that Draco is very good with a broom. But Harry's better.

And on and on it goes, throughout four entire volumes. Draco just can't do anything right. He is profoundly ineffectual, and not a one of his purported advantages actually helps him at all.

The Malfoy wealth doesn't help Draco. Harry regularly trumps him in the ever-escalating broom war, and even when Draco has a temporary advantage in having the better broom in _CoS,_ he still loses.

The Malfoy influence doesn't help Draco. Lucius does manage to get Dumbledore ousted from power for a very short period of time, true, but he only winds up being himself then ousted from the school's board of governors. Just about the only thing that the Malfoy influence has ever accomplished for Draco was to get Hagrid's pet hippogriff slated for execution. Draco can't even manage to get rid of Hagrid himself. Not even through helping to out him as a half-giant can he manage to get rid of the man. All he can succeed in doing is nailing one of Hagrid's animals. And even then, Buckbeak escapes.

The Malfoy political savvy might have helped Draco, but in fact it doesn't, because Draco seems determined to ignore every single piece of political advice that his father ever gives him. He has been advised to mask his dislike for Harry Potter -- and so, naturally, he blabs his hatred of Harry to the entire school. He is advised to "keep his head down" while Slytherin's basilisk is on the loose -- and so, naturally, he makes an utter spectacle of himself in front of the entire school by gloating over the monster's predations, thus leaving himself open to suspicions of being Salazar's heir himself. And does anyone really think that Lucius Malfoy would be pleased, if he ever heard about Draco refusing to stand for Harry at the end of _GoF,_ or worse, insulting Cedric Diggory's memory on the train? Somehow I rather suspect that these actions, too, were probably undertaken in blatant disregard of parental admonition. For all of his "my fathering," Draco really isn't even a very loyal son. Strategically and politically speaking, he is a moron.

From his sorting into Slytherin, we are presumably meant to assume that Draco is supposed to at least be cunning. But he isn't very. His "midnight duel" scheme at the beginning of the first book was indeed a nice little bit of Slytherinesque planning, but from there on out, it's just been all downhill for poor old Draco. None of his subsequent plans to get Harry in trouble have worked out very well at all. When he tries to spy on the Trio, he gets caught. When he tries to turn the student body against Harry, his successes are very short-lived. And that "dressing up like Dementors" scheme was just plain lame (how on earth did the Slytherins ever imagine that they'd get away with that without getting themselves in loads of trouble and losing their House points?) Even when he is actually in the right, as in _PoA_ where (whatever one thinks of squealing as a general practice) Harry really was in Hogsmeade without either proper permission or any really compelling excuse for having broken the rules to be there, Draco's ratting him out still does him no good: Harry is rescued by Lupin.

The only times that Draco manages to be even the slightest bit successful against Harry are those times when he has a far more experienced adult ally helping him. He does indeed manage to cause a bit of mischief in Book Four -- but only with the aid of Rita Skeeter. He does manage to discomfit Harry in the Duelling Club scene in Book Two -- but only because Snape is there helping him out. (And again, Harry's adult allies are far more powerful, in the long run, than Draco's.) Left to his own devices, Draco really can't seem to do much of anything, really, other than pick on poor Neville Longbottom in the corridors.

Draco has no real strengths and no real advantages. He doesn't even seem very happy with the strengths that he's supposed to be playing to: his response to the accusation in _CoS_ that he has bought his way onto the Quiddich team—surely a perfectly appropriate Slytherinesque thing to do—is not one of smug satisfaction, but instead of shamed fury.

I don't even really believe that he's at all popular, although I know that many people have come to the opposite conclusion. Marcus Flint does indeed go out of his way to protect him, as do Crabbe and Goyle on a regular basis. Pansy certainly seems to care for him. But is he really all that much of a House leader? I don't think that he is. His own year woud seem to lack any male students of strong enough character to contest his role there, but the House as a whole certainly doesn't follow his lead. They're happy enough to snigger at his jokes, but when push comes to shove, as at the end of _GoF,_ we can see just precisely to what extent the rest of House Slytherin is willing to close ranks behind slippery old Lucius' idiot son. They're, well, not. Not at all. Not in the least. They're on their feet for Harry at Dumbledore's closing banquet. The only people willing to follow Draco's lead in remaining seated would seem to be...Crabbe and Goyle.

It's just plain sad, is what it is. Draco just doesn't have very much in the way of strengths, while his weaknesses are legion. He is a coward, both in terms of his visceral response to immediate peril (the Unicorn-blood-swilling Quirrell in Book One, Buckbeak in Book Three) and in terms of his lack of longer-term resilience. He does not bounce back well from traumatic events: after being ferret-bounced by Fake Moody, even the mere mention of the man's name is enough to make him blanch. He can't control his emotions very well. He loses his temper; he speaks when it is unwise for him to do so; he can dish out verbal abuse, but he can't take it.

Furthermore, on the two occasions when we have seen his behavior when he's not putting on a front for Harry and his friends—the Knockturn Alley scene and the Polyjuice scene, both in _CoS_—he is sulky, petulant and whiny. His tone in those two scenes isn't really reminiscent of Snape at all, regardless of the way that the text is always encouraging us to draw a generational parallel between the two characters. Really, if Draco sounds like anyone at all in those two scenes, then I'd have to say that person would be Peter Pettigrew, whose sulky and petulant tone when he speaks to Voldemort in _GoF_ actually strikes me as remarkably similar to the way that Draco speaks whenever he doesn't know that Harry is observing him.

Just about the only striking personal strength that I do see in Draco, in fact, is a certain degree of wit. His jibes are usually pretty unamusing, true, but then sometimes he is capable of a really nicely dry sense of humor. His running commentary on Hagrid's abysmal Care of Magical Creatures class always makes me smile, and I thought that his choice of the Densaugeo curse in his impromptu duel with Harry was really very clever. But even his humor—when it succeeds in being funny at all—is still the sort of humor that derives from weakness, rather than from strength. His constant carping in Hagrid's class is ghetto humor, really: it's the wit of somebody who knows perfectly well that he is powerless to change his situation. Hermione, similarly trapped in a class that she absolutely detests in _PoA,_ has the opportunity to walk away. Draco doesn't have that option, so he gripes instead. And while the Densaugeo curse was indeed a very clever bit of word play, in the end it only serves to draw attention to Draco's weakness: his envy and resentment over Harry's position as Triwizard Contestant. Even Draco at his best is still weak Draco.

As a reader, therefore, my reaction to Draco in his narrative role as Harry's peer rival is primarily one of intense frustration. It just doesn't seem right to me. It doesn't work. It's not a fair enough contest. Draco strikes me as so hopelessly outclassed on every conceivable level that I simply can't take him at all seriously as Harry's peer antagonist. Harry already has him licked on all fronts, as far as I'm concerned, so if that's really all that Draco is there to do, then what on earth is the point of him?

This is my primary reason for finding the notion that ultimately, Draco might have some other narrative function to fill to be not only highly convincing but indeed very compelling. I think it clear that Draco must change. Either his narrative function itself must change, or something about his power level or his competence will have to change. Because as things now stand, I just don't see how JKR can possibly make PeerRival!Draco work for another three whole novels.

But if Draco is in fact not really supposed to serve the function of Harry's peer rival forever, if JKR actually does have some other plans for him, then what could that plan be?

Well, there are a number of possibilities. One might be that in the end, Draco will actually serve less as Harry's rival than as a cautionary tale about the spiritually degrading effects of envy. I can easily see him becoming quite a pathetic figure of evil by the end, lost in a wash of hopeless resentment, causing trouble through small and petty acts of betrayal, sneakiness, and recourse to bigger and more powerful people than himself: Snape meets Pettigrew.

The "how bad is Voldemort? Ever so bad!" scenario which James suggested is also a possibility, I suppose, as is the filicidal version -- Draco dead at Lucius' hands. We did get all of that parricide in Book Four, which does sort of make you wonder when filicide might rear its ugly head as a running motif.

And then there's Redeemable!Draco. Ah. Good old Redeemable!Draco...

Cindy wrote:

If someone wants to make the case for Redeemable!Draco, I'll always listen, of course. But I can't make any promises that I'll sign on for a tour of duty. ;-)

Well, okay. I'll give this a shot, if you like, although I doubt that I'll succeed in convincing you. ;-)

I'm not going to list all of the places in canon that can be read as evidence of Draco's ambiguity here, because, um, I think that Heidi's probably already hit them all -- and if she didn't actually hit each and every one of them this time around, then she surely did the last time around, or the time before that. At this point, I imagine that she's probably got a little list saved somewhere. I can't possibly compete with Heidi when it comes to Draco apologetics; I'm not even going to try.

Nor am I going to list the extra-canonical factors that I think contribute to Redeemable!Draco's canonical plausibility here because I already went through all of those (as well as the similar arguments of the opposition) in message #34802.

Instead, I'd like to argue the case on slightly different grounds in this post. To my mind, by far the most compelling arguments for Redeemable!Draco are as follows:

1) Draco is far too weak a character to serve very well in his ostensible role as Harry's peer antagonist. It is therefore tempting to consider the possibility that his ultimate narrative function must be something else. A redemption scenario is the most logical, obvious and instinctive idea of what that something else might be.

This one I just covered above.

2) Draco reaps a good deal of reader sympathy due to both the "Sympathy For the Devil" and the "Hurt-Comfort" phenomena, both of which JKR has shown herself more than capable of combatting when it comes to other characters in her books. She does not seem to be even trying to combat them when it comes to Draco. This suggests that she may well have reasons of her own—such as planning a more sympathetic role for him in the future—for wanting the reader to retain the ability to view this character with a sympathetic eye.

I do feel that Draco has been written in such a way as to encourage a good amount of reader sympathy, something that cannot be said for any of the series' other villain characters. Voldemort is not written as a sympathetic character in the least. Pettigrew is even less so. Crouch Jr. isn't either, and neither is Quirrell, and neither is Lockhart. Sure, SYCOPHANTS like me often do find these guys intensely sympathetic, but the general readership absolutely does not. The general readership does, however, tend to sympathize with Draco—it's an incredibly popular and wide-spread reading—and I can't help but feel that if JKR honestly didn't want for so many people to read him that way, then she made some very serious errors of judgement in how she chose to portray him in canon.

For one thing, she never lets Draco win. Never. Not ever. what few successes he has are both short-lived and do no permanent harm, while his failures are often overwhelming. He can't whip Harry in Quidditch, and he can't win the House Cup for Slytherin; he can't get his least-favorite teacher fired, and he has this unfortunate tendency to wind up at the end of the novels in some state of embarrassingly abject defeat.

And that is sympathetic. It's sympathetic because for the most part, people prefer to root for underdogs and losers, especially ones who have pluck and always get back on their feet again no matter how many times they're knocked down. We like the existentialist Sisyphean hero, doomed to failure and yet still gamely struggling on against all odds.

Of course, Draco Malfoy is not designated "Underdog" by the text itself. The text itself defines him as a mass of privilege. But the meta-text—the unspoken body of genre convention and literary trope that readers cannot help but hold in mind while they read a work of fiction—designates him quite clearly as the Underdog of the piece. As readers, we know perfectly well that Draco cannot win. Even little kids get this about the way that the books are structured: it is fundamental to the genre that Draco's never going to get to win. He is the designated loser of the books. He's always going to be thwarted; the deck is hopelessly stacked against him; the very authorial voice has it in for him. And yet, even though he's utterly trounced at the end of each book, there he is at the start of the next one, still plugging away at trying to make life difficult for Harry, even though he's not really very good at it and never manages to get away with it, in the end.

And you know, it's really hard not to sympathize with that.

This phenomenon, which sometimes goes by the name "Sympathy For the Devil," can be fought. There are specific things that authors can do to keep their readers from sympathizing with the villains on the grounds of meta-textual rooting for the underdog. JKR knows what they are, too: she uses them all the time when she writes about Voldemort. Voldemort is also doomed to failure, but that fact doesn't suffice to reap him very much in the way of reader sympathy for a number of reasons. For one thing, he's truly monstrous. For another, he doesn't show us very much in the way of real emotional vulnerability. And finally, his temporary victories are permitted to have long-term consequences: even when he loses in the end, he succeeds in doing real, lasting and permanent damage to those who get in his way, or whom he uses in the pursuit of his goals.

None of that applies to Draco. Draco is portrayed as emotionally vulnerable, and in the end, none of his nastiness ever really amounts to very much more than an irritant for our heroes. Any damage that he does is always undone by the end of each volume. No particular effort is being made to counteract Sympathy For the Devil when it comes to Draco, which does sort of make you wonder whether part of the reason for this might not be that the author herself really doesn't want for him to forfeit all of that nice reader sympathy that he gets by virtue of being marked as the designated loser. Indeed, perhaps she wants for him to retain that sympathy. And if she does, then it's tempting to think that the reason she must want it that way is because she plans on eventually giving him some type of sympathetic sub-plot.

Another way in which the authorial voice often seems to be encouraging readers to view Draco in a sympathetic light lies in the disparity between what the narrative simply tells us, and what it actually shows us happening ight in front of our proverbial eyes. In fiction, what the reader actually sees almost always carries more weight than what the reader is merely told, and the more immediate and sensory this information, the more convincing it is. For example, things about character that are conveyed through that character's own dialogue tend to be more convincing than information that is conveyed by means of a narrative backstory. If the two come into conflict, then the reader will usually choose to "trust" the dialogue.

In the Harry Potter books, the more immediate and sensory information about both Draco and House Slytherin often seems designed to undercut the more overtly stated narrative message.

In the first book, for example, JKR tells us that the Slytherins have won the House Cup for years and years running. The Gryffindors, we are informed, are therefore the Underdogs. Really, they are.

But what we actually see happening over the course of the books is Gryffindor taking the cup again and again and again, and Harry always winning every Quidditch match in which he is pitted directly against Draco, and all of the other houses uniting behind Gryffindor, and Dumbledore's infamous "dissing the Slyths" scene at the end of PS/SS.

This is the reason, I think, for the prevailing notion that there is a strong bias against House Slytherin. The narrative voice tells us that this is absolutely not in fact the case. But everything that we actually see happening before our very eyes conveys a slightly different message.

Similarly, what JKR tells us at the end of _GoF_ is that Draco, Crabbe and Goyle look to Harry "more arrogant and menacing" than ever before. But what does she show us? What do we actually see?

What we actually see is a smirk that quivers.

We also see a somewhat fumbled and even (to my mind) faintly hysterical-souding insult, followed promptly by the most summary and effortless dispatch imaginable. The Slytherins don't even seem to have thought of reaching for their wands before they manage to get themselves hexed into unconsciousness by five opponents, two of whom are older than they are and who also attack from behind. And then they get stepped on. While they're unconscious.

Uh-huh. Yeah. "Menacing." To Harry I'm sure that they really did seem that way. He has his reasons for viewing them in that light. But to many readers, I think that it comes across as more purely pathetic than as anything else, and it's hard to imagine how the author could not have anticipated that the scene would be read that way.

I mean, come on! You just do not describe a smirk as "quivering" unless you want readers to interpret the smirker's internal state as highly ambivalent. You just don't.

Finally, the text often seems to me to actively encourage the reader—or at the very least its adolescent female readership—to not only sympathize with Draco but also to find him slightly erotically appealing, by the mere virtue of showing him getting physically hurt so very often.

Oh, come on now! Don't look at me like that. You all know what I'm saying here. It's the old "Hurt-Comfort" phenomenon, is what this is, and we all know about it, even if we like to pretend that we don't.

What "Hurt-Comfort" comes down to is the fact that women are just plain Bent, and adolescent girls even more so. They like to see male characters suffer, so long as they do so with some degree of manly dignity, because it turns them on. Male vulnerability garners their sympathy, and it also kind of excites them. They like it. No one ever wants to 'fess up to this, but it's true. Just look at the characters most often fixated upon as drool-worthy by JKR's adult female readers, will you? Lupin. Sirius. Snape.

We all know what's really going on there, don't we? Are we all grown-up enough to admit it? All three of those characters have erotic appeal primarily because they all suffer so much. Lupin's kindness wouldn't alone be sufficient to make him so sexy; it's all of that exhaustion and illness and emotional damage that really nets in the fans. Sirius without all those years spent in Azkaban wouldn't have nearly the following that he has. And Snape...well, it's all that angst that does it, right?

Female readers are almost always attracted to male characters who get hurt a lot. They just are. And Draco does get smacked around a lot in these books. He gets ferret-bounced and hippogriff-slashed and pimp-slapped and seriously hexed. And that's just the sort of thing that female readers—and particularly adolescent girls—really go for. It's why they think Harry's so sexy too, I'd warrant. It's because they're twisted little FEATHERBOA wearers, each and every one of them.

And JKR must know this. She must. I mean, even Draco himself—who's really rather stupid, honestly—is hip to this dynamic. Just look at how he responds to Pansy in _PoA,_ when she asks him if his arm hurts. Draco knows the score, all right. A macho "nah, not really, don't worry about it" just isn't going to win you any eros points from an adolescent girl, not unless there's one heck of a wince accompanying it. And Draco knows that. To get the adolescent girls crushing on you, you have to be hurt...yet still doing okay with it. But not too okay. Not really okay down deep inside. Just marginally okay. Okay for now. Okay, but tottering dangerously on the cusp on not really okay at all.

Yeah, I think that JKR knows what she's doing with that one. I think she knew full well that all the adolescent girls were just going to swoon in guilt-ridden sadistic crush-mode the second that she smacked poor Harry with all of that Cruciatus in the graveyard, and I think that she knew exactly what she was doing when she started beating out her tune on that "Harry can't cry" drum, too. I think that she knew what she was doing when she gave us poor pallid haggard prematurely-grey Lupin, and I think that she knew what she was doing when she told us all about Sirius' haunted Azkaban eyes, and I even think it possible that she might have had some inkling of what she was up to when she kicked Snape's emotional legs out from under him for just a second there in "The Egg and the Eye."

So what gives with Draco, then? Why does the author seem to want to hurt him so much? Ostensibly, it's to give us all a bit of "Just Desserts" satisfaction, but is that really all that's going on?

I don't know. But I do wonder about it sometimes.

For one thing, if you want to make a male character suffer and yet be absolutely certain that no reader will be the slightest bit tempted to get any erotic charge out of it, then there are certainly ways to do that. The author can stave off "Hurt-Comfort," and JKR herself seems to know exactly how to do it. She does it all the time when she writes Pettigrew, who no matter how much pain he might be compelled to endure throughout _GoF,_ no matter how vulnerable he may be, nonetheless never once derives the slightest bit of erotic frisson from any of it. That's because the author goes to great lengths to describe his suffering as simply disgusting, and his vulnerabilities as just plain pathetic. She works really hard at that. Similarly, she knows exactly how to handle my boy Avery in the graveyard to make his own little bout of Cruciatus merely blackly humorous, rather than either sympathetic or at all appealing.

So why can't she do the same for Draco? She doesn't even have him "scream" when he gets attacked by Buckbeak. He's certainly acting like a great big baby, but at the same time, the verb that she actually chooses to use for his line there is "yell," which is a lot more macho then her usual "shrieking," to be sure. And while Hermione may take a great deal of pleasure in mocking Draco for his fearfulness in the wake of the ferret-bouncing incident, the way that JKR actually chooses to describe his behavior in the immediate wake of the incident is really remarkably sedate, given that she's dealing with a character who is supposed to be such an absolute coward. He picks himself up off the floor, and he's flushed and dishevelled. But he doesn't even whimper. This is really not the way to go about writing a character whom you wish to discourage as an object of some erotic interest among your female readership. It really isn't.

There are very simple ways to discourage such readings. But when it comes to Draco, JKR isn't using them.

All of which does, to my mind, beg the question of just what JKR's intentions towards this character really are. If she doesn't want people to read him as sympathetic, then why on earth does she keep pulling her punches with him? She could take action to combat all of the built-in sympathy points that Draco is racking up in the text. She certainly has shown that she knows how it's done. She knows how to battle Sympathy for the Devil, and she knows how to nip Hurt-Comfort in the bud. She has shown that she knows how to do these things.

But when it comes to Draco, she's not doing them. In fact, in some places, the text even seems to be actively encouraging all of those so-called "subversive" readings of his character.

It's certainly curious, and it does make me feel somewhat more sympathetic towards the notion that perhaps Draco is indeed being set up for some narrative function other than that of pure antagonist. I don't really think that Redeemed!Draco is necessarily all that likely an outcome. But I do think that it is rather more plausible than it might at first appear.

One thing that I do feel fairly certain of, though?

James wrote:

Draco!Corpse anyone.

Yes. I will happily take a helping of DeadDeadDead!Draco. Because you know, there is not one character in the entire series who strikes me as having "Doomed To Die In Book Seven" stenciled across his forehead quite so blatantly as Draco Malfoy. He's ducking the vulture droppings even as we speak. Whether he's getting a last-minute redemption or not, whether he's going at his father's hands or Harry's or Voldemort's or even his own, whether he will wind up spending the next three volumes irritating me by being a profoundly unsatisfying (IMO) foil to Harry, or whether he will finally be given something a bit more interesting to do with himself, whether he will degenerate into a pathetic whining SYCOPHANTic villain's sidekick, or whether he will finally get something on the ball and manage to do something right (or at least manage to do something wrong, but with some degree of competence) for a change, whether he's going to outlive his father or not, that is one thing that I do feel sure of.

He's dead, James.



RE: Draco Malfoy is Ever So Lame

Hi, Naama.

Just one point. Draco's unsatisfactoriness originates (if I understand you correctly) from his presumed role of Peer Rival to Harry, right?

Well, I'm not sure that I agree that that is exactly his narrative role. I mean, yes, of course it is - he is a peer and a rival of Harry. The thing is, Draco is not Harry's true rival (arch enemy). The true rival is Voldemort, and in facing him, Harry is truly involved in a heroic struggle.

No, I agree. That was why I was so careful to consistently use the term peer rival, or peer antagonist. Naturally Voldemort is Harry's actual arch-enemy.

Poor Draco! He's not even strong enough to make me feel satisfied with him as Harry's peer rival! I would hardly try to set him up as Harry's ultimate foe. That would be pretty sad, wouldn't it?

The conflict with Draco is definitely not heroic, but that's OK. As far as narrative roles go, I'm quite happy with loser!Draco. He provides action which is fun to read.

Interesting. So do you see the entire schoolboy rivalry aspect of the books as in part a kind of comedic relief, then, providing some respite from the darkness and stress of the heroic struggle?

I hadn't thought to read them that way before. I'd been seeing them more as paralleling than as alleviating the darker aspects of the books, but your own reading makes a lot of sense -- and it is also far more relaxing than my own, which I confess that I often find a bit depressing.

Oh, and I wasn't aroused when Harry was writhing with Cruciatus!!

Nah. It's not watching the poor kid writhe and scream that's supposed to arouse you. It's imagining how you, and you alone, could Heal His Wounds And Make Him Whole. That's the part that's supposed to get you all warm and fuzzy inside. Hence the "comfort."

What's the matter with you, woman?!

I've spent far too many years analyzing how people read texts, and it has twisted my mind. Also, I'm no fun at parties.


Posted May 27, 2002 at 8:15 am
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RE: Authorial Intent, Fan Readings and "Canon"

Note: in places in this post I use the terms "fan" and "fannish" to refer to a particular style of reading and a particular type of engagement with the text. Unfortunately, these words have extremely negative connotations. If there had been suitable synonyms, I would have used them instead. Sadly, however, there aren't. So please do try to bear in mind while reading this message that although "fannish" is often considered a derogatory term (while "academic" is more positively connoted), I intend no value judgements upon these two modes of reading.

"Fannish" readings are perfectly respectable and indeed, even instinctive. In fact, reading in this manner is generally what we do when we read for pleasure; without it, fiction itself would be very unlikely to exist at all. The difference between simply "reading" and fannish reading, as I see it, is that fan communities have established an entire mode of analysis based on this mode of approach. They do analyze texts critically—and sometimes very critically indeed!—but they do so within the context of the mode of reading for pleasure. Fandoms in some ways therefore bridge the gap between the completely unselfconscious act of reading a work of fiction for pleasure and the academic style of analyzing a text.


Eloise wrote:

Following Elkins' first exposition of these ideas, back in February, I posted a long-forgotten note commenting from the perspective of my own background, in music.

I do remember your thoughtful response, Eloise! I did mean to reply to it at the time, actually, but it, er, was thoughtful. You know, as in "required thought?" And back in those days I seem to remember feeling far less willing than I am now to respond to things once some time had passed (Silly Elkins!), so I'm afraid that I just let it slide.

I remember that the part of your post that really stymied me was when you asked about JKR's notes: all of those infamous shoeboxes full of papers that she occasionally shows to reporters. That was a real stumper for me, and now I see that you have raised the issue again -- thus forcing me once more to think.

::sigh:: You people really do help to keep me honest. You know that?


One of the things that I think may be at the root of some of the anxiety about JKR's authorial intentions is the unpublished canon, so to speak.

Yes, I agree. Even leaving aside for the moment the question of those pesky notes, the books are effectively a serial, which means that it is quite natural for readers to speculate about future canonical events. Such speculation almost invariably involves the attempt to second-guess the author's conscious intent because, well, how else would one go about it?

The in-progress nature of the series is even more anxiety-provoking, I think, when it comes to literary analysis than it is when it comes to speculation. It is very much a part of the nature of speculation to be "disproved" by later canon. It does not feel nearly as natural to me to contemplate the notion of a work of literary analysis being "disproved."

Perhaps this is because we are accustomed to analyzing completed texts, while speculation is the province of serialized fiction? I don't know for sure. But I do know that while I personally feel perfectly content with the knowledge that Book Five, when (and if) if ever comes out, will almost certainly sink many a speculative theory, I find it rather distressing to contemplate the notion that the next volume might well serve to undercut completely one of my favored thematic readings.

Perhaps one of the reasons for concern over whether interpretations are canonical or not is that JKR has made it very public that there are 'right' answers to many of the questions we ask, 'right' answers that are sitting in her little notebooks, perhaps 'right' answers that will never be revealed.

She has. I myself tend to suspect, though, that her fictional universe is not really nearly as elaborately defined in those notes as many of us enjoy imagining it to be. The books really are just riddled with inconsistencies, which leads me to suspect that the Master Plan is probably not nearly as masterfully planned as JKR might enjoy leading her readers to believe it to be.

Now, as long as these remain unpublished, remain in her private domain, they are not, by Elkins' definition (I think), 'canon' . The problem that I see is that we are dealing with an author who conveys a strong sense of authorial intent, of wishing to control her creation, whilst intentionally withholding parts of it. The suggestion is thus that the unpublished information is canon, which to JKR, it presumably is, as it's all part of her carefully thought-out scheme.

I think that this might come down to what you were saying before, about works of art only truly existing as art in the interplay between creator and audience. So long as that information continues to be withheld, then to my mind it is very much the same as the author's own internal thoughts on her fiction. To the author herself, of course, her thoughts on her own work are the absolute truth about the fictive reality. "Canon," though, is a term that I think really only has relevance to the reader.

Of course, once that information is released to the public, then the situation might change, depending very much on the context in which one is discussing the uses of canon. It would, for example, be possible to write a literary analysis of _The Lord of the Rings_ without recourse to any of Tolkien's other published Middle Earth material. If one were analysing the trilogy as a work of fiction, then it would seem to me quite reasonable to set out with the ground rule that one was considering the work as a discrete entity, and thus, for the purposes of that project, choosing not to recognize material contained within _The Hobbit_ or _The Silmarillion_ as relevant to the task at hand. If one were writing what one hoped to be a perfectly canonically loyal Middle Earth fanfic, on the other hand, then one would presumably want to accept all of the published writings and notes and shopping lists, and whatever other tat Christopher Tolkien chose to have published after his father's death, as "canon."

When it comes to the HP books, I tend to approach them primarily as a work of fiction. I'm therefore predisposed to accept only material contained within the scope of the books themselves as "canon." But of course, people differ widely in their approach to this issue.

One of the fascinating things about the Potterverse is this feeling that we are glimpsing part of another world, a world that seems to be (apparently claims to be) internally consistent (aren't many of our threads concerned with trying to work out these consistencies, smooth out the apparent contradictions?), a world, in other words that has some kind of real, objective truth about it.

Indeed, this is one of the major distinctions between "fan" readings and academic ones. Fandoms are characterized by the tendency to discuss the fictive universe as if it is a real place, existing independently not only of the author's intent, but even of the canonical text itself. So, for example, one often finds fanfiction which takes as its starting premise the point at which the "real" characters (in other words, the real people upon whom the canon characters were "based") first encounter or first learn of the existence of their fictive counterparts. (They are almost inevitably appalled by the terrible "lies" that the author has told about them in the text.) You also find the "moral inversion" version of this fic, in which the canonical text itself is revealed to be nothing but a slanderous piece of propaganda distributed by the canonical heroes -- who of course are revealed to be in truth the villains of the piece. Stories in which the author is revealed to be an emigrant or a refugee from the fictive world are also very common. These story premises are fanfic classics. They can be found in all fandoms. They are ubiquitous.

The fannish interest in explaining away canon's internal inconsistencies and plot holes without recourse to external argument is also a symptom of this same phenomenon. Even while understanding that the real reason for some seeming inconsistency within the text is likely one of authorial strategy (or even of simple authorial error), fan readers will nonetheless always try to come up with some "in-world" explanation for it. This reflects the fan's preference for a style of reading which grants the fictive universe the status of objective reality.

This feeling that we are talking about a world with an objective reality sits ill at ease alongside our intellectual realisation that it is in fact a fictional world, one which we are free to interpret according to our own lights. I feel this may account for some of the contradictions in the way we choose to interpret it.

Yes. We see a nice mix of approaches on this list, I think. Some posts, such as those which attempt to find in-world ways to reconcile "FLINTS," are quite deeply (and also generally very self-consciously) based on the assumptions of fan reading. Others are more academic in their approach, allowing for the recognition of factors such as authorial error and strategy. Many combine the two approaches, or else make it explicit when they are moving from one form of analysis to the other ("I'm sure that it was really just a FLINT. But here's one way that we could go about explaining it...").

(One of the nice things about this list from my perspective, BTW, is that people here generally are aware of the difference. They can therefore jump back and forth between the two types of reading without undue difficulty, and can mark in a clear fashion when they are toggling their mode of approach. This cannot be said for the Usenet groups that I have lurked about on, where the population has tended to be both much younger and far less self-aware.)


Posted May 30, 2002 at 10:39 am
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RE: SHIP: Authorial Intent, Canonical Plausibility, Draco/Hermione; Draco Is Ever So Evil

David wrote:

What does it mean, and how is it possible to say, that say) 'Dumbledore is evil' is an unlikely reading of canon, or a perverse one? How can we say that a given interpretation is 'subversive'? If I assert that the reading you find subversive is my instinctive reading (something of the sort must occur on the R/H - H/H divide, I think), are you reduced to saying 'fine for you, David', or have you any rational basis for persuading me different?

Well, subversion itself is really in the mind of the beholder (as is instinct). "Cupid's Snitch," the Sirius/Florence-as-Mrs.-Lestrange backstory that I once proposed here, for example, was a subversive reading of the canon because I thought it subversive. It is perfectly possible, however, that somebody else could have come by that same reading on their own as an automatic interpretation of the story (as indeed, there is plenty of evidence for it in the text). To that person, it would not be subversive but instinctive, and so he would probably become very cross with you if you accused him of deliberately perverting JKR's intent.

Indeed, my initial emotional response to the discovery that one of my own instinctive understandings of the story ("Snape is still emotionally invested in his old DE colleagues") was not only a minority opinion, but also assumed by many to be deliberate subversion, was to feel both taken aback and rather out of sorts. (My secondary response, of course, was to become fascinated by the issue and so to pester everyone on the subject until they all got tired of it -- but that's just me.)

One man's painfully earnest reading is another man's subversion.

So, yes. "Fine for you, David" really is about as far as that particular dispute can go.

Generally speaking, though, when people stand accused of favoring "subversive" or "perverse" readings on this list, they respond by trying to point out the ways in which the text does indeed support their instinctive reading. In short, they launch into literary analysis.

Most literary analysis operates under the assumption that texts suggest meaning to readers in accordance with fairly consistent and predictable rules, and that that this process is therefore, while admittedly not nearly as quantifiable as physics or chemistry, nonetheless still explicable. Literary analysis attempts to "defend" a given reading by showing how the text adheres to established rules of authorial conveyance.

So, for example, while I did not myself find Draco/Hermione at all an instinctive reading of the text, once I learned that so many people had found it to be one, I was tempted to return to the text to try to figure out how it had managed to suggest that possibility to so many of its readers. Similarly, while H/H is not at all an instinctive reading for me, its vast popularity leads me to believe that the text is indeed offering its readers something to support that reading. The shipping debates on this list offer quite a few insights into the specific critical "rules" that have led so many to come by this reading. (Ebony's recent reference back to her Lacanian analysis of H/H is an excellent example of how someone might choose to do this in an explicit, deliberate, and academic fashion.)

Of course, literary criticism is not a science but an art, which means that not only the rules themselves but also the way in which they are prioritized can vary tremendously depending on the "school" of analysis one favors. A Jungian critic will privilege certain rules of textual suggestion very highly indeed, while devaluing (or even rejecting completely) others. Critical approaches also go change with the era, they go in and out of fashion. As Penny pointed out, most of the popular schools of contemporary literary criticism don't accord the author's conscious intent much pride of place at all when it comes to prioritizing the rules. The same could not be said a century ago, and whether it will still hold true a century from now is anyone's guess. Life is short, art long, and literary criticism something in between. ;-)

The above thinking does not bother me very much as far as Harry Potter is concerned, but I think it has the potential for making me feel very lost and alone if it is applied to speaking, writing, and reading outside fiction.

I'd advise you to avoid the post-modern theorists. They will likely distress you.

Miscommunications are, alas, a fact of life. Surely that's the reason that we have laid in place so very many social constructs which are designed to avert or to mitigate their emotionally harmful effects? It seems to me that nearly all of what we usually call "etiquette" is really designed to...well, to clarify the author's emotional intent, so to speak.

Is anybody out there?

Not really. We're all just constructs of your own mind.

After all, sollipsism is a very popular reading of reality among the text's adolescent readership. There therefore must be something, either embedded in the text itself or in the way in which the text interacts with cultural and societal factors, that is serving to encourage that reading. Right?


Posted May 30, 2002 at 10:56 am
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RE: Hurt-Comfort and reader crushes

A few more thoughts on "hurt-comfort," the dynamic whereby female readers tend to become erotically interested in male characters who suffer, provided that this suffering is depicted in certain specific ways.


Why don't all characters partaking of the hurt-comfort dynamic appeal equally to all readers?

Irene asked:

If "Hurt-Comfort" is all it takes, how would you explain then the almost perfect dichotomy of Sirius and Snape fan clubs? I know 1 (one) person who likes them both, for the rest they appear quite incompatible.

The Catlady objected:

I am only one of the myriad of HPfGU women who rush, whenever someone claims that there is a dichotomy between fancying Severus and fancying Sirius, that I fancy both. But I don't fancy Sirius as Hurt-Comfort...

[The Catlady also later explained that her attraction to Lupin wasn't based on hurt-comfort either]

Don't worry, Catlady. I believe you. (And what a terrific job you did of describing the entire wretched romantic dynamic in more detail, too! As well as of explaining why poor hurt little woobie Neville doesn't really qualify for membership in the Hurt-Comfort club. Great job!)

I do think that the hurt-comfort dynamic is probably what has made Snape, Sirius and Lupin all so very popular as crush objects, but obviously there can be (and are) lots of people who are attracted to them on other grounds as well.

Me, I like both of them myself, but I don't actually fancy either one of them. In fact, I was genuinely surprised when I first learned that so many people were drooling over Sirius and Snape. It honestly hadn't even occurred to me to view anyone but Lupin as a crush object. But then I sat back and thought about for a while and went: "Oh! Oh, yeah, okay, I guess that does make sense." I think that I get the appeal now, even if neither of them happens to do anything for me.

Then, I don't find any of the kids erotically interesting either. I think that I can see where the Draco drooling (or the Harry drooling, for that matter) comes from, but it doesn't really have much effect on me. This is probably due to the age difference that Eloise cited. I've got two decades on Harry and his peers, and I tend to think of them as, well, as little kids. But once again, this is far from universal. Plenty of adult readers manage to get crushy about them anyway -- or about their own mental projections of the sorts of adults that they are likely to become.

But to get back to Irene's question, I think that the dichotomy probably has a lot to do with what you want to be left with, once you have Healed The Broken Man And Made Him Whole. What sort of finished product best fulfills your inner model of the ideal fantasy lover?

Fixed-up Sirius and Fixed-up Snape wouldn't really be at all the same sort of person. Fixed-Up Lupin (who really isn't for the hard-core DIYer anyway, as he only actually needs a tiny bit of tinkering), wouldn't be the same as either of them, but his appeal touches on aspects of both, making it far more likely that the same person might fancy both Snape and Lupin or both Sirius and Lupin than both Snape and Sirius.

But of course, as the Catlady pointed out, there are still plenty of exceptions even to that general rule.

And human nature being what it is, there probably are people out there who have a thing for Neville (or for Hagrid, or for Moody, or for whomever) in spite of these characters' disqualifying characteristics. Hey, for all I know, there could even be someone out there who lusts after Pettigrew. People can be very, uh, diverse that way. I'm just making broad sweeping generalizations here. ;-)


Hey, so what about Ron, huh? What's wrong with Ron? He suffers, doesn't he?

Penny asked:

How does Ron fit into this? Because I don't think he gets hurt so very much ...

Pippin immediately objected:

Poor ickle Ronniekins...not only does he suffer, but his suffering goes ignored.

And then itemized all of the places in canon we are witness to poor Ron's suffering.

Hmmm. You know what's wrong with poor ickle Ronniekins? The author has it in for him, that's what! She just doesn't want Ron to see any action at all. She's always knocking his feet out from under him just when he rightfully should be racking up the crush points.

Other characters in states of shock get to be "pale." Ron, even while struggling manfully and heroically with his broken leg, gets hit with "green." He defends Hermione -- and then winds up belching up slugs. He confronts his worst phobia -- and then vomits.

I mean, it's just terrible. Just when the reader is all primed for developing a crush on Ron, the author smacks her in the face with something profoundly unerotic. It's downright cruel of her.

Someone needs to send JKR a CRAB badge, that's what I say.


I can't help but feel, you know, that Ron appeals to a more mature taste (assuming he grows out of the jealousy thing), as he's a character that can give comfort as well as receive it.

Well, that ties into what the Catlady was saying before, I think, about her own attraction to Lupin being based on his own capacity for kindness and compassion, rather than to his need for the same. It's a different dynamic -- and a far less embarrassing one, IMO. Hurt-comfort really is pretty twisted, when it comes right down to it.

As the Catlady wrote:

So the romantic heroine is Even More Bent: a masochist as well as a sadist!

Yeah. Hurt-comfort is kind of messed up, all right. But it's not really our fault, you know.

It's society! Society is to blame!

—Elkins, who is herself sufficiently Bent that when she first saw the thread title "Imperius and Hurt-Comfort" she got all excited...and then noticed the addendum "(not at the same time)" and was so profoundly disappointed!

Posted May 30, 2002 at 1:02 pm
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RE: A Taste of Moody (no thanks)


This really should have gone in with that last Hurt-Comfort post, I suppose, but I forgot all about it. So now Sexy!Moody gets to have his very own turn in the spotlight.


Cindy (hoping that I would someday write an essay making her feel better about her issues with Hagrid) wrote:

But . . . but . . . there is one male character who just doesn't fit the pattern at all: Moody. Now, I just love Moody because I'm drawn to his power and Toughness. And he sure has been injured enough times. And he is so alone and desperately needs the love of a good woman and all.

Um. Yes, well, like I said. People are...diverse. ;)

As for Hagrid, I seem to remember once getting myself into a spot of trouble with the Hagrid fans by calling him a "bigot." Wasn't that enough for you?


But good grief, is there a single person out there who can make the case that Moody is sexy? I mean it is difficult to even type Sexy!Moody.

And Eloise agreed:

I sure can't do it.

Hmmm. Well, let's see now....

Sexy!Moody. Sexy!Moody. Sexy!Moody.

Nope. Not having a problem with it. Although I am giggling over here, I'll have you know.

As for why there are no takers for Dead Sexy Moody, though...well, Eloise suggested:

There's a difference, I suppose between 'having suffered' and being horribly mutilated. . . . Moody physically appears to be irredeemable as a sex-object.

Yeah. "Horribly mutilated" is generally considered a turn-off, I'm afraid. Even more so than greasy hair and sallow skin and yellow teeth. Snape's physical drawbacks aren't sufficient to put him out of the running. Moody's are. Monstrously unjust, but there you have it.

Also, he's kind of old.

Oh, yes, yes, I know. What a terrible thing to say! That horrible ageist Elkins! But the books don't, on the whole, seem terribly interested in providing older readers with age-aligned crush material, much as they don't provide much in the way of crush material for readers who are attracted to women rather than to men. The Dead Sexy Mrs. Lestrange is just about all that's on offer for the gynophilic, and she's Ever So Evil, so unless you get a kick out of that whole dominatrix schtick, you're really out of luck. You're left with McGonagall, who is kind of hot in her own way, but who also never actually gets to do anything. The books are really very unfair that way.

While I'm on this line of thought, it's interesting to note that Harry's first impression of Lupin on the train is that, in spite of his grey hairs, he is "young." I have to say that I've always found this completely unbelievable. Thirteen year old boys do not consider men in their mid-30s "young." In fact, it's been my experience that adolescents view people in their thirties as positively ancient.

I've always suspected that we're seeing a little bit of blatant authorial intent seeping through in that passage, myself. I think that JKR wanted the reader to view Lupin as "young" primarily because she wanted to designate him as a romantically appealing character right from the very start.


Moody suffers, both before GoF and during GoF. But for some reason, I worry that I might not even like Real Moody, let alone sympathize with him. It does seem that JKR is trying to show him hurt yet brave about it. JKR really lays it on hick: "Stunned . . . very weak. . . . he's freezing."

He's unconscious. He's also missing his prosthetics, which is fairly pathetic, and not in at all a romantically appealing way.

We assume that he has indeed been brave about the whole thing because we have deduced both from Crouch Jr's masquerade and from all of the things that we've been told about Moody that he is brave and heroic and Tough. But we don't actually see him suffering nobly anywhere. In that scene, for example, he is unconscious and therefore incapable of doing much of anything, other than serving as the utterly passive recipient of a medical evaluation. The overall effect, I think, is far more one of pathos than of romantic suffering: Moody comes across there as a weak and victimized old man, which isn't at all a romantic image.

Later, Moody is in the hospital and is "motionless."

And once again: he's utterly passive. Complete passivity doesn't inspire very much in the way of romantic engagement.

Moody fights bravely before being subdued by Crouch Jr. and Wormtail.

Yeah, he does, but we're only told that. We don't actually see it happening. This gets back to what I was saying in my previous post, about readers being far more strongly influenced by things that they see directly than by the things that they learn in a more indirect fashion. We never see Moody struggle valiantly against a situation in which he is nonetheless compelled to suffer. We're just told that it happened, which isn't at all the same thing.

And why is Moody's portrayal at the staff table "extremely twitchy, jumping every time someone spoke to him" so unsatisfactory? Was that JKR's attempt to make sure that we don't begin to identify to closely with Moody? Is he supposed to be something other than heroic, hmmmmm?

Well, much as I would love to take it as evidence of Evil!Moody, if pressed to play 'guess the authorial intent' here, my instinct is to say that Moody's depiction there probably had far more to do with how JKR wanted to influence the reader to think about Crouch Jr. than about Moody himself. We know (or think we do, anyway) that Moody is One Tough Dude. So the fact that he's shown there as having been reduced to such a traumatized state implies some pretty dire things about how Crouch Jr. (whom we already know to be a sadist) might have been treating him over the course of the year.

I think that the intended effect was probably less likely to be to make us either gain or lose sympathy for Moody as it was to rouse us to righteous indignation on his behalf, and thus to dispel any lingering little feelings of sympathy that Crouch's pathetic confession and horrifying end might have inspired.

On the question of why Moody wouldn't be written in such a way as to strike readers as attractive, Eloise wrote:

Weeelll..... I suppose we can't have the whole book stuffed full crush material. Perhaps he's simply another variation on the theme of the unattractive good guy. The one that no-one, not even weird Snape-fans, find sexy. ;-)

Moody is a variant of a stock character: the Crazed Old Coot Mentor. JKR even has him swigging from that hip flask all the time. (The Crazed Old Coot Mentor is often also a drunk.)

It's not a character type who is meant to be sexy. Crazed Old Coot Mentors are hardly ever sexy. That's really just not a part of their function.


Posted May 30, 2002 at 3:32 pm
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